A guide to help you access a copy of the Emigration Pass. These Passes are the only document that contains comprehensive data on the demographics of the indentured labourers.
The Pass contains the migrant’s depot number, sex, name, caste, father’s name, age, district of origin and registration, besides the certification of the authorities in India about mental and physical fitness for manual labour in Fiji, and ‘willingness to proceed to work for hire’. The Passes were sent to Fiji in the custody of the Surgeon Superintendent of the ship. After inspection and copying of important data about the migrants onto other relevant documents, the Passes were collated alphabetically by ship and deposited with the Department of Labour. Subsequently they were transferred to the National Archives of Fiji where a full set of 60,965 of the originals is available in some 240 large folios.*
Recently the National Archives of Fiji made available the Names of Girmitiyas, their Fathers Name, Name of the Ship and Emigration Pass Number in an indexed list which is available on this site.
After obtaining the Immigrant details from the above lists, email the National Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org with the Girmitiya Name, Fathers Name, Ship Name and the Emigration Pass Number and request them to send you the copy of the Emigration Pass.
You are now able to access name indexes of Indian Immigration Records up to and including names beginning with ‘M’ (From A – M).
The original passes, held in 344 volumes, are kept by the National Archives of Fiji. Copies of these records, comprising 42 reels of microfilm, are also held by several institutions outside of Fiji, including:
- The National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australia (NLA). Indian Emigration Passes to Fiji 1879 – 1916. Anyone may request a copy of an Immigration Pass if they have the: Girmitiya name and their pass number. The best way to do this is through the “order a copy” tab in the catalogue record for the collection. NLA Copies Direct service provides either an electronic or print copy, for a fee of $16.50 (this is a flat fee, for 1 to 50 consecutive pages). More information about Copies Direct is at https://copiesdirect.nla.gov.au/. Onsite users must first register for a National Library card (free) to request the relevant reel/s, and may then print (for 15c per page), email or download images from the microfilm to a USB storage device.
- Family History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, United StatesDetails can be viewed on their Family History Library Catalog record.
- Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii, Manao, HawaiiThe Library’s catalogue contains a record for this resource.
Sample Emigration Passes – Photos
There are some hurdles one must overcome in order to trace one’s ancestral homes in India. The first hurdle is to find the immigration pass of the ancestors that are kept at the National Archives in Suva Fiji. In order to locate the pass one must have the following information:
- Name of the girmitiya AND
- Name of girmitiyas father OR
- Name of the ship on which she/he arrived in Fiji.
These information can be obtained by speaking with older relatives who may have had interacted with the girmitiyas or heard their parents talking about the girmitiyas. Unfortunately these information is fast disappearing as the older generation is depleting fast.
With the above information one will be able to locate the immigration pass number in the Register kept at the Archives. That pass number needs to be given to the workers there and they will provide you with a copy of the immigration pass at nominal cost.
The most effective way of doing this is going to the Archives yourself or sending a relative living in Fiji there. In absence of that it has come to my attention that the officers of the Archive may assist once sufficient information is provided to them.
The second biggest hurdle to overcome is actually finding the girmitiyas village/relatives in India. Some people do find them and some don’t. I have been able to trace my aaji’s village but not my aaja’s, even though I went to the village listed in his immigration pass.
The second stage of the search needs to be conducted with help from people in India. My advice is that people should only make plans to visit India to visit their ancestral village and relative should do so only when the ancestral place and relatives have been found. Otherwise the visit could turn out to be a disaster. However, this does not prevent people from visiting India as a tourist.
Dr Satish Rai