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Published Passenger Lists:
A Review of German Immigrants
Germans to America, Volumes 1-9 (1850-1855)

Michael P. Palmer


Table of contents:



Ship passenger lists are an important source for genealogical research on German immigrants to America. These lists often indicate the German state, and in many cases even the precise locality, in which an immigrant was born. Since immigrants traveled whenever possible in groups of family or friends, ship passenger lists often make it possible to identify other members of an immigrant ancestor's family (including relatives with different surnames), or groups of neighbors traveling together. Couples that married within a year of arriving in America frequently immigrated together, either without accompanying relatives, or, more frequently, together with the family of one or the other of them. Consequently, not only can the ship passenger lists provide the perhaps hitherto unknown maiden name of the wife, but, in those cases in which the couple accompanied the family of one of them, they also provide the given names and ages of the members of the accompanying family as well. In cases in which there is a gap of years between the known date of arrival and the first documented American reference to an immigrant, simply identifying the port of arrival may at the very least suggest the route by which the immigrant arrived at his/her final place of settlement, and where along the way (s)he may have "stopped".

Ship passenger lists can be classified either as departure lists or arrival lists. Departure lists were compiled at the ports of embarkation; surviving lists are deposited in the archives of the country in which the port lies, and will be the subject of a separate article. It is important to note for the present, however, that for all the ports from which Germans emigrated to America in the 19th century, only the departure lists for Hamburg survive in any significant numbers. Considerably fewer than half the German emigrants to America left through Hamburg, however, and consequently the arrival lists, compiled at the American ports of disembarkation, take on primary importance, since it is in these lists rather than in the European departure lists, that the majority of researchers will find the record of their ancestor's immigration to America.


This article is copyright © 1990 Michael P. Palmer, but may be republished, in whole, or in part, with proper attribution.

An earlier version of this article was published in German Genealogical Society of America Bulletin, vol. 4, No. 3/4 (May/August 1990), 69, 71-90.

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Letzte Änderung/Last update: 21-Feb-2000 (jz)

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