The British in India

British India genealogyHere is a reply from Rosana who I helped with her query in a recent blog.

Hello Linda,

I had encountered a brick wall in my search for my maternal grandfather ”Robert Smith Lyall”  for the period of his stay in the UK. It was your expertise which broke open the barriers and I consider myself very lucky to have got your web site on the internet by chance.

I am in the process of obtaining a copy of his death certificate from Lower Circular Road in Calcutta, India. I have attached his burial record and the second marriage certificate. The second marriage certificate shows his parents as Harry Lyall and Lucy Lyall.

Also there is a burial record at Fort Williams, Calcutta, India in <> for Winifred Lyall showing her spouse as R Lyall and I wonder if this could be his first wife who died at childbirth.

I managed to obtain the 2nd marriage certificate of Robert’s along with my Mom’s (Pearl Irene Lyall) baptism certificate and details of other children from the British Library in London.

We have also an old visiting card of Robert Smith Lyall which I am attaching herewith.

Thank you very much and I am grateful for the clues provided on my maternal grandfather.

Warm Regards


East Africa.

My Answer

Hi Rosana,

I am pleased I have helped you with your genealogy brick wall.

The first thing I noticed when I looked at the marriage certificate of Robert Smith Lyall to Stella Constance Gommes was that the marriage took place in a Roman Catholic Church. It is so important to note which religion one’s ancestors follow, they may of course not always continue with following that church, but it is a good clue as to where to look next.

The great news is that the certificate issued by the church shows parents names Harry & Lucy Lyall, interesting that the certificate shows both parents name. I’ve not seem an India marriage certificate before so it was a treat to see the difference between it and English ones.

I found the visiting card rather confusing as it states that Robert is a medical doctor who has practised in London, he holds a B.A. from a university in the USA and that he was a Honorary Police Magistrate. This doesn’t quite match up with the Robert who married Stella Gommes, who is said to be a Carriage Inspector. I wonder if the card of Dr R.S. Lyall is another person not your grandfather?

Using the names of Robert’s parents I have undertaken searches in Ancestry, FindMyPast and FamilySearch, but can’t identify anyone conclusively. Perhaps Harry & Lucy were both from British India families?

FindMyPast announced in 2011 that they had the contract to digitise birth, marriage and death records for British India that are held at the British Library. I understand that they will be ready to go online this summer. Sorry I haven’t been able to help you further.

Happy ancestor hunting Smile



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