family history in mussoorie, india 

A lot of people have asked me why India. The short answer is that I’ve always wanted to come here. The culture fascinates me – the dress, the food, the spirituality – all have always felt so vibrant, so different. The longer, and older answer is that my grandmother and her two brothers were raised in the hills of Mussoorie, India, and it’s always been a sort of pilgrimage/genealogical quest dream of mine to see where she grew up. And I certainly wasn’t the only one to develop a keen interest and strong desire to spend time in India; numerous family members have spent varying amounts of time in the country, and have kept a tie to India strong for all of us. In family gatherings, in culturally influenced bits of decor – I’ve had sprinkles of Indian culture here and there throughout my life. And when I decided to take significant time to travel, there was no question that India was at the top of my list.

Visiting Mussoorie was all about finding the places rich with family history. I started at Woodstock School, an international, English boarding school attended by my grandmother BJ, her two brothers Ray and Dick Smith (all of whom graduated from and spent the majority of their K-12 years there), as well as my mom’s sister, Karen, who spent her junior year of high school there. I scoured yearbooks, toured the school and surrounding area, and even got to stay on campus! My visit coincided perfectly with that of a good friend and classmate of my grandmother’s, Bhavenesh Kumari, who showed me around the school and town, shared meals with me, and most importantly shared stories.

Tucked behind the school is Redwood Cottage, the home my great grandfather built, the house my grandmother grew up in.

I also visited Landour Language School, where my great grandfather, Caldwell Smith worked from (roughly) 1933-71. I met with the current school principal, Chitranjan Datt, whose father worked closely with Caldwell in expanding the Hindi language school. Near the school is the Kellogg Church cemetery, where my great great grandmother Vaughn is buried (no luck finding her, but special nonetheless!)

Mussoorie is now a huge tourism hub for Indians. I spent one afternoon walking around the “main” part of town and was overwhelmed, and a bit turned off by the crowds, the neon signs. There was even a street stall with a guy offering tattoos! So unsanitary!! But the Landour side of town is a total escape from that. It’s quiet and tucked into the hills. It’s quaint. The Sister’s Bazaar and Chaardukan, two main places to visit in Landour, are each just a few storefronts. Landour Bazaar has a special charm, and older feel.

Mussoorie was as a few Indian people had warned me – overly commercialized. But Woodstock school and Landour are in a totally different, beautiful world. This was a very, very special stop for me.

3 thoughts on “family history in mussoorie, india 

  1. So interesting to see where your grandmother and great-grandparents lived and went to school. Loved seeing the pictures. As a child I heard the many stories of your grandmothers childhood years so it is fun to see and hear more from you. Stay well… and I’m looking forward to hearing more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful adventure! I admire your quest for family connection, your curiosity and your bravery to undertake this trip. Thank you for sharing the experience.

    Liked by 1 person

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