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Blogging about things that matter to me. Photographing things I love - Instagram @debcyork. Writing about both. Only wine and chocolate can save us… You can also find me on Twitter (@debcyork) and Facebook. If you like four-legged views, try @missbonniedog on Twitter

Friday, 3 October 2014

You Never Can Tell

Given my blog's frequent mention of my Anglo Indian heritage, it would be a crime if I were not to post about the wonderful episode of Who Do You Think You Are? last night where Billy Connolly, the quinessential Scotsman, discovered that he too has a little Anglo Indian blood.

Thanks to the amount of research that I have done for myself in the last four years, I guessed which way the wind was blowing for his tree but it was still amazing to watch.  In particular to see that the brilliant researchers had managed to find such a huge amount, by British India records standards, of original documentation.  Many of those researchers can be found on Twitter if you would like to see more of what they do - eg Kirsty F. Wilkinson, @GenealogyGirl.

And who would guess, from Billy Connolly's appearance and immediate family tree that such a secret lay buried?  From his tree, it looks as if the Anglo Indian relation (that is, the offspring of a white British soldier and an "East Indian" lady then actually married a white British soldier herself.  So the Anglo Indian blood line did not continue in the way that many, including my own, did.

For as British rule tightened and the rules pertaining to society got stricter, Anglo Indian people were gradually squeezed from British society without feeling that they had a place in full Indian society.  They were generally employed in jobs where their loyalty to the British could be used to the best advantage of the British government.  Civil service and vital services such as the telegraph and railway services.  Not allowed to climb, in general, too high in the ranks but high enough to persuade them of their superiority to the Indian workers and thus have a vested interest in British rule.  On my own family tree, it is a succession of railway workers - mainly drivers and station masters - with the odd school master or doctor.

It was lovely to see Billy Connolly's reaction.  He clearly enjoyed being in India and had visited before.  And he was so amazed and delighted by the results of his journey.  Times do change, don't they?  A century and a half ago,  a person would have gone to great lengths, if they were as European looking as Billy Connolly, to hide any connection with an "East Indian"...  Even my own grandparents preferred no mention of their true antecedents.

As usual, WDYTYA made the whole experience of looking for family history and documentation look rather easy.  In actual fact, I can imagine a whole heap of work went into Bily Connolly's story, to say the least!

A few days ago, I briefly mentioned FIBIS, that is the Families In British India Society.  This is a wonderful volunteer-led self-help organisation.  They have a fantastic website and wiki at fibis.org  and you can find them on Facebook and Twitter.  It is a great place to start your search if you come across or suspect a British India connection.  You can use the site without taking membership but I would urge you, if you find yourself using the site regularly, to take the membership or to make a donation.  These things do not pay for themselves even with volunteers running them!  As an ex PTA co chair, I can test to the economics of this!  Apparently their Twitter feed went crazy after last night's programme.  I hope that Billy Connolly's story will be of benefit to them, they deserve it.

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