Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934
Lists of passengers on of vessels sailing from Hamburg between 1850 and
1934 survive in the Hamburg State Archive [Staatsarchiv], Bestand
Auswandereramt. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has microfilm
copies of these manifests, comprising 486 reels, which can be consulted
either at the Family History Library itself or at any LDS (Mormon) Family
History Center outside Germany (restrictions imposed by the Staatsarchiv
Hamburg forbid lending these microfilms to any Family History Center within
Series. The passenger lists consist of two series:
Direct Lists, containing the names of those passengers on vessels
that sailed from Hamburg directly to an overseas port. The lists, bound
into volumes, extend from 1850 to 1914 and from 1920 to 1934; there was no
emigration through Hamburg during World War I. The lists for 1850-1855 are
not, properly speaking, "lists", but rather extracts from lists, arranged
alphabetically by the first letter of the surname of the head of
household, then chronologically by the date the vessel left Hamburg. From
1855, the lists are arranged chronologically by the date the vessel left
Hamburg. The volume of extracts for January-June 1853 has been missing
since at least the 1920s.
Indirect Lists, containing the names of those passengers who
proceded from Hamburg to an intermediate British or other European port,
where they boarded other vessels for their ultimate destination. The lists
extend from 1854-1910; the names of such passengers for 1850-1854 and from
1911 onwards are included in the Direct Lists.
- Contemporary. The extract Direct and Indirect Lists for
1850-1855 do not require separate indexes, as they are arranged
alphabetically by the first letter of the surname of the head of
household. Separate indexes for both the Direct (the
Direct Index) and Indirect Lists (the
Indirect Index) exist from 1855 through 1910; for the period 1911-1914
and 1920-1934 there is a
single index for both series. The indexes for 1855-1914 are arranged
by the first letter of surname of the head of household, then
chronologically by the date the vessel left Hamburg; the indexes for
1920-1934 are in strict alphabetical order.
15-year index, covering the Direct Lists for 1856-1871, was compiled
on typed cards by LDS volunteers in 1969. It is easy to use, but
- The late Hamburg genealogist Karl Werner Klüber compiled a card
index to the Direct Lists for 1850-1871, and to the Indirect Lists for
1854-1867. This index is deposited in the Staatsarchiv Hamburg, ABC-Straße
19, D-20354 Hamburg, which will search this index for a fee. The Family
History Library has a copy of this index on 46 microfilm reels.
- Sonja Höke-Nishimoto and Daniel M. Schlyter edited an alphabetical
index of the Direct and Indirect Lists for 1872 only. This index is
available from the Family History Library (film 1183696 Items 3-6).
- Eric and Rosemary Kopittke of the Queensland (Australia) Family
History Society have written several books variously titled Emigrants
from Hamburg to Australia or Australasia, various years.
These cover ships bound from Hamburg to ports in Australia and New
Zealand, and include transcripts of newspaper accounts and passenger
Additional records in the Staatsarchiv Hamburg and also available on
microfilm through the Family History Library on film 1732431, include 3
volumes listing the ships that sailed from Hamburg carrying emigrants,
1850-1914; 2 volumes listing people going overseas on merchant (as distinct
from emigration) vessels, 1871-1887; lists of returning Jewish emigrants,
1905-1907; lists of prospective emigrants denied emigration due to disease
or other causes, 1906-1913; lists of passengers coming to Hamburg with
departure dates, 31 Dec 1913-12 Aug 1914; lists of emigrants from Kowno (Kaunas)
1897-1899; and lists of Jewish orphans (pogrom victims) from Russia, 1906.
Another source that may be of use are the Reisepaß-Protokolle, 1851-1929,
passport documents maintained by the Hamburg Allgemeines Polizeiliches
Meldeamt, and held by the Staatsarchiv Hamburg, also available through the
Family History Library.
Liberty State Park
THE IMMIGRANT JOURNEY
THE EARLY YEARS
Located in the upper New York Bay, a short distance from
the New Jersey shore, Ellis Island was originally known to Native Americans
as Kioshk, or Gull Island, named for the birds that were its only
inhabitants. Consisting of nothing more than three acres of soft mud and
clay, it was so low that it barely rose above the high-tide level of the
The island was purchased by the colonist governors of
Nieuw Amsterdam (later New York) from Native Americans on July 12, 1630, for
"certain cargoes, or parcels of goods." The Dutch called it "Little Oyster
Island," because of the delicious oysters found in its sands, and used it as
a base for oystering. Because the island was not good for much other than
its oysters – certainly it was not a prime building site – it changed
independent ownership many times during the next century.
During the 1700s, the island was also irreverently known
as Gibbet Island, due to the executions by hanging from a "gibbet," or
gallows tree, of state criminals that took place there.
By means never officially determined, ownership passed
into the hands of one Samuel Ellis about the time of the American
Revolution. Ellis tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the island. A notice in the
January 20, 1785, edition of Loudon’s New York Packet offered:
"To Be Sold By Samuel Ellis, no.
1 Greenwich street, at the north river near the Bear Market. That pleasant
situated Island, called Oyster Island, lying in York Bay, near Powles’ Hook,
together with all its improvements, which are considerable…."
Ellis still owned the island when he died in 1794. In his
will he bequeathed it to the unborn child of his pregnant daughter,
Catherine Westervelt, on two conditions: that the baby would be a boy, and
that the child would be named after him. A son was born, but died in
infancy. Title to the island was then disputed by other members of the
On April 21, 1794, the city formally deeded the only part
of the island that was publicly owned, a narrow strip of mud between the
water and the high-tide mark, to the state. (Samuel Ellis had actually drawn
up a deed transferring ownership of his island to the state, but died before
the deed could be completed.) On this narrow strip, considered and excellent
defense for the harbor, construction of the first fort on Ellis Island was
begun in fear of new attacks from the British. A few wooden buildings and
thirteen 24-pound guns were ordered. As threats of war with Britain
increased, the island was also used for training recruits. Amid all this
military activity, the island was still privately owned property which was
leased for the anticipated military fortifications.
To speed up the transfer of the property, New York State
ceded its right of legal jurisdiction over the island to the federal
government in February 1808. After several inspections by U.S. Army
engineers, it was concluded that Ellis Island’s position in the harbor made
it strategically invaluable to the safety of the nation, despite potential
construction problems. But the disputed "rights of ownership" battle dragged
on, and anything built above the high-tide mark would have to be torn down
if the Ellis family members changed their minds about the lease agreement.
Finally, a committee of New Yorkers was appointed to estimate the island’s
value. The agreed figure was "no less than $10,000," a very large sum for
apparently unusable land in the early 1800s.
On June 8, 1808, the state of New York bought Ellis
Island at the committee’s recommended price, and was immediately reimbursed
when the federal government took possession of the island on the same day.
At last, the task of building the installation that had been approved a year
before could begin. After feverish and difficult preparations, Fort Gibson,
a full-scale stronghold boasting 13 guns and a garrison of 182 gunners, was
in place just before the outbreak of the War of 1812. But Fort Gibson wasn’t
needed. As the years passed, the army and navy had little use for the
island. It was used only to store ammunition until, in 1890, it was chosen
by the House committee on Immigration as the site of the new immigrant
Station for the Port of New York.
When Ellis Island was finally selected, $150,000 was authorized for
improvements and buildings. To make the small, muddy island usable, every
penny – and more – would be spent.
To begin, a channel 1,250 feet long and 200 feet wide had to be dredged
to a depth of more than 12 feet. New docks had to be constructed. Landfill
(from subway tunnels and from the Grand Central Station excavation) had to
be brought in to create the "ground" for the new buildings. And because
there wasn’t enough fresh water on the island, artesian wells and cisterns
The first buildings were constructed of Georgia pine with slate roofs.
The main building was two stories high, about 400 feed long, and 150 feet
wide. Four-story peaked towers marked the the corners of the building. There
were baggage rooms on the ground level, with a great inspection hall above
Smaller buildings included a dormitory for detainees, a small hospital, a
restaurant, kitchens, a baggage station, an electric plant, and a bathhouse.
Some of the old Fort Gibson brick buildings were also converted into
dormitories and office space.
Personnel included immigration officers, interpreters, clerks, guards,
matrons, gatekeepers, watchmen, and cooks, as well as maintenance staff such
as engineers, firemen, painters, and gardeners. The huge medical staff
numbered scores of doctors, nurses, and orderlies. The number of employees
varied with the number of incoming immigrants; the average staff ranged
between 500 and 850 people. Often, as immigration increased, the need was
greater than the number of employees available. Most workers commuted to the
island by ferryboat from Manhattan.
When the Immigrant Station officially opened on January 1, 1892, its
final cost had reached approximately $500,000, and it had become a city unto
THE 1891 CHANGE IN IMMIGRATION
As superior as the new facilities were in comparison to the old
accommodations, immigrants now faced stricter laws than ever before. A more
comprehensive immigration law had been passed in the spring of 891. In
addition to the previously established categories of "undesirables,
inspectors now also screened for polygamists, people with prison records for
crimes involving "moral turpitude." and all "persons suffering from a
loathsome or contagious disease." The Contract Labor Law of 1885 was
stiffened to exclude immigrants who were entering the country at the
encouragement of American employers; it was even illegal for American
employers to advertise.
While steamship companies had previously been held responsible for
screening their passengers before leaving Europe, now they were also made
responsible for returning deportees to their homeland and for the cost of
their food and lodging while they were in detention here. Aliens who entered
the country illegally or became "public charges within a year of their
arrival due to some preexisting condition before they landed were to be
deported. Additional amendments were added to the law in 1893.
The combination of this stricter law, a cholera scare in 1892, and the
financial panic of 1893, followed by several years of economic depression,
began to show its effect. The number of immigrants arriving in New York
consistently decreased until the turn of the century. In 1892, Ellis Island
welcomed 445,987 incoming foreigners; in contrast only 178,748 immigrants
passed through the station in 1898.
THE FIRE OF 1897
Fortunately, there were only 200 people on Ellis Island the night of June
1`4, 1897. Shortly after midnight without warning, a disastrous fire broke
out. The buildings of pine went up in flames as if they had been made of
paper. The slate roof of the main building crashed in within an hour, and by
dawn there was hardly a trace of the station left. Yet, not one life was
Congress immediately appropriated $600,000 to replace the lost structures
with fireproof buildings. During the two and a half years it took to rebuild
Ellis Island, the processing of immigrants was again conducted at the old
The Naming of Ellis Island
Ellis Island was no more than a lot of sand in the Hudson
River, located just south of Manhattan, in the 17th century. The island was
named Kioshk (Gull Island) by the Mohegan Indians that lived on the
nearby shores. In the 1630's a Dutch man, Michael Paauw, acquired the island
and renamed it "Oyster Island"; the island was used as a place to shuck and
eat oysters. In 1664, the British took possession of the area from the Dutch
and renamed the island "Gull Island". Not long afterwards, the name of the
island changed to "Gibbet Island", because men convicted of piracy were
hanged there ("Gibbet" refers to the gallows tree).
In the 1770's the island was sold to Samuel Ellis, who
developed it into a picnic spot. The U.S. War Department bought the island
for 10,000 dollars in 1808. Defenses were built on this and other islands in
the area in the years preceding the war of 1812. During the war, Fort Gibson
was built on the island to house prisoners. Half a decade later, Ellis
Island was used to as a munitions arsenal for the Union army during the
Civil War. It was said that there were enough explosives stored on the
island to cause significant damage to all of the neighboring areas.
After the Civil War, the island stood vacant until the
government decided to replace the Immigration Station at Castle Garden. In
1890, Castle Island, located on the southern tip of Manhattan, was closed.
Ellis Island was selected to be the new immigration processing center to
facilitate the large number of immigrants coming to America. In 1892, Ellis
Island opened and for the next fifty years more than twelve million people
came through the island on their way into the United States.
During the American Revolution (1776) Ellis Island
proprietor and New York merchant Samuel Ellis caters to local fisherman in
his tavern located on the island.
The first federal immigration law, The Naturalization
Act, is passed in 1790. This allows all white males living in the U.S. for
two years to become citizens.
In 1808 Ellis Island is sold by the heirs of Samuel Ellis
to the State of New York, but the name is kept. Later this year, the island
is sold for $10,000 to the Federal Government.
There is little regulation of immigration when the first
great wave begins in 1814. Nearly five million people will arrive from
Northern and Western Europe in the next forty-five years
The potato blight strikes Ireland and the ensuing famine
(1846-50) leads to the immigration of over 1 million Irish in the next
decade. Concurrently, large numbers of Germans flee political and economic
Castle Garden, one of the first state run immigration
depots, opens in New York City in 1855.
Rapid settlement of the West begins with the passing of
The Homestead Act in 1862. Attracted by the opportunity to own land, more
Europeans begin to immigrate.
Beginning in 1875, the United States forbids prostitutes
and criminals from entering the country.
The Chinese Exclusion Act is passed in 1882. Restricted
as well are "lunatics" and "idiots."
The control of immigration is turned over to the Federal
Government, and $75,000 is appropriated for construction of the first
Federal Immigration Station on Ellis Island. Artesian wells are dug as the
size of Ellis Island is doubled to over six acres with landfill created from
incoming ships' ballast and the subway tunnels in New York. During the time
of this construction, the Barge Office at the Battery at the lower tip of
Manhattan serves as the reception site for immigrants.
Ellis Island Opens
The first Ellis Island Immigration Station officially
opens on January 1, 1892 as three large ships wait to land. 700 immigrants
passed through Ellis Island that day, and nearly 450,000 followed through
the course of that first year. Annie Moore, a 15 year old girl from County
Cork, Ireland, is the first person admitted to the new immigration station.
On that opening day, she received a greeting from officials and a $10.00
On June 15, 1897, with 200 immigrants on the island, a
fire breaks out in one of the towers in the main building and the roof
collapses. Though no one is killed, all immigration records dating back to
1840 and the Castle Garden era are destroyed. The Immigration Station is
relocated to the Barge Office in Battery Park in Manhattan.
On December 17, 1900, the New York Tribune offered
a scathing account of conditions at the Battery station including "grimy,
gloomy...more suggestive of an enclosure for animals than a receiving
station for prospective citizens of the United States." In response to this,
New York architectural firm Boring & Tilton reconstructs the immigrant
station and the new, fire proofed facility is officially opened in December
as 2,251 people pass through on opening day.
To prevent a similar situation from occurring again,
Commissioner of Immigration William Williams cleans house on Ellis Island in
1902 - he awards contracts based on merit and announces contracts will be
revoked if any dishonesty is suspected. He imposes penalties for any
violation of this rule and posts "Kindness and Consideration" signs as
By 1903 anarchists are denied admittance into the U.S.
On April 17, 1907, an all time daily high of 11,747
immigrants received is reached. Ellis Island experiences its highest number
of immigrants received in a single year, with 1,004,756 arrivals. Federal
law is passed excluding persons having physical and mental defects as well
as children arriving without adults.
World War I begins in 1914 and immigration to the U.S.
halts. Ellis Island experiences a sharp decline in receiving immigrants -
from 178,416 in 1915 to 28,867 in 1918.
Starting in 1917, Ellis Island operates as a hospital for
the Army, a way station for Navy personnel and a detention center for enemy
aliens. The literacy test is introduced at this time, and stays on the books
until 1952. Those over the age of 16 who cannot read 30 to 40 test words in
their own language will not be admitted through Ellis Island. Asian
immigrants are nearly all banned.
By 1918 the U.S. Army takes over most of Ellis Island and
creates a make-shift way station to treat sick and wounded American
The first Immigration Quota Law is passed by Congress in
1921 after booming post-war immigration results in 590,971 people passing
through Ellis Island. Only 3% of an ethnic group living in the U.S. in 1910
will be allowed to enter the country in a year.
With the Immigration Act of 1924 restricting further
immigration, the annual quota of immigrants reduces to 164,000. The
buildings on Ellis Island begin to fall into neglect and abandonment.
America is experiencing the end of mass immigration.
The National Origins Act is passed (1929) banning
immigrants from East Asia. It also decreases the quota of European
immigration to 2% of the figures recorded in the 1890 census.
The passage of the Internal Security Act of 1950 excludes
arriving aliens with previous links to Communist and Fascist organizations.
With this, Ellis Island experiences a brief resurgence in activity.
Renovations and repairs are made in an effort to accommodate detainees,
sometimes numbering 1,500 at a time.
The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952, and a
liberalized detention policy, results in the number of detainees on the
island to plummet to less than 30.
Ellis Island is formally placed under the jurisdiction of
the General Services Administration from 1954 to 1964, and all thirty-three
structures on the island are officially closed in November, 1954.
After President Lyndon B. Johnson issues Proclamation
3656,Ellis Island falls under the jurisdiction of The National Park Service
as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument
Ellis Island opens to the public in 1976. During this
year over 50,000 people visit.
Restoration of Ellis Island begins in 1984.
The $156 million dollar restoration of the Main Arrivals
Building is completed and re-opened to the public in 1990. Since then
millions of visitors have retraced the steps of their ancestors by
experiencing Ellis Island.