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Emigration to America: Passenger Lists

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GERMANS TO AMERICA


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

Contents

by
Michael P. Palmer


Table of contents:

  • [gta-revu1.html Introduction]
  • [gta-revu2.html Customs Passenger Lists]
  • => Coverage <=
  • Lacunae in Germans to America
  1. [gta-revu4.html Records of Miscellaneous Ports]
  2. [gta-revu8.html Selection Criteria]
  3. [gta-revu5.html Records Destroyed]
  4. [gta-revu6.html Conclusion]


Coverage.

Publications such as German Immigrants and GTA, whose purpose is to provide access to large amounts of information, are judged by two major criteria: (1) how thoroughly they cover the records they concern, and (2) how accurately they reproduce or index these records.

1. German Immigrants.

The annual reports of the Secretary of State indicate that between 1847 and 1867 a total of 1,705,920 Germans arrived in the United States gta-revu7.html#note8 note 8. This number, like all government statistics, is imprecise, and should be considered approximate rather than absolute. Nevertheless, it can still be used to estimate the relative percent of all the Germans arriving in the United States by sea between 1847 and 1867 indexed in German Immigrants. As indicated above, German Immigrants contains approximately 99,440 names, only about 5.14 percent of the total number of German immigrants for this period gta-revu7.html#note9 note 9. However, within the very narrow framework they have set themselves--to abstract the manifests only of those ships that sailed from Bremen to New York and that give a specific place of origin in Germany for each passenger--Zimmerman and Wolfert appear to have fulfilled their objective well. The introduction to each volume indicates precisely what ship lists have been abstracted, and all the surnames on the manifests selected are abstracted except those whose initial letters have been torn away or are otherwise totally obscured. In fact, a random check of the microfilmed "original" ship lists abstracted by Zimmerman and Wolfert detected only one name on a manifest that could not be located in German Immigrants gta-revu7.html#note10 note 10.

2. Germans to America.

As indicated above, GTA reproduces, in modified form but in original passenger order, every "original" passenger manifest now housed at the Balch Institute Center for Immigration Research and containing a minimum of 80 percent German surnames. As Filby indicates in his foreword to volume 1, it was decided to begin publication with the year 1850, "because that year begins a period when immigration to the United States was swelling, touched off by the departure of political refugees, liberals, and intellectuals and by stories about a better life sent back by those who had emigrated previously" gta-revu7.html#note11 note 11. In fact, the beginning of this wave of German immigration dates from at least 1846, when economic conditions (including a failure of the potato crop) caused German emigration, which had been 37,800 the previous year, to jump to 63,300 gta-revu7.html#note12 note 12. Beginning the publication of GTA with an earlier year such as 1847 would have provided an uninterrupted continuation of the WPA index for the New York ship lists, which stops at the end of December 1846, and in addition have enabled easy access to three additional years of the New Orleans ship lists, whose WPA index does not begin until 1853.

The annual reports of the Secretary of State indicate that approximately 724,930 German nationals (as distinct from ethnic Germans from Switzerland, France, or the Austrian Empire) entered in the United States between 1850 and 1855. The nine volumes of GTA contain transcripts of 2,714 ship lists, representing approximately 629,283 names, for the period 1850-1855. Of these 2,714 lists, three are duplicates, and 16 contain no German surnames gta-revu7.html#note13 note 13; taking these corrections into account, GTA contains transcripts of the passenger manifests of 2,695 ships, representing approximately 628,586 names.

To make available well over half a million names is a monumental undertaking, and GTA is assured a place as an indispensable work for anyone researching German immigration to the United States between the years 1850 and 1855. Nevertheless, when compared with the official returns of 725,002 names, the 628,586 names printed in GTA represent a shortfall of some 96,344 people, or about 13.29 percent. Table 1 compares the number of German immigrants as reported annually by the Secretary of State to the number of names published in GTA gta-revu7.html#note14 note 14.

GERMAN IMMIGRANTS TO AMERICA, 1851-1855
Year Official GTA  % in GTA
1850 65,895 54,490 82.69
1851 72,486 40,496 55.87
1852 158,072 149,216 94.40
1853 141,928 131,727 92.81
1854 214,703 196,221 91.39
1855 71,918 56,436 78.47
TOTAL 725,002 628,586 86.70

In fact, the shortfall is greater than these figures suggest, since not all the people listed in GTA are German nationals: the published passenger manifests for ships arriving in 1852 from Havre indicate some 5,640 Swiss immigrants gta-revu7.html#note15 note 15, virtually all of them ethnic Germans, as well as a number "Austrians", the majority of whom appear to be ethnic Germans from Bohemia. Of equal importance is the fact that many of the people listed in GTA are not ethnic Germans. The published passenger manifests for ships arriving in 1852 from Havre list some 6,445 French immigrants, less than one third of whom appear to be ethnic Germans, and even some Italians. The published passenger manifests for ships arriving in 1852 from Liverpool and London list an additional 7,995 non-German immigrants, the overwhelming majority of them Irish.

It would be impractical without access to the original computer database even to attempt to determine precisely the number of non-German surnames and non-German nationals listed in GTA. However, extensive daily use of the series over several months suggests that this number comprises at least 10 percent of the total, and that a minimum of 62,850 names should therefore be added to the shortfall. In short, a "rough and ready" estimate is that GTA contains the names of approximately 75 percent of the German nationals arriving by passenger ship at American ports between 1850 and 1855. A shortfall of 25 percent of a base population of 725,000 is quite substantial, especially to a genealogist, who is concerned with individuals--indeed, with only one, particular individual. A look at some of the causes of this shortfall is consequently not out of place.


Table 1
OFFICIAL RETURNS OF GERMAN IMMIGRANTS TO THE UNITED STATES, 1850-1855
Quarter Balti-
more
Boston New
Orleans
New York Philadel-
phia
Galves-
ton
Other Total
1/1850 97 12 3,426 1,740 1 125 5 5,406
2/1850 1,404 26 1,822 18,180 129 204 43 21,808
3/1850 1,840 31 525 20,390 105 --- 6 22,897
4/1850 806 27 4,507 9,602 333 509 15,784
1850 4,147 96 10,280 49,912 568 838 54 65,895
1/1851 234 24 760 2,620 5 --- 3,643
2/1851 1,532 32 3,174 15,787 358 --- 20,883
3/1851 1,919 49 56 19,322 216 --- 21,562
4/1851 1,308 30 5,940 17,493 217 1,204 128 26,398
1851 5,071 135 9,930 55,222 796 1,204 128 72,486
1/1852 424 25 1,995 7,501 14 157 10,116
2/1852 3,538 86 8,946 53,070 777 1,031 43 67,491
3/1852 4,162 163 689 42,727 613 90 48,444
4/1852 1,308 166 12,300 16,719 206 1,322 32,021
1852 9,432 440 23,930 120,017 1,610 2,600 43 158,072
1/1853 731 27 2,049 6,755 69 348 1 9,980
2/1853 2,436 466 5,674 36,368 781 427 46,152
3/1853 2,796 246 24 32,760 510 --- 36,336
4/1853 3,363 130 10,971 33,020 670 1,304 2 49,460
1853 9,326 869 18,718 108,903 2,030 2,079 3 141,928
1/1854 301 21 6,443 13,115 48 217 8 20,153
2/1854 3,901 0 7,723 62,945 1,391 511 309 76,780
3/1854 3,548 357 20 47,900 280 118 39 52,262
4/1854 4,396 166 14,906 43,150 213 2,212 465 65,508
1854 12,146 544 29,092 167,110 1,932 3,058 821 214,703
1/1855 1,178 117 3,326 6,323 78 211 139 11,372
2/1855 1,661 57 3,262 19,128 152 699 37 24,996
3/1855 1,798 274 17 14,512 71 135 92 16,899
4/1855 1,678 55 4,476 10,990 124 999 329 18,651
1855 6,315 503 11,081 50,953 425 2,044 597 71,918
TOTAL 46,437 2,587 103,031 552,117 7,361 11,823 1,646 725,002

Table 2 lists the number of German immigrants arriving in the United States between 1 January 1850 and 31 December 1855, arranged by quarter and by port of entry. These figures are derived from the quarterly reports of the district customs collectors and should be considered approximate rather than precise: they represent the minimum number of German immigrants arriving at United States ports of entry and, in addition, do not include those arriving overland from Canada and Mexico. In addition, the customs collector for New Orleans failed to file a report with the Secretary of State for the fourth quarter of 1852, and the figure given (12,300) is an estimate based on a survey of the ships arriving at that port between 1 October and 31 December 1852. It is important to note that the report for a particular quarter may not include records of all ships arriving in that quarter: particularly in busy ports, such as New York and New Orleans, there was a great chance that records were not filed in absolute chronological order, with the result that records for ships arriving at the very beginning of a quarter might be included in the report for the preceding quarter, while records for ships arriving at the very end of a quarter might find their way into the report for the following quarter. (As an aside, it is important to recognize that the date on the ship passenger manifest is not properly the date of arrival but the date the list was signed and presented to the customs collector. Although these dates often coincided, they just as often did not gta-revu7.html#note16 note 16. For example, the customs collector at the port of New York did not work on Sundays, and consequently, although the various New York newspapers list ships arriving every day of the week, no New York passenger manifest for the period 1850-1855 bears a Sunday date.) Also worth noting is the importance of Galveston as a port of entry for German immigrants. Although the customs collector there failed to file quarterly reports for the third quarter of 1850, the first three quarters of 1851, and the third quarter of 1853, the reports for the remaining quarters for the years 1850 through 1855 indicate that the number of German immigrants entering through Galveston during that period was greater than the total number entering through both Boston and Philadelphia.

Table 3 gives the numbers of ship passenger manifests published in GTA for the period 1850-1855, also arranged by quarter and port of entry. Although this table assigns each list to a particular quarter by its date, it is important to note, as indicated above, that statistics for passengers on ships whose manifests date from the very beginning of a quarter may be counted in Table 2 among the statistics for the preceding quarter, while statistics for passengers on ships whose manifests date from the very end of a quarter may be counted in Table 2 among the statistics for the following quarter.


Table 2
SHIP LISTS PUBLISHED IN GTA, 1850-1855
Quarter Baltimore Boston New
Orleans
New York Phila-
delphia
Total
1/1850 4 1 13 25 43
2/1850 3 1 10 86 100
3/1850 9 1 88 3 101
4/1850 1 19 47 5 72
1850 16 4 42 246 8 316
1/1851 1 1 45 1 48
2/1851 3 14 103 3 123
3/1851 3 18 1 22
4/1851 6 23 2 31
1851 13 0 38 168 5 224
1/1852 1 15 14 30
2/1852 16 3 33 223 7 282
3/1852 21 1 4 177 3 206
4/1852 8 41 64 1 114
1852 46 4 93 478 11 632
1/1853 5 10 40 1 56
2/1853 12 2 18 145 177
3/1853 13 2 126 5 145
4/1853 11 21 108 2 142
1853 41 4 49 418 8 520
1/1854 3 26 46 1 76
2/1854 15 1 32 208 7 263
3/1854 15 1 178 1 195
4/1854 20 1 23 154 1 199
1854 53 3 81 586 10 733
1/1855 3 15 31 3 52
2/1855 6 14 52 72
3/1855 8 2 58 68
4/1855 19 59 78
1855 17 0 50 200 3 270
TOTAL 186 15 353 2,096 45 2,695



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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