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