User Story: Indian Roots

User Story: Indian Roots


Marsha Ali, 41, from Trinided, has a family which is spread out across the world. Her research into her heritage has helped her uncover a story that she shares with thousands of other Indians that have emigrated to Tobago. She tells us about it here:

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Marsha Ali (in orange jumper) and Family

I have been a member of MyHeritage since February 2009 but I’ve been engaged in family research for fifteen years. I was introduced to the My Heritage website by a relative of my husband, who did a family tree on this website which got me interested.

Back in 1995 when Trinidad was celebrating 150 years of Indians who came from India I was inspired to do my family tree. I initially put pen to paper and started drafting out my mother’s family (I was closer to her side) because I was interested in tracing back my roots in India. My brother and I are fourth generation Indian, but have always lived in Trinidad. I only have one brother but have a lot of family members both on my maternal and paternal side.

On both sides, I have traced my family as far back as the generation who came from India- my great grandfather’s (my maternal grandmother’s father and my paternal grandfather’s father). It’s difficult to estimate the year when they came but between 1845 to 1917 Indian immigrants came to Trinidad to live and worked as indentured labourers on the sugar cane estates. Most of the people, both men and women came by ship from India via the Indian Ocean, around South Africa then to Trinidad. It has been recorded that approximately 200 plus people came on one trip. It was also recorded that over 143,000 Indians came to the island during the period mentioned above. Some came for a better way of life; some were exploited into coming and some were looking for adventure. Like was told about my great grandfather. Story has it that although he came from India, he was actually from Afghanistan. Apparently he and a friend left their homes in Afghanistan, probably looking for adventure, boarded a ship in India and found themselves in Trinidad. They then both married and had children there. My maternal grandmother was his offspring. Many of these Indian people branches have expanded throughout the country. Within recent times many, many people have traced back their roots to India. My purpose for tracing them is to keep a record of the family here in Trinidad, it will take a lot of research still. In Trinidad, as the years went by and people spread-out to other parts of the country and abroad, we lost track of many persons and their whereabouts and this tree will try to make a difference in that respect.

Most people diverted from the cane fields and decided to expand their knowledge education wise in order to aspire to do other occupations like medicine, law, entrepreneurship, accounting, management. In Trinidad, in recent times, we had a Prime Minister and a President of East Indian decent.

Many persons have been very supportive and excited by my doing this family tree online. In fact one of my cousins said “it was the best thing anyone ever did for the family”. Even my uncles were very impressed with the My website and the family tree. I believe due to the fact that with almost everyone having a computer at home and with the family growing it’s easier to keep track. Especially for those living in other countries.

When I started my family tree I began with my mother’s family – her brothers and sisters and then their children and grandchildren. I then invited them to the website and encouraged them to put in additional information about their spouses and children that I didn’t have. This they did and they even started including photos of themselves and families. Word got around about the tree and almost everyone in the family was putting in information and photos.

They were all excited that even the foreigners (my uncles and cousins in US and Canada) were onto it as well. It was overwhelming. I had to limit people from putting in their extended families (like my cousins in laws) so that we just stick to the real family.

While doing my research on my maternal family and paternal family I discovered that many persons who were related to my mother were also related to us on my father’s side. Mostly by marriage. Example, one of my mother’s cousin was married to a man who happened to be my father’s cousin. Another example is: my mother’s cousin’s daughter is married to my father’s cousin’s son. They are not related anyhow. I have traced them back as 3rd cousins on my mother’s side and my father’s side.

Now there are about 405 persons in my tree and I believe there will be more to come as I continue to discover more and more family as far as the branches can go, like second and third cousins. I have family members all over the world, in the USA, Canada, Venezuela and the U.K.

Many of the persons that are listed on the tree I have never met, especially the distant ones. But recently I met two of my mother’s cousins’ sons at a function held for their uncle (their mother’s brother) which also happened to be my mother’s cousin. They live in other towns in Trinidad and although I had met their parents on some occasions, never them. I knew of their names from the family tree.

I remember one day going to one of my father’s cousin to do an ‘interview’ with him for my research. He lives to the north of Trinidad (I live to the south). We never met so I found out where he was living. I knocked on the door. Of course, he didn’t know who I was and thought I was some sales person. He said ‘ whatever you’re selling I’m not interested.’ I explained to him who I was and who my father was (he knew my father well). It was only then he let me in. I spent the morning with him and his wife. I also met his son. He gave me quite a lot of information, such as names of his family tree, children, siblings, parents and grandparents names. I was very grateful for this.

I would like to put it all on print one day so that the generations to come can learn of their family tree and appreciate how it all began and continue it.

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  • sally

    February 12, 2010

    hello Marsha, I have just read your article concerning your ancestors. I too am engaged in the same research and has spent many days at the national archives, the presbyterian archives , local geneologist and family. I would like to correspond with you as I have many questions to ask, if it is all right with you. Regards, sally

  • Linde

    February 22, 2010

    Hi Sally,

    I’ll pass on your email to Marsha so she can get in touch.


  • tejpal

    July 15, 2010

    hii marsha ; didnt u find ur roots in india ???? if u have immigartion paas u cud try fro that …

  • razia

    June 12, 2015

    Hi Marsha – just read your article – would like to know if you have any info in how to obtain records from India Archives?