Tracing Immigrants Origin Emigration and Immigration

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Tracing Immigrant Origins
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Emigrants Leave Ireland long.jpg
News and Events
Part 1. General
Part 2. Country of Arrival

 Country of Arrival Search Tactics
 Country of Arrival Record Finder
 Country of Arrival Record Types

Part 3. Country of Origin

 Country of Origin Search Tactics
 Country of Origin Record Finder
 Country of Origin Record Types

For Further Reading
The FamilySearch moderator for Tracing Immigrants Origin is GoAncestry

Hamburg-St. Pauli port about 1900. From 1850 to 1934 police recorded information about millions of European emigrants departing from this port in Hamburg, Germany.
The process of emigrating from one country to another generated various records. Often a country required the emigrant to receive permission to leave. If the emigrant obeyed this law (about one-third did not), there may be an application to leave or a passport. Emigrants also had to book passage and board a vessel for the new country. Each step could have generated a record. Records of departure in the country of origin are called emigration records. Most emigration records give the emigrant's name, age, close relatives or traveling companions, and last place of residence (sometimes birthplace).

To use emigration lists, you must know the country of origin (or the port of departure) and when the emigrant left. A growing number of lists have been indexed. The archives in some countries have prepared indexes of emigrants from particular regions to better document emigration. Private authors have also compiled or indexed specific emigration records. Many emigration records and indexes are listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under [COUNTRY] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION.

Departure Lists. Some ports made lists of departing passengers. These records include such information as age, occupation, and last place of residence or birthplace. While some records have not been preserved, many are now on microfilm. Where available, these are an excellent source for finding an emigrant's place of origin. Many existing departure lists are available at the Family History Library. Of particular interest are the port records of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden (see Step 5 "Place-Names" section for a list of major European port cities). The Hamburg, Germany, departure lists begin in 1850. Most eastern Europeans departed from Hamburg, including people from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Sweden. These passenger lists and indexes are most fully described in Hamburg Passenger Lists. Microfiche instructions Hamburg Passenger Lists.

Significant published departure lists for Europe and Great Britain include—

  • Dutch emigrants from 1835 to 1880.
  • English to America 1773-1776.
  • Irish departures 1833 to 1839 and 1847 to 1871 (incomplete).

Passports and Permissions to Emigrate. Passports and emigration applications are available for Baden, Hesse, various French departments, and many other areas. An excellent example of the growing number of published emigration lists is—

  • Schenk, Trudy, and Ruth Froelke. The Wuerttemberg Emigration Index. 5 vols. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1986. (FHL book 943.47 W22st.)

Other published lists of German emigrant applications include—

  • Brunswick, 1846-1871.
  • Hessen Kassel, 1840-1850.
  • Hessen-Nassau, 1806-1866.
  • Lippe, to 1877.
  • Minden, Westphalia, 1816-1900.
  • Münster, Westphalia, 1803-1850.
  • Rhine Palatine and Saarland, 1700s.
  • Waldeck, 1829-1872.

Illegal Emigration. Many emigrants left their native country without permission from their government. While illegal emigrants did not receive permission to emigrate, governments sometimes tried to identify them after their departure. One example of an index of illegal Swiss emigrants is—

  • Faust, Albert Bernhardt. Lists of Swiss Emigrants in the Eighteenth Century to the American Colonies. 2 vols. Reprint. Washington, D.C.: National Genealogical Society, 1976. (FHL book 973 W2fa; fiche 6048998.)

Some professional researchers have lists of illegal emigrants in their files. For information on hiring a researcher, see the Family History Library's Hiring a Professional Researcher Other Published Lists and Indexes. More than 2,600 other published sources are listed in—

  • Filby, P. William. Passenger and Immigration Lists Bibliography, 1538-1900.

About half of the above lists are indexed in—

  • Filby, P. William. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index now available on the Internet as part

In 1853 Gotthelf Zimmermann published a map showing routes from Europe to North America (Auswanderer-karte und wegweiser nach Nordamerika). This map is available at the World Digital Library.