EAST INDIAN IMMIGRATION & INDENTURESHIP RECORDS (TRINIDAD)
Indian immigration into Trinidad and Indentureship commenced in 1845 and did not come to an end until 1917. During this
period, the Indian indentured workers were permitted to bring their families with them and it was not uncommon to place
people from the same districts in India on the same estate in Trinidad.
However, the Trinidad Government in allocating the immigrants made efforts to separate the different religious communities.
The Muslims were settled generally on estates in the north while the Hindus were sent to the southern and central areas.
The Christians intermingled with these.
On completion of the five years of indenture, the Indians in Trinidad had a choice of remaining in the country with a 'gift' of
ten acres of land or returning home. The majority decided to remain and take the free grant of land and in the 1860s and
1870s, when Crown land was sold at cheap rates, some extended their land holdings.
147,592 Indians’ names were registered as indentured workers in Trinidad between 1845 and 1917.
Trinidad East Indian Immigrants
The National Archives of Trinidad & Tobago holds various registers of East Indian Immigrants who arrived in Trinidad
between the years 1845 and 1917.
The following are the main categories of these Registers:
General Registers 1845-1917 (18)
Estate Registers 1845-1901 (15)
Ship Registers 1866-1917 (334)
The General Registers contain such information as the ship number, the registration number of the immigrants, their sex,
age, height, caste, bodily marks, their fathers name, the name of the village they came from, the date of indenture, the
name of the plantation to which they were assigned, whether they returned to India or not and a remarks column that
relayed information on such matters as whether they died on board the ship or had children during the voyage.
Estate registers include information such as the names, registration numbers and sex of immigrants, their fathers name,
annual fees paid to them, date of their indenture and the estate to which they were assigned. Ship Registers consist of an
emigration pass confirming the immigrants’ fitness to work and detailing information such as the name of the ship on which
they arrived in Trinidad, the date of its arrival, the name of the immigrants, their caste, father’s name, the immigrants’ sex,
age, next of kin, the district and village in India from which they came, their occupation and whether they were married and
to whom they were married.
Smaller categories within the holdings of the Archives include:
Emigration Passes contain information similar to that found in the ship registers and records of monies sent back to
India by the immigrants to their relatives there;
Estate Registers of Bounty Immigrants 1882 - 1886;
Indian Immigrants' Remittances to Relatives & Friends in India 1885 - 1891;
Indian Marriage & Divorce 1893 - 1901;
Reports of the Protector of Immigrants which describe the conditions under which the indentured labourers worked and
the recommendations for improvement.
1) Register of Returning Immigrants, 1884;
2) Register of Returning Immigrants, 1916;
3) Registers of Returning Immigrants, 1920 - 1930
According to Shamshu Deen, 2007, one of the most helpful documents in Trinidad for those of 'East Indian descent' is the
General Register of Immigrants, which lists all the Indentured Indians who came to the island. Volume A covers the period
1845 - 1856. All 10,581 names listed have been scanned by him.
Emigration Passes are also worth researching. Up to 1858, the passes showed six pieces of information for the emigrants.
From 1859 the passes also included their village and district in India. After 1886 the Emigration Pass included the date of
registration from the city nearest the Indian’s village.
The East Indian Immigrants arrived with the Emigration Pass which was completed in India. In Trinidad, his/her General
Register Number, estate of indenture and details of sickness, if any, were added. Even those who died at sea had their
Emigration Passes brought to Trinidad and kept there. The Emigration Pass also contained depot numbers and ship
numbers and from 1886, a sub-depot number. These three numbers were restarted with each new batch and were not
unique to the Immigrant as was the General Register number. However these numbers were helpful in showing the
relationship among families who emigrated together. Usually the father had the earliest number consecutively followed by
the mother, the sons, and daughters, then infant sons and daughters.
See article: 'Shared Memory: Trinidad and Tobago’s East Indian Immigration Records' (Helena Leonce)
Alternatively, go to:
or an HTML version at:
Immigration/Indentureship Records may be found at the National Archives of Trinidad & Tobago and sometimes in the
Trinidad Royal Gazette. Shamshu Deen's book lists further useful resources, but, unfortunately, has omitted to indicate in
which repositories, they are found, eg the Registrar General's Department, South Quay and elsewhere.
The ordinance under which the indentured Indian came to work in Trinidad placed him under a Protector of Immigrants.
This ordinance made provision for marriage and divorce among immigrants with full observance of Indian rites and customs.
Of the 45,800 Indians in Trinidad in 1891, 60% were Hindu and 13% were Muslim, the remainder being Christian, Buddhist
and other faiths.
Government passed an ordinance, No. 6 of 1881, which provided laws to regulate marriage and divorce among the Hindu
and Moslem population, and also penalties for marital infidelity. The Government however refused to concede the rights of
marriage officers to either Pandits or Imams.
The Indians paid little attention to the ordinance. They refused to register these marriages as provided for by the ordinance,
and by 1888 only four such unions had in fact been legalised. This caused a great many difficulties over legacies and in the
inheritance of property, if a father died without leaving a will, leading to much litigation in the courts.
It is important to note that the Registers of Marriage held at the Civil Registry, South Quay, Port-of-Spain show only
Christian weddings and that in Trinidad, Muslim and Hindu marriages were not recognised as legal until 1945, with the
result that the majority of Indians were technically illegitimate. Indians who were married before arriving in Trinidad were,
however, registered in a special book.
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