Using Hamburg Passenger Lists
Hamburg was one of the main ports of debarkation in Europe. The passenger lists from Hamburg are particularly important to genealogists doing European research for the following reasons:
- It is one of the only ports which have preserved lists of passengers
- It lists the name of the town where an immigrant was last residing (or born)
- It not only includes Germans from central and northern Germany, but also many emigrants from eastern parts of the empire (now Poland), the Russian Empire, and Scandinavia.
Hamburg has been an important sea port for Germany for over 800 years and a key trade city throughout northern Europe. During the reformation in the 1500s the city became protestant but along with neighboring Altona had a tolerance for other religions. Already in the 1600s it was conducting business with the new world and Asia. Its prominence has been mostly due to its strategic location on the Elbe River. As the ships left Hamburg, they would usually stop also at Cuxhaven just down the river as a final port of debarkation. Following are some important dates in the history of Hamburg:
|About 811||Emporer Charlemagne (Charles the Great) ordered the first church to be built where Hamburg is.|
|834||This church became the see of the archbishop (First archbishop Ansgar 834-865).|
|May 7, 1189||Emporer Frederik I Barbarossa confirms the city's trade, customs, and shipping privileges on the lower Elbe, which date is celebrated today. 1250 there was a population of about 5,000 people.|
|1510||The Reichstag in Augsburg confirms Hamburg as a "Free Hanseatic Town".|
|1558||The first German stock exchange was opened there at which time the population was about 20,000.|
|1937||Altona, Harburg, Wandsbek, and 27 other communities incorporated into the city of Hamburg|
|1949||Hamburg becomes a federal state of the Federal Republic of Germany|
Today Hamburg is not only the second largest city in the country (1.7 million inhabitants) but also a state of its own within the republic of Germany (one of 16 states in Germany).
Emigration from Hamburg
During the 18th century some ships brought emigrants to America from the port of Hamburg, however at that time most emigrants would travel by the Rhein River to Rotterdam. Those emigrating from Hamburg were generally from areas further north in Germany and not areas where most of the recruiting for emigrants was taking place (see article on the Claycomb Family). Many ships from Hamburg were involved in trade with the Carribean islands during this period as well both with the various West Indies Companies and the Brandenburg ventures there.
Because of several factors including most notably economics, politics, population growth, cheaper transportation, and better news, an unprecedented wave of emigration began during the mid to later 19th century in Germany. News of the new colonists experiences were in all the newspapers and letters from friends and relatives who had gone to America were circulated far and wide in Germany. There was free land and opportunities available to those willing to take the risk. Many had very little to loose by the venture, but much to gain. The consistent encouraging personal letters coming back gave people confidence to take the chance.
As people were leaving Germany for the New World in the latter half of the 19th century, most took one of three routes:
|Hamburg||Those from Schleswig-Holstein and other parts of North eastern Germany, Eastern Prussia, Brandenburg, Silesien, and even northern parts of the Russian Empire left by way of Hamburg. Many Swedes and Danes also left by way of Hamburg (traveling by ship from Gothenburg (Göteborg), Copenhagen (København), or other Scandinavian ports to Kiel, Germany and then taking a train to Hamburg (especially in the period before steam boats became more common, pre 1870).|
|Bremen||Germans from northwestern Germany and central Germany largely left from Bremen on the Weser River, which was the other major German port for emigrants to America.|
|La Havre||Germans from southern Germany, notably Baden, Württemberg, and Bavaria (Bayern) often took a train to the port of La Havre and left from there for the new world.|
Although as many or nearly as many Germans probably left from the port of Bremen as left from Hamburg, until the 20th century there are no preserved passenger lists from this port. The early 20th century passenger lists are being indexed by the genealogy society there and a few books of passengers from Bremen have been compiled based on arrival lists in US ports from the 1850s and 1860s, but otherwise there are no records available for the thousands of Germans who left from Bremen.
Likewise there are no passenger lists from the port of La Havre, France. Although there were a few lists that are sometimes referred to in the literature these are almost entirely crew lists and were recorded when ships arrived back in France sometimes long after they departed. The ones I have looked at only list the individuals names. They would be helpful probably to less than one percent of the passengers who left from this port.
Although your family may have lived in Southern Germany or northwestern Germany, do not assume that they did not leave from Hamburg. What I have described here is a general pattern but not an absolute pattern. Because of the system of trains that existed in the latter 19th century, it was not difficult for people to leave from any of the three ports. Bremen and Hamburg are very close to each other and there are plenty of examples of people from Schleswig-Holstein that left from Bremen or from Ostfriesland that left from Hamburg. Generally it came down to a matter of advertising and economics. Who was the cheapest and what information a person got from newspapers or friends as to the better option. Since Hamburg was more widely advertised in Eastern parts of Europe, they had a higher influx of emigrants from those areas leaving from their port.
If your family came by way of Bremen, be sure to look for other relatives that may have come over separately before or after your ancestor as at least one of them may have left from Hamburg and may give the town of origin in their passenger list record.
The Hamburg Passenger Lists
A very nice article on Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 includes Family History Library film numbers for all of the direct and indirect passenger lists and the indexes that come with them as well as the 15 year indexes discussed below. Because of the difficulty in searching these direct and indirect lists and indexes, I suggest before beginning a search to carefully study the next section of this article, "Tricks to the Hamburg Passenger Lists".
Direct vs Indirect, Steam vs Sail
Before continuing further a little background information and definitions are helpful in understanding these records. During the second half of the 19th century there were two routes one could take in going to the new world. The direct route would take an emigrant directly from the port they were leaving from to America. The ship would often stop in other ports along the way for additional supplies and passengers, but the emigrants would not debark but would continue on the same ship all the way to America.
On the other hand, emigrants taking an indirect route would be only taking the Hamburg ship for part of the trip and there would be a transfer to another shipping line for subsequent sections of the journey. The most common indirect route was from Hamburg to Hull, England. Emigrants would then take a train across England to Liverpool, London, Southampton, or another port (most went to Liverpool) and continue they journey to the New World from there.
Not only did Hamburg have a distinction between direct and indirect routes. That was a common distinction in other ports as well. A person leaving from Copenhagen is found on either direct routes or indirect routes. The indirect route from Copenhagen before 1870 was often to Kiel or Hamburg, Germany, but later almost always to Hull, England. Most other ports of Scandinavia (Sweden, Finland, Norway) used almost exclusively the indirect routes to America to begin with.
If you are not sure which route your ancestor took, you will want to check both the Indirect and the Direct routes to America. The decision was usually based on economics and time allowances. The indirect route to begin with was cheaper but took more time and more inconveniences because of the stops and transfers. It was hard to continually carry belongings from ship to train to ship, etc. Yet for many emigrants it was more important to find the cheapest route than the inconveniences involved.
The choice of whether to go direct or indirect also changed over time with the introduction of the steam ships. During the 1700s everyone went by way of sailing ships. The journey could take between 3 weeks and 3 months depending on weather conditions. If the wind stopped blowing they could be stuck for extended periods of time on the ocean. With time, sailing ships improved and perfected their routes and schedules but there was still a degree of uncertainty as to the exact time schedule for a voyage to America.
When steam ships began to be used from the mid-1800s, they were quite new and expensive. Yet they did not rely on the wind and represented a more predictable journey. As they became more and more common, and more efficient, steam ships became more competitive in pricing with the sail ships. During the second half of the 19th century we see a transition where to begin with more people were using the sailing ships and by the end of the century steam ships had almost replaced the sailing ships. In the 1860s and 1870s both types of ships were running.
The results of this was that more emigrants in the later years began traveling direct to America instead of taking the indirect routes. The steam ships could be much smaller ships and still make the voyage to America. With not much difference in price, why not take a steam ship direct to America? Less Scandinavians were traveling to Hull and Hamburg in the later years. Although it seemed to be more went direct or indirect at different times, emigration increased fairly proportional over the years and you will need to check both. I have seen many families where different family members came at different times and some came direct while others came indirect.
From 1850-1854 the lists are by the first letter of the surname and so there is no separate index. There were not separate direct and indirect lists for this time period. Also after 1911 all of the passenger lists are in a single file rather than having the indirect lists separate from the direct lists.
Tricks to the Hamburg Passenger Lists
As the only major port of German emigration that preserved good lists of passengers and as a major source for the name of the town of origin in Germany for these emigrants, the Hamburg Passenger Lists have become one of the major sources of emigration research. Yet the indexes to these lists are handwritten and not strictly alphabetical. They are arranged by the first letter of the surname and then by date. Because of the number of emigrants leaving this port, unless you know a fairly narrow period of time when the ancestor left (like a month and year), it can take hours to go through the "indexes". For example there may be thousands of emigrants who left in a single year with a surname starting with "S" (Schmidt, Schneider, Schröder, etc.). The "indexes" are also handwritten in the Gothic script.
In order to find a person in the Hamburg Passenger Lists quicker there are a number of tricks that can help you avoid or use the "indexes" more effectively than just going through a few years by hand:
- Kübler Kartei - 2 indexes, cover 1856-1871
- Germans to America -1850-1893
- Link Your Roots Project 1850-1943 (so far 1890-1894)
- 15 year index - incomplete, cover 1856-1871
- US Arrival Lists - 1820-1900s. No Index to New York 1847-1897.
- Hamburg Ship Directory
- 1872 Index and Extract
- LDS/Ellis Island Indexing Project 1892-1924
Kübler Kartei. This is a wonderful card index created by Karl Werner Klüber. Unlike the index that comes with the passenger list, this index is alphabetical. The index cards are available on microfilm from the Family History Library. You need to check both indexes because they overlap the time period. The first index includes direct emigration 1856-1871 and indirect emigration 1866-1867. The second index includes direct emigration 1850-1871 (except those in the first) and indirect emigration 1854-1865. Together they make up a complete index for the period 1856-1867 and until 1871 for the direct lists.
Since this is the period when a large number of Swedes and Danes used an indirect route to America through the Hamburg port and predates the Scandinavian emigration records, this can be a key source for those tracing families from those countries.
Note that the index does not include a separate card for each person listed on the passenger list. If a man and wife, a brother and sister, or an entire family was traveling together there will be a single card listing the first person from the passenger list first and the other names will be listed on the same card. The index card does usually list the town of origin, ages, and occupation of each person. There will be a year and page number, often listed in the bottom right corner of the card. This is the reference to the original passenger list. With that information you can look up the film number for the original list. Be careful to note if the is a small-case 'i' listed after the year, for example 1862i. This means it was in the indirect list for the year 1862.
Germans to America. Regardless of what critics have to say about these 64 and more coming volumes, there is really nothing that can take the place of theGermans to America books in German emigration research. These books published by Ira A. Glazier and P. William Filby index arrival lists of Germans arriving in US ports from 1850-1893.
The first five years (1850-1855) only ships that included a majority of Germans were included but subsequently all Germans have been listed. Unfortunately these books generally exclude Swiss, Austrians, Russians (separate series for Russians), or others not categorized as German.
It is important to note that the lists used by Glazier and Filby are not the same lists as are on microfilm at the Family History Library. Sometimes places of origin in the Glazier-Filby books will not be shown on the FHL films, and at other times places of origin will be shown on the FHL films but only Germany will be listed in the Glazier-Filby books. This is not because they did a poor job of transcribing the records, but because there were two different sets of passenger lists kept and they do not always include the exact same information. Sometimes entire ship lists that are not found in one collection will be found in another collection. As the FHL passenger lists are indexed it will still be helpful to compare the two sets of records. Antonius Holtmann of the Research Center German Emigrants through the University of Oldenburg has been quite critical about the set, however regardless of its faults, it is the best and only resource available right now and is a wonderful source to try. Other reviews were written by John T. Golden and Michael Palmer.
The Genealogy.com site sells the Germans to America indexes from 1850-1874 (#355) and 1875-1888 (#356) CDs on their site.
What I suggest is to try the Germans to America books first. If you can find your ancestor listed on a ship, notice if the ship left from Hamburg, Liverpoor, or another British port. If so, then you will want to try also the Hamburg Passenger Lists.
Link Your Roots Project. The Staatsarchiv Hamburg has been a project in combination with several other groups to index all of the Hamburg Passenger Lists. They call this project Link to your Roots. The first phase will cover from 1890-1914. Eventually they will include all of the years 1850-1934.
To date (Jan 2001) this group has completed the indexes for the years 1890-1891. They have also partially completed the years 1892-1894. All of this that is completed so far can be searched on their Internet site. By clicking the link under "details" next to the person's name you get all of the information from the passenger list. As a trial, I checked the name Horlacher and found two entries:
- Carl Horlacher, 32 years old, from Dobrczyn, Hungary (Ungarn), a locksmith (schlosser) leaving for New York 9 Jun 1891 on the ship 9 Jun 1891
- David Horlacher, 38 years old, from (Schäbisch) Hall, Württemberg, a butcher, who left for New York on 14 Aug 1890 on the ship "Normannia".
Pretty cool. It only took five minutes and I didn't have to go downtown, look through the index film, then look through the original film. All I did was type the name in the search engine. Even if your ancestor came over earlier or later, if you have an unusual name you could try this as a way of finding other leads of where the family may have been from.
15 year indexes. The Family History Library staff and volunteers started a project to index the Hamburg Passenger Lists. In 1969 this project was stopped although not completed. What was finished to that point is available on microfiche and is easy to search but is incomplete. It is on ten rolls of film and covers the years 1856-1871 but does not include all the lists for that time period.
US Arrival Lists. You may wish to also try the US arrival indexes before going to the Hamburg lists. Although there is no index for New York emigrants from 1847-1897, they do have earlier and later indexes and the other ports of arrival include indexes. Even if they are not listed in Germans to America it may be worth trying these individual port indexes as they were often taken from different sources and include ship lists not included in the Germans to America series. From 1820-1920 the following ports had the highest emigration (number of immigrants listed in parenthesis):
- New York (23,960,000)
- Boston (2,050,000)
- Baltimore (1,460,000), Also city passenger lists
- Philadelphia (1,240,000)
- New Orleans (710,000)
Although about 90 percent arrived in New York, there were over 5 million who arrived in the other four ports listed above and many of these were Germans. If one of them was your ancestor it would be worth checking. Also see the project below that is indexing the New York Passenger Lists.
Hamburg Ship Directory. This directory was compiled by Philip and Rhoda Makler Liss and is found in three volumes. You can find them at the Family History Library on book (943.515/H1 W3L) and on microfilm (1183690 i.19-20, 1183659 i. 3). These books cover a period 1850-1914 and list every ship that left Hamburg and the date it left. They are listed chronologically. Since the same ship often went back and forth several times in a particular year, you may see it listed more than once.
These books are particularly helpful if you know the name of the ship and the date of emigration. For example if you know from Germans to America that your ancestor came on the ship Germania to New York and arrived on 15 November 1883, then you can go to this book and find the date 15 November 1883. Look prior to that date and find where the Germania is listed. It will usually be 2-3 weeks earlier for the steam ships. This book will give you the date the ship left Hamburg and the page numbers where you will find the ship listed in the original passenger lists.
Not only is this helpful for references from Germans to America, but also if you have a reference from a naturalization or other document to the emigration date and name of the ship. For example, one project I had was searching the ancestry of an Adolph Lewis. The naturalization gave the name of the ship and the date of arrival. Since he had changed his name in America he had not been found in any of the passenger list indexes. By looking up the ship list by date and name of the ship we were able to identify that his name had actually been Adolph Lange before he changed it to a more American sounding name.
1872 Index and Extract. In 1993 the Family History Library did an extraction project of the 1872 Hamburg Passenger List. The complete index for that year is found in four bound volumes at the Family History Library. I have copies of this database on disk and will be adding it to this site. So far I have converted A-B surnames. I'll do the rest soon. It is also available on microfilm through the Family History Library (# 1183696 i. 3-6).
LDS/Ellis Island Indexing Project. The American Family Immigration History Center will be a new facility based in the Ellis Island Immigrant Museum. It will have the names of 17 million immigrants who came through New York from 1892-1924 in a database which will also be available online. The database will include a full extraction of the passenger lists and will probably be linked to the actual images of the database. This ambitious project is supposed to be completed in the spring of 2001. If they keep their schedule that is coming quite soon!
Generally when trying to find your Germans in the Hamburg passenger list during the 1800s, the following will be the fastest route to take:
- Find your family in the Germans to America books. If the family came from a port in the British Isles, try the Hamburg Indirect passenger lists and index. If they came from Hamburg try #2.
- Write down the name of the ship that left from Hamburg, the date it arrived in America, and make a copy of the list showing the order of the names of the immigrants.
- Go to the Hamburg Ship Directory to see what page numbers the list is found in the original lists and the date the ship left Hamburg
- If you wish, you can go to the original, however you can also take one further step to go to the index which is by first letter of the surname to find the exact page number. Otherwise you will have to look through all of the names on the passenger list, although they are often in the same order as the New York list.
- Get the original Hamburg passenger list and look up the page or pages where your name appears.
Hamburg Police Records
In most big cities of Europe the police department was trying to keep records of all of the transient population of the city. They did this in different ways. In Copenhagen they took a census of all residents of the city over 10 years old twice a year. In Leipzig and Vienna they had cards or forms they kept on each person or family and would list the addresses the person lived at, when they moved, and other information.
In Hamburg the police office kept a number of records on the working classes who lived in town. These records can be very valuable because your ancestor may have had to stop and work in Hamburg for several months or years prior to emigrating. If they may have been there for a period of time, the police records could be something for you to try.
- Meldeprotokolle für Fremden 1868-1889. Register of male and female transients in Hamburg.
- Meldeprotokolle für Arbeiter und Dienstboten, 1843-1890. Register of male and female laborers in Hamburg.
- Meldeprotokolle für Gesellen 1850-1867. Register of journeymen.
- Meldeprotokolle für Gesinde 1834-1843. Register of domestic servants.
- Meldeprotokoller für Handwerker und Fabrikarbeiter, 1837-1868. Register of craftsmen and factory workers.
Other 19th century German Emigration Sources
[NOTE: This part of the article I would like to expand into a separate article but I will leave it here for now.]
If you know the state or province of Germany that your ancestor was from, there may be some emigration indexes or published books that will give you the place of origin even without finding a passenger list. Try to find out the province your ancestor was from in US census, naturalization, church, obituaries, county histories, and other sources. Then if you are lucky enough to be from one of these areas, the following might be an option for you:
- Alsace (Elsass): The Alsace Emigration book by Cornelia Schröder-Mergenthaler (FHL 944.38 W2s). Only includes a small percentage of those who left from Alsace.
- Baden: The Baden Emigration Book by Cornelia Schröder-Mergenthaler (FHL 943.46 W2s). Only includes a small percentage of those who left Baden.
- Brandenburg: Brandenburg Emigration Records by Marion Wolfert. 17,500 persons. Can search on Ancestry.com site.
- Hessen: Auswanderungskartei 1800-1900, card index to emigrants from the grand duchy of Hessen (Hessen-Darmstadt) from the Staatsarchiv in Darmstadt. I am told that the films at the FHL are out of date and they have been continuing to add to this card index since they filmed, however this is a wonderful index to start with. Make sure you try each of the available districts.
- Switzerland: The Swiss Emigration book by Cornelia Schröder-Mergenthaler (FHL 973 W2smc).
- Westfalen: Westfälische Auswanderer im 19. Jahrhundert. Auswanderung aus dem Regierungsbezirk Minden (1814-1900)/Müster (1803-1850) (FHL book 943.56 D25b Vol. 22-24, 38-39, 47-48) by Friedrich Müller.
- Württemberg: Württemberg Emigration Index by Trudy Schenk and Ruth Froelke. 7 volumes. 60,000 persons. Can search on Ancestry.com site.
Next to passenger lists, and perhaps even better as an emigration source is the public newspapers. These included not only notices of people leaving the country, but also notices of those who may have left illegally or did not show up for military duty. There are a number of professional genealogists in Germany who specialize in different areas who have indexed these sources. They will often charge a fee, but if you haven't found the town of origin in Germany yet with other sources and your ancestor is from one of these areas, you might give this a try. It might actually save you money in the long run:
- Bavaria (Bayern): Reinhard Mayer, Jaegerstr. 38, 83308 Trostberg, Germany. Email: ErbenMayer@t-online.de His index Contains 140,000 emigrants from 1830-1871 and he is continuing to index records from 1872-1920. This is the only emigration index right now for Bavaria.
- Hessen. G. Alexander Fülling, Königsberger Str. 16, D-51491 Overath, Germany, Germany. Mr. Fülling's email is gafod@s127268322 . His website is online at www.fuellingarchiv.de They include their index online, but you will have to pay to get the information of the name of the town the ancestor is from.
- Rhein-Hessen (that part of Hessen south of the Rhein River in what used to be Hessen-Darmstadt): Helmut Schmahl. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org or hschmahl@mail.Uni-Mainz.DE
- Württemberg (also Baden, Bavaria, and 18th Century Germans):Friedrich Wollmershäuser, Herrengasse 8-10, 89610 Oberdischingen, Germany. :
Finally there are currently several projects being done by different groups, organizations, archives, and societies who would like to compile a list of all the Germans to America. They each have very ambitious goals, however it doesn't seem to make sense that they are all trying to do it independently. Perhaps if these groups could combine their efforts and also use the published and unpublished sources listed above, they would be able to accomplish what they have set out to do. As mentioned above there are projects currently being done to index the New York Passenger lists after 1892 (Ellis Island) and the Hamburg Passenger Lists. Besides those, the following projects are those I am aware of:
- Hannover: As part of the Expo 2000 (World Fair) the Hannover Archives had a project to compile an index of names of emigrants from their archives that Americans could search while visiting the expo. An online index (Findbuch) is found at their site and although I haven't had a lot of success a friend tells me they give the name of the emigrant but you have to pay a fee to get the name of the town. Perhaps someone can clarify this better for me. The index includes emigration records from Hauptstaatsarchiv Hannover, Staatsarchiv Osnabrück, and Staatsarchiv Wolfenbüttel.
- Rheinland. Dr. Dieter Pesch has for several years been working on a project, Rheinische Auswanderer in die USA. They would like an online database that visitors to the Rhenish Open Air Museum and State Museum for Folklore could type in a name and get an immigrant's name. The exhibit is planned for 2001. If you want to contribute, you can email him at email@example.com. It would be nice if we could get an update of the progress and status of this project.
- Deutsche Auswanderer-Databank (DAD) or the German Emigration Database is a research project of the Historisches Museum Bremerhaven/Morgenstern Museum (in Bremen). They have the objective to create a database of all emigrants to the US from German ports from 1820-1939. Their main source is the US arrival lists.
- Research Center, German Emigrants in the USA is sponsored by the Oldenburg University and seems to be directed by Antonius Holtmann. They have a lot of information about German emigration of the 19th century and have discussed various possibilities of working together with other organizations on making a complete index to passenger lists from the 19th century.
- German Migration Center takes queries about German Migration. It is a place people can make queries about their German emigrant ancestors or about emigration in General. They also have helpful articles and links. The 17,000+ (Feb 2001) queries make up an emigration database which is searchable by keyword (surname, ship name, location of origin or destination).
- Immigrant Ancestors Project. This project is being conducted by Dr. Ray Wright of Brigham Young University. Their goal is to have an index to all German Emigrants in the 1800s. They want to index all of the German Emigration Sources from German archives. Dr. Wright has traveled to many archives in Germany and inventoried original archives. They have indexed original records from the Rheinland area and have been adding in various other emigration databases.
- Immigrant Ship Transcribers Guild. This is a project to create transcripts of passenger lists and put this information on the Internet so that those who do not have access to microfilm can have the material anyway. As a subproject they are doing a co-venture with Die Maus, Genealogy Society of Bremen to index the ships which left from Bremen and arrived in US ports.
It really seems a shame that each of most of these groups independently want to do the same or similar projects. Perhaps there are others I have missed. For example the Immigrant Ship Transcribers Guild, the DAD, Germans to America, and Hamburg Staatsarchiv are doing projects that overlap to some degree. The various universities, archives, and universities are likewise doing different compilations of German emigrants, but if it was all part of a single project and the various groups took different regions there would be a much better chance of making progress. Perhaps it is impossible to combine efforts since each person who comes up with the idea wants to be the one to push it through and each has financing from different sponsors. I guess if we have four or five different indexes that each have a slightly different angle, that is okay too.
I hope if there are other groups doing the same or similar projects that I can add them to this article. If you know of something I've left out, please let me know so I can add it in. At least we can all be aware of the different groups and what direction they are heading.
Gary T. Horlacher