A glimpse into the Dutch Records at the Sri Lanka National Archives
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A Dutch Seal found within the records
The origin of record keeping in Sri Lanka goes back to earliest times, beginning with the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka during the 3rd Century B.C. Buddhist temples spread thru ought the country and they preserved the teachings of the Buddha in record. The Mahavansa (the great chronicle) written during the 5th century A.D. by a Buddhist monk named Mahanama records a continuous history of the island from the earliest times up to the 6th century A.D. The other chronicle, Chulavansa, follows this. This record keeping later on expanded from the temples and the palace to other administrative tasks as well.
The Portuguese who ruled this island from 1505-1638 AD made use of the indigenous land records relating to the maritime districts under their control, which formed the basis of their "Thombos" and "Forals" (Rent registers). When the Portuguese possessions in the island were attacked by the Dutch in 1640 A.D. bulk of the records were destroyed. Today there is very little original material preserved from the Portuguese period of Sri Lanka. Although the Island has a well-documented history based on inscriptions and the great chronicles covering a period of twenty-three centuries, its oldest archives extant in Sri Lanka dates back to the 17th century. Its meager 16th century archives are in Lisbon and Goa and the Archives of the Sinhalese monarchy has been lost to posterity. The history of Sri Lanka can be studied from original archival sources only from the 17th century onwards, and this refers to the Dutch period.
The Dutch who ruled the country subsequently realized the importance of the 'Thombo' registers. They expanded the registers to cover both land (Land Thombos) and people (Head Thombos) and kept meticulous records of their administrative work. These Dutch records covers material from 1640 -1796 and are found in a good state of preservation even today. It is also the largest and the best-preserved archives of Dutch material found in its former colonies in the East. It is from these records that we pick the earliest references to the de Fonseka family.
The first recorded instance of the 'de Fonseka' name in Sri Lanka, that of Adigar Don Michael de Fonseka (1658).
The Dutch also for the first time introduced the systematic surveys of land, conducted by qualified surveyors. This was begun with the Jaffna Tombos during the time of Governor Gerrit de Heere. He appointed highly experienced Jan Christiaansz Toorzee to measure lots and draw accurate maps. Surveyors Claaesz Issaac, P. Bolsho and J. Shouten assisted him. As the documents in the volume deals with a land case, the names of these pioneering surveyors appear many a time in the volume, together with that of Disave Class Schot.
|The stylized signature of
Johannes Berghuysen, Secretary of the Ceylon Government, 28th June 1695.
Earlier research done by S. R. de fonseka and others with the help of archivist E. Reimers, found references to the family in a case now filed as Dutch Records Volume 3210. The volume was compiled and translated to English by J. H. O Paulusz, Govt. Archivist from 1940 - 1958 and subsequently published as the D'andrado Manuscripts in the Sri Lanka Archives Volume II of 1984. The information in this volume helped to build up a documented and authenticated family history, going back to the year 1658. This volume also gives us an interesting insight into the life and times of the early 18th century, including possession of 'Paraveni' lands, and the ownership and transfer of slaves. The earliest recorded instance of the 'de Fonseka' name in Sri Lanka is found in this volume.
Marking another first this website is proud to present to you extracts from these original Dutch records. This is the first time that some of the Dutch records, now preserved in the National Archives of Sri Lanka, has been brought online. The records are presented to you with the kind permission of the Director of National Archives. As the records are in the early Dutch language, they have been included within its English translation known as the D'andrado Manuscripts. Links from the different documents in this collection will take you to the images containing the original Dutch work. This arrangement makes it possible for the reader to understand the contents and the structure of the volume, contents of each document (both in English), and then study the images of the original Dutch manuscripts.
The D'andrado Manuscripts
Department of National Archives
P.O. Box 1414, No. 7, Reid Avenue,
Colombo 7, Sri Lanka.
Director : Dr. K.D.G. Wimalaratne
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Tele. No: 94 1 694523, 94 1 696917
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