29 December 2013

Old Maps of Northern India

With the finding of the emigration pass from India to Fiji, we now know the village/town that one great-grandfather is from. The name is Domariyaganj, then from there is a smaller village of Prasahwa. On these maps, from the 1800's you can see Basti (or Bustee), and Domariyaganj (with various spellings). Also, in his travels my husband has met other Indians, one of whom is from that area and may know someone in those villages who can find out some info for us.
Enjoy the maps! (click to view larger)

1777 map of northern India, with area highlighted

close-up from map above

02 December 2013

Immigration Pass!

When Indians came to Fiji, they were each issued an immigration pass. The LDS church has microfilmed them, but for some reason (unknown to apparently everyone who works there) they don't loan out those particular microfilms to local family history centers.
So, I have been putting my husband to work contacting family members to get more genealogy information. And, one of his cousins happens to be visiting India right now. This cousin also happens to have a photo of one of the immigration records as well as several birth certificates and marriage certificates. So, now we have a copy too.
Yay! Happy dance!
Great grandfather Parbhu Lal came from the Basti region of India in 1908, and here is his immigration record. He was 14 years old, and from the village of Prasahwa.

26 November 2013

I'm Not Alone

A quick search around the Fiji Times, and I came across a small group of articles from the past few months about people tracing their ancestry. It looks like I'm not the only one taking an interest in family history and Fiji.





03 November 2013

Happy Diwali !

and wishing you a wonderful holiday season and joyous year to come

04 October 2013

Or So The Story Goes

In my inquiries to my husband and his family for more information, I have gotten a few interesting stories, and even fewer hard facts. One of the stories is about his Grandfather.
The story goes like this...
He is born in India (around 1900), gets married and has kids. All that normal stuff. Then somewhere along the way in the (late?) 1940's he gets accused of killing someone. We don't know if he really did or not, we think not. Instead of going directly to jail, he leaves his wife and kids and goes to Fiji to work on the sugar plantations. He keeps in touch with them a little over the next few years, but contact stops after a while.
In Fiji he meets a nice young girl, gets married and has another child (1950s). Polygamist? Yup. A few years later the young mom goes crazy (certifiably) and he takes care of the child with help from friends. Then when the child is a young teen he (the dad) dies (late 1960s?). She gets raised by aunties and uncles (family friends, not blood relations).
And what of the first wife and those kids in India? It is told they immigrated to England.
So, there is a chance that we have (half) aunts, uncles and/or cousins (of various degrees of separation) living in the UK.
Or so the story goes...

06 September 2013

Girmit Infographic

I was playing around on infogr.am and made this quick infographic about Girmitiyas in Fiji (Indian immigrant laborers)

29 August 2013

Fiji Oral History Map

Fiji Time is a new film about the colonial times in the Fiji Islands. It follows the story of  Jean Bish, who was born in Fiji, as she tells of her history, and then returns to Fiji after many years away. It also tells conflicting stories about the British colonization of Fiji (from the points of view of the colonizers and those colonized), and the disastrous aftermath once Fiji gained independence.
Officially launching today, August 29th, is an Oral History Map. The map will be a user generated map with audio, visual and written histories from Fijians worldwide (anyone who has lived in Fiji, regardless of race).
With the Oral History Map now active, you can even submit your own story.

Find Fiji Time on Facebook or check out their blog.

24 August 2013

Old photos of Fiji

Ok, so they aren't all that old. Maybe 15 years, but trust me, things haven't changed much in the past 50 or so years.

16 August 2013


In July I ordered some microfilm for the first time, through Family Search. A week and a half later I got one, the other three were backordered. I'm not entirely sure why they don't have that kind of status on the website. I mean, a library can tell you if a book is on the shelf or checked out, why can't they do that with the film. I totally would have ordered something else in the meantime. But, I digress.
The film that came in was the Indian birth records index (from Fiji) from 1895-1929. Great! I have several names in that time period that I am looking for. Then comes the frustrating part.

#1 frustration- The first 25 years of this index is all jumbled together, not separated by year. The last 10 years is, so that was nice.

Frustration #2- Indians in Fiji in these years didn't usually have last names. So, searching for families is difficult.

Frustration #3- Because they don't have last names, the index is alphabetized by fathers first name, then mothers name, then childrens names. This may be good if I knew the fathers name, but in most cases, I didn't.

So, I went through all 263 pages of years 1895-1919 one by one, looking in the childrens column hoping to spot a name I was looking for (note, there are 86 rows on each page). Then I had to look at the year, and hope it also matched. Then I could write down all the info in a list of possible matches. I have 7 for one of the names on my list. And 3 with no matches. Argh!

On the plus side, I do have 7 possible matches, and I found some siblings for one of the known ancestors. So, hopefully soon I will get the other rolls of film and be able to find more names, and then I can order the specific rolls needed to find the actual records and not just the record numbers on the index. At least now I know what to be prepared for next time.

I also couldn't help but think how easy it would be to index these records. They were all in neat typed rows. Given the time, I could easily do it. And I would too, if the LDS church would ever digitize them and offer them up to be indexed. Maybe they will someday.

05 August 2013

Recipe: Indo-Fijian Style Chicken Curry

When Indians came to Fiji, they naturally brought with them recipes from home. Over time these recipes took on a different flavor that reflected their new island home. Indians in Fiji don't use quite as many spices in their curry, because they just aren't as available. So, here is a family recipe for Chicken Curry made Indian-Fijian style.

1 whole chicken
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 small chilies, minced (omit if you want it less spicy)
1/4 inch ginger, grated
salt to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 tsp Tumeric
1/2 tsp Cumin powder or seeds
1/2 tsp Mustard seeds
1/4 tsp Fenugreek seeds
1 Cinnamon stick
6 Cloves
4 Cardamom pods
2 tsp Curry powder or paste
Water as needed

Chop chicken to bite size pieces, set aside.
In a medium size pot, heat up olive oil, add onions, seeds, and cinnamon stick.
Stir and cook for a minute, then add the minced garlic together with tumeric and curry powder/paste.
Stir and cook for a minute. Then add chicken and salt and a little water.
Stir and cover. Reduce heat to medium.
Stir every 10 minutes or so.
If the chicken sticks to the pan, add more water
Chicken should be done in 40 minutes.
Serve with rice.

24 July 2013

Ordering Microfilm

FamilySearch and the LDS church have lots of Fijian records on microfilm. On the downside, they are not indexed or digitized yet (i.e. not searchable online). On the plus side, you can check out most of it to be sent to your nearest family history library to look through.

I have a few names and dates to start off my search, so I have ordered 4 rolls of film (2 births, 1 marriage, and a book on Indian migrants in Fiji). I hope I will be able to find the people I'm looking for and maybe enough info to need to order more film.
I hope one day they will get around to digitizing these so I won't have to order stuff and go to a library with a microfilm reader to look through it. It can be difficult to get a babysitter midday to drive to another city to sit and look through film. Oh well, I'm sure the work will be worth it in the end.

18 July 2013


I have long been interested in genealogy. It is probably because my father is also into it. He is really the better genealogist of the two of us. But, I do love hearing the stories of my ancestors and finding missing people and even connecting with the odd 5th cousin twice removed. I always assumed I'd simply take over the work once he got too old and that would be it. But, I have found myself itching to do stuff now (why wait!). And this is where my husband enters the picture.

My husband loves his heritage, but doesn't know much about his family history. He is an Indian from the Fiji Islands. His family immigrated from India to Fiji a few generations back (one grandfather, and 3 sets of great-grandparents). The last time we visited family in Fiji I made him gather as much family history info as possible from living relatives. He even got me photographs of 2 of his grandparents birth certificates.

So, with my dad researching my family, I have decided to research my husbands. I am hoping that writing down my goals and putting things out there for all to see I may get more done (it is motivation for me). Here I will figure out how to order and view microfilm from Fiji, find ship records of their immigrations, and eventually I hope to find records in India (which is harder than it seems). Who knows we may even find living relatives in India.

snapshot of a portrait of Shyam Lal (grandfather) as a young man