Curation database of Ceylonese Thombos (1760-1770)

Project information

Start date: 01-03-2016
End date: 01-07-2016
Researchers: Evelien Walhout, Nadeera Rupesinghe, Auke Rijpma, Jan Kok
Financing: CLARIAH

The Sri Lanka National Archives (SLNA) in Colombo preserve under the names of head thombo and land thombo several hundreds of eighteenth-century registers on family composition and land ownership. At the time of their compilation by the Dutch East India Company or VOC, the thombos suited a general administrative purpose; currently, they are used only in genealogical research and in court cases concerning land disputes. Demographic, family and colonial history, however, can profit considerably from this neglected source.

During a pilot project, all information from the thombos of two districts (linked information 1760 and 1770), as well more disparate localities were entered. This database contains particulars  (family relations, caste, mortality, migration, landholdings et cetera) of about 25,000 individuals living in 250 small villages in southwestern Ceylon/Sri Lanka.

In the curation project, the material will be made available for the wider research community. Thus, codebooks for the data entry will be translated into English, the unwieldy data format (Excel) will be converted into a relational database, variables across communities will be harmonized.

Further information

Albert van den Belt, Jan Kok and Kees Mandemakers (2011), Digital thombos: A new source for 18th century Sri Lankan family history. Research note. History of the Family. An International Quarterly 16, 481-489.

See also Fabian F. Drixler and Jan Kok (2016), A lost family-planning regime in eighteenth-century Ceylon, Population Studies, 70 (1) 93-114.

Jan Kok and Albert van den Belt (2013). Malaria, mijnworm of mannen? Op zoek naar de oorzaken van de oversterfte van vrouwen op Ceylon in de achttiende en twintigste eeuw. In: Koen Matthijs, Paul Puschmann, Angélique Janssens & Hilde Bras (Red.). Gender in/en historische demografie (Pp. 47-70). Leuven/ Den Haag: Acco.