Thursday, August 20, 2009

An East Indian Patriot!


For the last 38 years I have been under the misapprehension that the paternal side of my family tree was the least interesting in my family tree. This was mainly due to the fact that so little was known about this side of my family. Photographs and documents were virtually non existent. The most notable thing about the paternal side of my family was an often mentioned story about a great grandfather who had married an Indian princess. I now know that this is an often mentioned story amongst Anglo-Indian families.

Having dark skin in the family was always more acceptable to the British in India who would usually claim the reason for the dark colouring to be due to a marriage between a grandfather and an "Indian Princess", or a marriage to a "Portugeuse lady." No one ever claimed that their great great grandmother was simply a native born Indian woman!

Recently, I finally discovered the name of my family's "Indian princess" described on a number of records as being called "Paupah, a native woman." Not a princess, afterall. No surprise there! However, the discovery of these records proved the connection between my great great grandmother, Alice Ogilvie, her mother, Paupah and her father, Captain Henry Tristram Ogilvie of the 23rd Madras Native Infantry.

I had discovered 27 years ago that my great great grandfather, James Rowland, Sub Conductor of Ordnance at Fort St. George, Madras had remarried in 1850 after the death of his first wife. James was 50 years of age when he married Alice Ogilvie. He claimed on their marriage record that he was 46 years old. I knew that he was not being truthful as I had already
found his birth record in the UK after discovering his attestation papers at the British Library. Alice, acording to their marriage record was 21 years old.

On their marriage record it stated that the name of Alice's father was a captain Henry Thomas Ogilvie. I was unable to find a captain Henry Thomas Ogilvie despite searching through countless records,. The only person who shared the same initials and rank was a Captain Henry Tristram Ogilvie of the 23rd Madras Native Infantry. I decided that if I could find Alice's birth record I could establish exactly whom her father was. This record was discovered for me recently by a member of the Indiaman Magazine's genealogical research team.

Alice's birth did not occur in 1829 as her marriage record led me to believe. Her date of birth was actually 1834, which meant that Alice was only 16 when she married 50 year old James Rowland. Even more interesting for me was that her birth record stated that her parent's were Captain Henry Tristram Ogilvie and his wife Paupah, a native woman... my Indian princess!

Having established the link between ALice and her father I was now able to trace Captain Ogilvie's career and origins. Sadly, he died the year after Alice's birth in 1835 onboard the East Indiaman, "True Briton" bound for London. He was probably buried at sea. The British Library has a card index that states that his wife, whom they named as "Avia" remarried in 1844.

Ogilvie's military career was relatively short, but because he was an officer, his army record supplied me with plenty of leads to learn even more about his family. His father was the Hon. John Hugh Donnel Ogilvie who was a High Court Judge, Senior Merchant and Member of Council in Madras. From documents I have recently found, JHD Ogilvie served in India for 38 years and 8 days. He had been a member of the welcoming committee in Madras that bade farewell to Marquis Wellessley when he returned to England for the last time. He had read the welcoming address to the second Governor General of India, Lord William Bentinck on a visit to Madras. He is mentioned in records relating to the Vellore Mutiny. This man moved in interesting circles and I am enjoying learning more about him.

JHD Ogilvie's wife, was an Eliza Letitia Catherine Ricketts, her family is proving to be even more interesting. Eliza was the youngest of five children born to John and Harriet Grace Ricketts. John Ricketts was a surgeon from Basingstoke, Hampshire. Eliza was the only sister of Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Tristram Ricketts, 1st bart., created 1828. This was an exciting discovery. However, two more of her brothers are also proving to be equally as interesting.

Eliza had four brothers, John Henry; Robert; Gilbert and Robert Tristram. Her brother Gilbert had been in Madras and is believed to have been the first private owner of the palatial home, "Guindy Lodge" in the early 1800s which later became the residence of the Governors of Madras and which is now known as Raj Bhavan. Sadly Gilbert died intestate in 1817 leaving huge debts. Her eldest brother was a Lieutenant John Henry Ricketts of the Engineers who was killed at Seringapatam in 1792.

John Henry Ricketts had married an Indian woman called "Bibi Zeenut" and had two sons, George, born 1788 and John William Ricketts born in 1791. The discovery of John William Ricketts is proving to be a revalation. The first mention I found of him was in Christopher J. Hawes book, "Poor Relations". JW Ricketts proceeded to England to represent the East Indian Committee before the House of Commons on behalf of Anglo-Indians in India. He "became the prime mover in Eurasian affairs..." and became known as the East Indian Patriot. He is also mentioned in the Dictionary of Indian Biography.

I have been thrilled and delighted to learn about this branch of my family tree and my research is still ongoing. Only a few days ago I found the Will of JHD Ogilvie. When he died in 1851 he left over £16,000 to his wife and family.

I have compiled all of this information online and in the September issue of The Indiaman Magazine Online I will be showing you how you can quickly create your own family tree online and share it with the world. All subscribers to the Indiaman Magazine Online will have their family trees displayed by us in the magazine. People can then view your entire family tree online and identify any family connections. You can then share your information and add to your family trees together.

This facility will allow you to import and save any data in numerous formats including spreadsheets, HTML, GEDCOM and plain text. If you already have some family tree software on your computer, you can import this data and it will automatically update your files.

You can then upload your files as a GEDCOM file to sites like the Mormon's Family Search website and share your information with the wider world.

To see my family tree and to see how simple this software is to use and share with the whole world, you will need to subscribe to The Indiaman Magazine Online by going to

Paul Rowland