Part 1 – Daughter of the British Army in India
Whilst browsing online , I noticed a group of three linked cartes de visite (cdvs) for sale and I was interested by the photo above. Not only did it depict a cute little girl but also the photograph was taken in India and the back noted that she was Maud Lewis aged 2yrs 7 months who was born in Muttra, Bengal, India – the daughter of a soldier who served 21 years in the 10th Royal Hussars.
Maybe I could link her with a FIBIS member who would then be able to add the images to their own family history? If not, I could use the photos as an exercise to demonstrate the extent of available information when one begins a search into British India genealogy with no previous background knowledge. I bought the little group and started to research.
As many will know, records of British India (“India office records”) are housed in the British Library in London and these include copies of church registers showing baptisms, marriage and burials. The indexes to these church registers have been digitised and are hosted on the free to view website familysearch.org along with a little of the information from the original record. A search on Maud’s name and place of birth (India) quickly identified her birth date and parents names as William and Emma Lewis.
A parent search on the same website revealed two other possible children of this union born in India. Emma Jane Lewis born in Muttra on 26 June 1874 – who I later found to have died in September 1876 at the age of 2 years 3 months, shortly before Maud’s birth (and at around the same age as Maud had been when the above photograph was taken). Also Richard Llewellyn Lewis was born later on 28 March 1880 in Dagshai.
I then turned to the subscription site findmypast for more details as this website has digitised many of the India Office records from the British Library and here I could examine Maud’s full baptismal entry as shown below and her father’s occupation was confirmed as that shown on the back of the photograph – he was a Private with the 10th Royal Hussars.
Baptism of Maud Lewis – Records courtesy of findmypast. British Library reference N1/159/54
I also looked at the baptismal entries of Emma Jane Lewis and Richard Llewellyn Lewis to confirm that their father’s occupational details tallied . Curiously, these indicated that William Lewis had been a sergeant when his first child , Emma had been born in 1874 – but, by the time Maud and Richard were born in 1876 and 1880 he had been demoted to private. I also doublechecked the birth information against the indexes of overseas army births on findmypast in case I had missed anything. It appeared that no other Lewis children were born to the 10th Hussars in India at that time.
As the back of the photograph indicates that William Lewis had been in the 10th Royal Hussars for 21 years, I felt sure he must have retired to pension. Service records for men of the British army who retired to pension are also hosted by findmypast and can be found in the military record section. I was, therefore, able to discover that William Lewis enlisted in York on 22nd January 1862 at the age of 18years and 3 months and was posted to India in January 1873. He took part in the Afghan campaign of 1878-1879 for which he received a medal. However, he did suffer from the climate – experiencing hepatitis, dysentery and bronchitis at various times. Finally he was recommended a return home due to poor health in June 1881.
The service record contained three pieces of biographical information – which may (or may not!) be an aid to further background research. William was born in Lincoln, he had married Mary Inglis in Colchester on 12 October 1872 and his father was also named William Lewis. This puzzled me as Maud’s mother was named Emma – had I got the right man?
Section from army service record of William Lewis showing medal entitlement and early marriage – Record courtesy of findmypast. National Archives reference – WO97-3292-36-004
However, the service record did indicate that this William Lewis also experienced promotion to sergeant and later demotion to private and dates and places coincided with the information on the baptismal entries of Maud and her siblings. Perhaps William’s wife Mary Inglis was a Mary Emma – or she had died – or William had an Indian affair. Will I ever know?
At this stage, I have not been able to identify a marriage in Colchester – but, in any case, as it would cost further funds to buy a copy certificate, this little mystery is being left on the back burner for the moment.
The story will continue in part 2 with the search in England. This was initially straightforward as Maud was easily identifiable on UK census records due to the fact she had been born in India. However, as her story unfolded I began to hit brick walls and the task has become more challenging.
Recommended further reading: Informative article on 10th Hussars in India with online links can be found on fibiwiki.
nb. Part 2 0f Maud’s story will follow very soon…