Suriname migration registers of Indentured labourers from India (Hindustanis)

This is a documentation in English of the migration registers of indentured labourers from India to Suriname. An index based on this archive is accessible via the website of the Dutch National Archives. The original immigration registers and name registers can be viewed at the National Archives of Suriname.

nationaal archiefnationaal archief suriname


The rights to the index are reserved and are not available under a Creative Commons license or CC0 statement. The database cannot be downloaded, but can be searched via the website of the National Archive.

Indian indentured labourers in Suriname

After the abolition of slavery in 1863 there was an urgent need for labour in Suriname. In the period 1873-1916 more than 34,000 people emigrated from British India to Suriname to work on the plantations as indentured labourers. The database contains personal and family information on those Hindustani immigrants. The personal data of these immigrants were registered firstly on the muster-rolls in Calcutta. Secondly, in Paramaribo, this information was extended upon arrival by the Immigration Department. These registers were maintained by civil servants for decades to record additional data on the immigrants, their families (if any) and (other) descendants.

Ships that brought Indian migrants to Suriname

The sources

The Immigration Department in Suriname filled 63 volumes with registers of indentured labourers from the British West Indies. Between 1873 and 1916, the series of registers increased by one or more volumes each year, depending on the immigration flow. The personal data in the immigration registers are partly based on the so-called muster rolls of the ships with which the workers had come to Suriname. Those muster rolls are a kind of passenger lists that were prepared in India, and then handed over in duplicate to the captains of the ships.

Of the 63 original tomes, 15 were missing during the making of the index. As a result, of the total of 34,304 immigrants (listed in the folders), only about 26,500 persons' data from the immigration registers were reproduced in the index. In addition, 4 of the 48 preserved registers were damaged to such an extent that much essential information could not be retrieved.

To make it easier to find people in the immigration registers, the Surinamese officials at the time prepared alphabetical lists of the names of the immigrants. These indexes (‘klappers’) listed the name of the contract worker, the contract number, the name of the ship, and whether the immigrant had left or died. This information also appears in the immigration registers. The klappers were used as an additional source when creating the index because so many immigration records have been lost.

The index includes data from the registers as well as data from the klappers. Each contractor is represented in the index with its own record. The key used to create a record is generally the contract number. Information which, in case of missing registers, could only be found in the klappers is put between brackets ( ).

However, the data in the klappers did not always correspond to the data in the registers. Sometimes the spelling of names of persons and ships differed or both sources listed different information. In those cases, the data from the immigration registers was considered more reliable. After all, the klappers were compiled later and probably (mainly) on the basis of the registers themselves.

During data entry, it was found that sometimes a name in the clapper did not have a contract number entered. In those cases a new record was added to the index. Even if it was not certain whether data from a register had already been taken from the contractor in question. The result is that the index contains more records than contractors. In other words: there are cases where one person is represented in the index by two records.

The data have been copied as literally as possible, so including administrative abbreviations and apparent language and spelling errors. As a result, the information is sometimes somewhat difficult to follow. A list of abbreviations i avaiable for those cases.

There may be errors in the data entry. The data were entered in a short period of time and under time pressure. The handwritten registers and clappers were read and interpreted by different data typists. In some cases, the information was difficult to read. The datatypists noted all the information, no matter how incomplete it was. Incomplete information is indicated in the text by three dots (...). Sometimes only one letter of a name is present.

migration registers of indentured laborers from India


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