Descendants of Girmits or indentured laborers are continually searching for their ancestral family. They want to make connection with the relatives of their fore parents and if not possible to at least visit the gao or village from whence they came. Well known Indian diaspora academician, social activist, journalist, writer, and social worker Dr Vishnu Bisram from Guyana has been trying for over a dozen years to trace his family roots in Azamgarh (UP) and Bharatpur (Rajasthan). His aja’s mother is from Azamgarh and his mother’s nanny and nanna are from Bharatpur.
Dr Bisram was searching since 2007 to trace his ancestral link to those two districts. He has the emigration passes (ship documents) but there was lot of problems in each of them. After more than a century has passed, major changes had affected the districts as well the society. For example, in Azamgarh, the earlier thana (police station listed on the pass) was Raunapar but now the gao has shifted to another thana called Kandhrapur.
In Bharatpur, the village name spelling made a big confusion because the indentured laborers pronounced the name that would have been spelt oddly by the British writers. The village was believed to be Biravai but the immigration pass spelling was Burani — according to the pronunciation British officer wrote the spelling.
I started my root search for Dr. Bisram in Azamgarh by the village name and in the caste which was written on the immigration pass. Some old person told me to about the name which was next to kin written on the pass. Finally, I believed I found the family. But family members were not willing to accept that their ancestors migrated over 130 years ago. Finally, with a visit by Dr. Bisram to the gao of Siyraha. He was able met meet family members who embraced him. He explained his interest in visiting the village and why he wanted to meet the family. A member of the family agreed to a DNA sample to test for genetic linkage.
In Bharatpur, I and Dr Vishnu visited two times, but we were searching the village according to village pronunciation Burana and Burani and it was wrong. I went alone for a search a year later and went to the Thana and asked about the village. The police said it was written Biravai and not Burani. I met the Bharatpur King, 80 years old Ex MP and both of them told that it is Biravai village. I decided to visit the gao. But I found 3 Biravai villages in Bharatpur. So I visited all of them. Finally, I found what I believe is the name next to kin of Dr. Bisram’s family in one Biravai. I checked the land record which I believe confirmed the finding. Family member Omveer Singh agreed to a DNA test. This was before Covid preventing a get together.
Finally, Dr Bisram visited India and met with Omveer Singh. They embraced. Dr. Bisram showered him with gifts. Blood fluid was collected for a DNA test for linkage. DNA tests were also conducted for another of Dr. Bisram’s probable family in the District of Ghazipur in Kusmi Village.
The DNA samples have been sent to a lab for processing. The results of the tests will determine any family linkages. Dr Bisram plans to do same for ancestral families in two other Districts – Mau and Chapra so that he can find ancestral relatives of both his aja and aji and nanna and nanni – their parents or great grandparents came from India as indentured laborers or girmits.