German Emigration Records

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 Emigration Records

Many German emigrants exited through the ports of Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven.  Bremerhaven was the port of Bremen because the Bremen port was full of silt and needed dredging.  Ships could not get into Bremen.  Cuxhaven was the port for Hamburg.  Other German ports were primarily located along the eastern sea board and included Stettin, Gdansk (Danzig), Libau, Memel, and Riga. Germans also used Scandinavian ports (especially Copenhagen). The ports in Antwerp, Belgium and le Havre, France were also used.

Some causes for German emigration:

  • Compulsory military conscription was unpopular.  Many young men emigrated without permission in order to avoid military service. It has been estimated that more than fifty percent of young men of military age emigrated illegally.
  • In the early 1800s, an economic depression and over-population caused restrictions on marriages and attempts to limit growth in poor areas of the south and central Germany. Young couples in these areas often emigrated separately or together, often with illegitimate children.
  • Only three religions were allowed in German lands: Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed. Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III united the Reformed (Calvinist) and Lutheran churches in 1817 on the 300th anniversary of the Reformation. These religious restrictions caused some to emigrate for religious convictions.
  • (*** to Australia in 1838)
  • Industrialization in the mid 1800s created many new jobs, but also caused the decline of the cottage industries which had kept many families from starving. The hardest hit were the linen weavers who worked on looms in their homes. Mechanical looms and the competition from foreign markets drove many to pack up and leave.
  • Rising grain prices in the early 1830s, mid 1840s, and 1850s created a hardship on sustaining a family.
  • Some communities tried to get rid of the chronically underprivileged members of the society, with some towns paying the passage cots in exchange for the individual giving up all citizenship rights and promising not to return.
  • Improved transportation with the removal of tolls on the Rhine, Main and Neckar rivers in the 1830s, made it cheaper to travel to a port city. The railroad miles also doubled by 1846-47.
  • Industrialization wiped out home industries such as spinning, weaving, etc.
  • Land prices were increasing, but the income produced from the land did not have the corresponding increase. Selling the land rights often provided enough money to allow a family to emigrate.
  • Some farm sizes had become so small that they no longer could support a family.
  • From 1830-1845, growing grapes for the wine industry was unstable, and a series of bad crops caused many to emigrate. Zullichau is in a wine growing area!!!
  • The largest share of taxes and military personnel came from tradesmen, farmers, artisans, and laborers. Many did not want their children to feel the brunt of upcoming wars, unemployment, indebtedness, and impoverishment.
  • Relatives or friends who had already emigrated sent positive reports back to their hometown. Their reports encouraged others to follow.
  • Some political refugees, especially after the failed 1848 revolution, decided to leave. Nearby Poznan was a hotbed of political dissent.
  • Many shipping companies employed agents who actively canvassed specific geographic areas and wrote up shipping contracts with prospective emigrants.
  • Reports of cheap land in other countries lured people to leave.

Some destination sites for the emigrants:

  • Many from the crowded south of the German areas in the 1700s moved to new Prussian lands opening in Pomerania, West and East Prussia, Silesia, and Posen.

Perhaps I should not discount family records from these areas!!

  • Hungary, Spain, Russia, and France were other destinations which developed German-speaking pockets.
  • Following the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, the Swiss moved in to rebuild destroyed regions, but this did not always work out as planned.
  • In the 1700s, it is estimated that 830,000 Germans emigrated to Russia, while only 125,000 went to America. Catherine the Great invited German farmers to emigrate to her unsettled frontier in the southern Ukraine along the Black Sea and the Sea of Azor. About 37,000 accepted the 1763 invitation.
  • From 1717-1775, most of the Germans going to America landed in Philadelphia and gave Pennsylvania the largest German population.

Some emigration events:

  • In the early 1700s, the first major region to emigrate was from the Palatinate, Hesse, southern Rhineland, parts of Baden and Württemberg. Reasons for this included: inherited land parcels became too small to support a family, the area was under constant threat of war or recovering from a war, the ongoing struggle with neighboring France, and the winter of 1708-09 devastated the wine industry for years and jeopardized the jobs in that region. **A vinier might move to Zullichau!
  • Mennonite miners and their families found jobs in the Virginia ironworks.
  • Baptist Dunkers left in 1729.
  • Salzburg Lutherans moved to Georgia in 1731.
  • Schwenkfelders left in 1734.
  • Moravian Brethren left after 1735.
  • Around 1815, authorities in the southwest German areas paid to have their poor shipped to America.
  • Baden liberalized their emigration laws in 1803, Württemberg in 1815, Prussia in 1818, and Hesse in 1821.
  • From the 1700s to the late 1840s, emigration from Hesse was popular and affordable, but the increased poverty in the late 1840s allowed only the small families and individuals to afford the costs of emigration.
  • From the mid-1820s to 1850s, LeHarve became an important port for Germans from Württemberg, Baden, Alsace and Switzerland.
  • From 1844-1847, about 7,000 Hessians headed to the hill country of Texas.
  • It is estimated than about 20,000 Hessians emigrated to America in 1854. Of the number, over 9,000 were from Hesse-Kassel.
  • From 1848-1854, approximately 773,000 Germans emigrated to America, with nearly 2/3 of them from Hesse-Kassel, Hesse-Darmstadt, the Palatinate, Baden and Württemberg.
  • Emigration spread beyond Württemburg and along the Rhine after 1830.
  • After 1850, most of Mecklenburg’s emigrants consisted mainly of day laborers and farmhands.
  • About 800 Rappites (or Harmonists) emigrated from northwest Württemberg from 1803-1805, with most coming through the ports of Baltimore or Philadelphia.
  • German-speakers from northern Alsace (Bas-Rhin) were encouraged to leave during the 1820s and 30s, and those from southern Alsace (Haut-Rhin) after 1843.
  • In the 1830s and 1840s southern Hanover and northern Westphalia saw heavy emigration with the drop in linen prices and years of poor harvests. Spinners and weavers in Silesia were also hard hit by the introduction of mechanical looms.
  • Nassau had the highest per capita emigration rate in the 1800s.
  • Following the First Schleswig War in 1851, many defeated soldiers left for eastern Iowa.
  • Peak years for emigration from Westphalia included 1833-1850s and 1880-1885. Many headed to Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, and South Dakota.
  • With the the exit of many lower middle class small farmers, village shopkeepers, and artisans, emigration from Baden peaked between 1847 and 1857.

The above information is from the German Interest Group – Wisconsin Newsletter, 14, 4 (February 2007).

German/European Ports Used by German Emigrants


  • Passenger Lists, 1850-1934

  • The direct Passenger Lists

  • The indirect Passenger Lists

  • Combined index 1850-1871 (Klüber-Kartei – two alphabetical indexes on film; also contains some entries from other than the Hamburg passenger lists.

  • Police registers of city residents and passports issued, various sets of records found in the Family History Library catalog under “Hamburg — Emigration and Immigration”, “Hamburg — Population” and “Hamburg — Passports.”


Bremen began keeping passenger lists in 1832, but most lists have been destroyed. Currently, 2,953 passenger lists dating from 1920 to 1939 are kept in the Archive of the Bremen City Chamber of Commerce. Members of the Family History Association of Bremen, “die Maus”, are currently creating an index of this material for the Internet.

Some reconstructed passenger lists have been published. This information was taken from the U.S. arrival lists. For example:

  • Zimmerman, Gary J., and Marion Wolfert. German Immigrants — Lists of Passengers Bound from Bremen to New York, 4 volumes. FHL Ref 974.71 W3g

Antwerp, Belgium

For Antwerp, the Family History Library is currently filming emigration records and hotel registers that include Germans, especially from the Rhineland and the Southwestern part of Germany, and give towns of origin.  These records are cataloged under “Belgium, Antwerpen, Antwerpen- Emigration-Immigration”. The “Vreemdelingendossiers” begin in 1840. There are indexes. The first film number of the set is 2234256. Scanned images of the indexes are also available.


The Greifswald Landesarchiv holds some passenger lists that include emigrants that left from the port of Stettin, now Szczecin, Poland. These lists cover parts of the years 1871, 1876-1891, and 1896-1898. The archives address is:

Landesarchiv Greifswald
Martin-Andersen-Nexo-Platz 1
D-17489 Greifswald

Friedrich R. Wollmershäuser, a German genealogist, has an index to these lists. He charges a free for researching these records. His website is .

Other Ports

Other German ports were primarily located along the Eastern sea board and included Gdansk, Libau, Memel, and Riga. Germans also used Scandinavian ports (especially Copenhagen), British ports (Queenstown, Glasgow, Liverpool, Hull, Newcastle, and Edinburgh), and other French and Northern Italian ports. No passenger lists are known to have survived.

German Emigration Resources

  • About 100 People Who Emigrated from Villingendorf (Baden-Württemberg) to America in the 19th Century
  • Ackermann, Gotthilf. Auswanderer der Gemeinde Unterschlechtbach; ein Beitrag zum Schwäbischen Weltwanderbuch. [n.p.] Im Selbstverlag, 1936. List of emigrants from Unterschlechtbach.
  • Amerikaauswanderer aus den Ämtern Bünde, Rödinghausen, Kirchlengern und Gohfeld-Mennighüffen im 19. Jahrhundert / herausgegeben und verlegt vom Kreisheimatverein Herford. Herford : Der Verein, [1990] 192 p. (Wittekindsland ; Heft 3) A list of 19th emigrants to America from Kreis Herford; arrangement is by town then year of emigration, with a name index. Many settled in the Middle West.
  • Amerikanetz  Netzwerk westfälische Amerika-Auswanderung seit dem 19. Jahrhundert. Network Westphalian Emigration to America since the 19th century. A loose yet comprehensive network of individuals combing their work on the Westphalian emigration. Many links; also access to databases.
  • Andrusko, Samuel M. Emigrants from Baden and Württemberg 1816/17, extracted from Aufbruch nach Amerika. Silver Spring, Md. (95 E. Wayne Ave., Apt. T-2, Silver Spring 20901) : S.M. Andrusko, 1984. 19 p. An introduction and English translation of selected information on certain emigrants from Aufbruch nach Amerika / unter Mitarb. von Ingrid Schöberl, hrsg. von Günter Moltmann, 1979. Alphabetical list of certain emigrants mentioned in Aufbruch nach Amerika.
  • Arbeitsgemeinschaft Genealogie Schleswig Holstein (Hans Peter Voß from Kiel). Their projects include an emigrant database and transcriptions of Schleswig Holstein Census records. Work in progress. Online access is possible, valuable information and data.
  • Auerbach, Inge. Hessische Auswanderer (HesAus) : Index nach Familiennamen. Marburg :Archivschule Marburg, 1987-<1988 > v. <1-2 > (Veröffentlichungen der Archivschule Marburg, Institut für Archivwissenschaft ; Nr. 12) Separate lists of Hessian emigrants from Hanau and Hesse-Kassel; includes place of origin.
  • Auf nach Amerika! : Beiträge zur Amerika-Auswanderung des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Paderborner Land und zur Wiederbelebung der historischen Beziehungen im 20. Jahrhundert / herausgegeben vom Deutsch-Amerikanischen Freundeskreis Paderborn-Belleville e.V. in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Stadtarchiv Paderborn durch Ellen Rost, Otmar Allendorf, Rolf-Dietrich Müller. Paderborn : Bonifatius, 1994-<c1999 > Volume 1, pages 126 to 191, lists emigrants from the city of Paderborn. Volume 2 lists emigrants from the counties of Büren and Paderborn. The arrangement in both volumes is by year of emigration, with a personal name index.
  • Auswanderer, Aken, Dusseldorf, Koln. Computer printout (published?) available at: “Das Hauptstaatsarchiv “Dusseldorf”, Mauerstrasse, Dusseldorf, Germany.
  • Die Auswanderer aus dem Fürstentum Lippe (bis 1877) : Nach ungedruckten und gedruckten Quellen / gesammelt und bearbeitet von Fritz Verdenhalven. Detmold : Naturwissenschaftlicher und Historischer Verein für das Land Lippe, 1980. xxx, 535 p. (Sonderveröffentlichungen des Naturwissenschaftlichen und Historischen Vereins für das Land Lippe, ISSN 0466-6224 ; Bd. 30) A chronological list of emigrants from Lippe up to 1877; contains indexes of surnames and places.
  • Auswanderer aus dem Gebiet des ehemaligen preußischen Regierungsbezirks Trier 1700 – 1900  (Rhineland). Emigrants from the former Regierungsbezirk Trier 1700-1900.
  • Auswanderer aus Gechingen, Kreis Calw (Wuerttemberg). Emigrants from Geschingen, Wuerttemberg.
  • Auswanderer-Museum-Oberalben. The Museum displays the history of emigration from the Palatinate to America. Some reference literature and name lists. Limited opening hours.
  • Auswanderer und ihre Familien aus dem ehemaligen Großherzogtum Oldenburg. Emigrants from the former Grandduchy of Oldenburg compiled from various sources. Homepage of the Oldenburg Genealogical Society.
  • Auswanderung aus Bayern nach Amerika. Web site of Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte at Munich. In 2004 and 2005 the Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte did present an extensive exhibit Bye Bye Bayern – Grüß Gott Americ”. Catalog may still be available.
  • Auswanderung aus dem alten Amt Wildeshausen. Emigration from the former county of Wildeshausen.
  • Auswanderung aus dem Rheingau. Hessen.
  • Auswanderer aus Mestlin – Mecklenburg
    List of emigrants to America and information about emigration to America from Mestlin.
  • Auswanderung aus Südwestdeutschland:  Eine Dokumentation des Landesarchivs Baden-Württemberg. Database of emigrants from Baden and Wuerttemberg, known as “Glatzle” collection.
  •  Auswanderung aus Württemberg.  You can search a Württemberg emigration database here for free. First click on “Recherche,” then on “Suchformular” to bring up the search form. In the “name” box type a name or just a surname, then click on the “Abschicken” button. You can get more listings for a name by using the pull down box next to the word “Sätze” — the default is 10. This index is derived from different sources than the 8 volumes of books used for the link listed below. (In German)
  • Auswanderung Landratsamter Polizeiprasidium Koln. Computer printout (published?) available at: “Das Hauptstaatsarchiv Dusseldorf”, Mauerstrasse, Dusseldorf, Germany.
  • Auswanderung nach Amerika / Emigration to America. Emigrants from the District of Delmenhorst in Oldenburg.
  • Baden Emigration Index. The Baden Emigration Index is an A to Z listing of those who left Baden from the 17th to the 20th centuries and received official permission to emigrate. If your ancestor emigrated without receiving permission they will not be included in the index. Information given in this index includes: name, place of origin (village, town or city) and year of emigration. The modern state of Baden-Württemberg is comprised of the former regions of Baden, Württemberg and Hohenzollern. The Baden Emigration Index covers only the former region of Baden. FHL films beginning with 1180096.
  • Baden Emigration Index 1866-1911. Contains the names of more than 28,000 persons who left Baden between 1866 and 1911. Each entry includes the emigrant’s name, residence or place of birth, and the year of departure. ( – requires payment)
  • Ballin Stadt, Hamburg.  Between 1850 and 1939, Hamburg served as the “Gateway to the World” for some 5 million European emigrants who left their homeland via the city’s port in search of a better life across the Atlantic. These people, many of whom were fleeing from political and religious persecution or simply wanted to escape a life of poverty and hunger, sought a new beginning, a better livelihood and the opportunity to make a fresh start in the “land of plenty”. And they all had high hopes of a better life. The BallinStadt (BallinCity) Museum is dedicated to these people.
  • Bayerischer Landesverein für Familienkunde e.V. The Bavarian Genealogical Society covers four regions in Bavaria. They also have emigration card files.
  • Bell, Raymond Martin. Emigrants from the Wolfersweiler region of Germany to Pennsylvania, 1730-1750. Washington, Pa. (413 Burton Av., Washington) : R.M. Bell, 1982. Names come from ship passenger lists for Philadelphia and the churchbooks of Wolfersweiler; contains a surname index.
  • Die Bevölkerung des Herzogtums Schleswig am 13.Februar 1803. Sponsored by the Genealogy Work Group-Holstein e.V., this site has databases of the population of this area in 1803, and a listing of Emigrants. It is a work in progress.
  • Bezirksverband Pfalz. Institute for Palatine History and Folklife Studies at Kaiserslautern. A widely known facility which has proved itself valuable to many researchers. 300,000 card files on Palatine emigrants, literature, resources, publications.
  • Biographisches Handbuch der deutschsprachigen Emigration nach 1933 / Leitung und Bearbeitung, Werner Röder, Herbert A. Strauss, unter Mitwirkung von Dieter Marc Schneider, Louise Forsyth ; Autoren, Jan Foitzik … [et al.] ; Redaktion, Sybille Claus und Beatrix Schmidt. München ; New York : K.G. Saur ; Detroit, Mich. : Distributed by Gale Research Company, 19801983. 3 v. in 4.  Contains approximately 8,700 biographical sketches of persons who emigrated from Central Europe during the period of the Third Reich. Indexes in volume 3.
  • Brandenburg, Prussia Emigration Index ( – requires payment) These records are also available on microfiche from the Family History Library under the title: Brandenburgishes Landeshauptarchiv Potsdam, Auswanerungskartei. FHL microfiche #6109219 (22 total Fiches).
  • Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv. Excerpts of emigration files from the Regierungsbezirk Frankfurt/Oder
  • Braun, Fritz, comp. Auswanderer auf dem Schiff Samuel M. Fox. Ankunft New York, 4. Aug. 1852. (Kaiserslautern, Heimatstelle Pfalz [1964]) 32 p. (Schriften zur Wanderungsgeschichte der Pfälzer, Folge 21) Report on the voyage by Jacob Ernst Ruth and passenger list. Originally published in Pfälzische Familien- und Wappenkunde, 1964. Passenger list of emigrants from the Palatinate who arrived in New York on August 4, 1852; contains some genealogical information.
  • Braun, Fritz. Auswanderer aus Enkenbach seit Beginn des 18. Jahrhunderts. Heimatstelle Pfalz, [196-] 27 p. (Schriften zur Wanderungsgeschichte der Pfälzer ; Folge 11) Emigrants from Enkenbach since the beginning of the 18th century.
  • Braun, Fritz. Auswanderer aus Kaiserslautern im 18. Jahrhundert. Kaiserslautern : Heimatstelle Pfalz, 1965. 27, [5] p. (Schriften zur Wanderungsgeschichte der Pfälzer ; Folge 17) Emigrants from Kaiserslautern during the 18th century.
  • Braun, Fritz. Auswanderer aus Queidersbach, 1764 bis 1938 / Fritz Braun und Stefan Aicher. Kaiserslautern : Heimatstelle Pfalz, 1966. 40 p. (Schriften zur Wanderungsgeschichte der Pfälzer ; 24) Emigrants from Queidersbach from 1764 to 1938.
  • Braun, Fritz. Auswanderer aus Steinweiler in drei Jahrhunderten. [By] Fritz Braun. Kaiserslautern, Heimatstelle Pfalz, 1968. 64 p. (Schriften zur Wanderungsgeschichte der Pfälzer, Folge 27) Emigrants from Steinweiler during three centuries.
  • Bremen Passenger Lists, 1920-1939. From 1875 – 1908, the staff of the ´Nachweisungsbureau´decided to destroy all lists older than 3 years because of lack of office space.. With the exception of  2.953 passenger lists for the years 1920 – 1939 all other lists were lost in World War II. This is a set of 3,017 lists dating 1920-1939 (of 4420 made during this time period), which was saved by Die Maus, a Bremen based genealogical society. Over 635,000 passengers are in the database which can be searched by surname, ship name, day of departure, destination harbor and hometown of the passenger.
  • Bremen Passenger Lists 1920 – 1939.
  • Broermann, Karl. [Auswanderung der Mülheimer nach Pennsylvanien. English & German] The emigration of the Mülheimers to Pennsylvania : both a local and German culture picture from the 17th century. Translated by Rosalie N. Castleberry. Windermere, Fla. (12404 Summerport Ln., Windermere 34786) : R.N. Castleberry, c1991. 46 p.”With also a photocopy of the original German article: Die Auswanderung der Mülheimer nach Pennsylvanien.””The original article was published in the December, 1938 issue of the Mülheim Historical Society’s Zeitschrift.”  An “index to Mulheim emigrants” who came to Germantown (now a part of Philadelphia) is on pages 48-49.
  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Brethren from Gimbsheim in the Palatinate to Ephrata and Bermudian in Pennsylvania. Myerstown, PA : AKB Publications, c1994. A list of emigrants from Gimbsheim who settled in Ephrata and Bermudian, Pennsylvania; contains extensive genealogical information.
  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Colonial Pennsylvania immigrants from Freinsheim in the Palatinate. Myerstown, PA (691 Weavertown Rd., Myerstown 17067) : AKB Publications, c1989. List of 18th century emigrants from Freinsheim who settled in Pennsylvania; contains extensive genealogical information.
  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Early Pennsylvania pioneers from Mutterstadt in the Palatinate. Worthington, OH (P.O. Box 93, Worthington 43085) : AKB Publications, c1983. List of 18th century immigrants to Pennsylvania from Mutterstadt; contains extensive genealogical information.
  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Eighteenth century emigrants from German-speaking lands to North America. Breinigsville, Pa. : Pennsylvania German Society, 1983-<1985 >  Volume 1 lists emigrants from the Northern Kraichgau; volume 2, emigrants from the Western Palatinate. Both volumes include considerable genealogical information as well as indexes of ships, European place names, and surnames.
  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Eighteenth and nineteenth century emigrants from Lachen-Speyerdorf in the Palatinate. Myerstown, PA (691 Weavertown Rd., Myerstown 17067) : AKBPublications, c1989. Alphabetical list of emigrants with considerable genealogical information.
  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Eighteenth century emigrants from Langenselbold in Hesse to America. Myerstown, Pa. : AKB Publications, 1997. Extensive genealogical information on 18th century emigrants from Langenselbold, many of whom settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Eighteenth-century emigrants from Pfungstadt, Hessen-Darmstadt to Pennsylvania. Myerstown, PA : AKB publications, c1995. List of 18th century emigrants from Pfungstadt who settled in Pennsylvania; contains extensive genealogical information.
  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Eighteenth Century Emigrants from the Northern Alsace to America. Camden, Maine: Picton Press, 1992. “Prepared for distribution to members of the Pennsylvania German Society during 1992 as Volume XXVI in its series of publications on Pennsylvania German history and culture”–T. p. verso. Alphabetical list of emigrants from the Northern Alsace, now part of France; contains indexes of ships and surnames.
  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Eighteenth century Pennsylvania emigrants from Hassloch and Bühl in the Palatinate. [Worthington, OH] (P.O. Box 93, Worthington 43085) : AKB Publications, [c1983]  A list of 18th century emigrants who settled in Pennsylvania; contains extensive genealogical information.
  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Emigrants from Eppingen to America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Myerstown, PA (691 Weavertown Rd., Myerstown 17067) : AKB Publications, c1987. List of emigrants from Eppingen; contains considerable genealogical information.
  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Grossgartach, Wuerttemberg, to Pennsylvania : some early colonial German immigrants. Myerstown, Pa. : AKB Publications, 1999. Extensive genealogical information on the 18th century emigrants from Grossgartach who settled in Pennsylvania.
  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. The Hochstadt origins of some of the early settlers at Host Church, Berks County, Pa. Worthington, OH (P.O. Box 93, Worthington 43085) : AKB Publications, c1983. A list of emigrants from Hochstadt who settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Master index to the emigrants documented in the published works of Annette K. Burgert, F.A.S.G., F.G.S.P. Myerstown, Pa. : AKB Publications, [1993?]  An alphabetical index to the names of German emigrants published in thirteen volumes

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