Bremen Emigration/Immigration

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Introduction

The port of Bremen, Germany was a major point of embarkation for emigrations during the 19th and 20th centuries. This was true not only for German nationals, but also millions of inhabitants in Austria, Hungary, and other Central European nations seeking opportunities or refuge in the New World. Moreover, twice as many passengers departed from Bremen as from Germany's second busiest port for emigration, Hamburg.

One of the great losses in genealogical history is the nearly complete destruction of the Bremen passenger records. From 1832, Bremen port officials kept meticulous records on their ships' passengers. The "Ordinance Concerning the Emigration Traveling on Domestic or Foreign Ships" of 1832 in Bremen was the first state law to protect emigrants. Among other things it required the ship owners to maintain passenger lists. In 1851 the Bremen Chamber of Commerce established the "Nachweisungsbureau für Auswanderer" (Information Office for Emigrants), to which the ship captains had to deliver their lists. The rules and regulations of the "Nachweisungsbureau" considerably improved the quality of both the stay at Bremen prior to the sailing plus the seaworthiness of the ships. Then, in 1874, the authorities (the "Nachweisungsbureau"), citing a lack of space, destroyed all Bremen passenger records except for those of the current year and the two previous years. This practice was followed until 1909, when customs officials resumed the earlier pattern of preserving the original copies of all emigration lists. Unfortunately, the original lists for 1909 and beyond were destroyed in an Allied bombing raid on October 6, 1944. Except for the discovery of transcripts of Bremen lists for the years 1907-1908 and 1913-1914 at the German State Archives in Koblentz, no copies of the Bremen passenger lists have ever come to light.

Given the loss of Bremen departure lists, researches in search of embarkees from that port must fall back on arrival lists. In the case of emigrants to the U.S., that next best source is the U.S. Customs Passenger Lists.[1][2]

Timeline of Record Loss

1832 - lists of passengers begin
1874 - lists 1832-1872 burned
1874-1907 - lists destroyed every 2 years
1945 - records of 1907-1945 destroyed in bombing raid

Surviving Passenger Lists

Between 1875 to 1908, the staff of the "Nachweisungsbureau", who lacked office space, decided to destroy all passenger lists older than 3 years. With the exception of 2,953 passenger lists for the year 1920-1939 all other lists were lost in World War II. These saved lists had been stowed away in a salt mine at Bernburg an der Saale in 1942 together with other archives for the purpose of protection, and were transferred into the custody of Moscow Archives at the end of WWII. In 1987 and 1990 those lists were given back to the Bremen Chamber of Commerce. An agreement of July 1999 between the Bremen Chamber of Commerce and the Bremen Society for Genealogical Investigation, DIE MAUS ("The Mouse"), provides the basis for digitizing the passenger lists by members of DIE MAUS (i.e. the "e-migration mice"). Copies of lists from 1907/08 and 1913/14 had been provided for statistical evaluations in Stuttgart. After WWII some of these lists and a card index were archived at the "Bundesarchiv Koblenz" as Bremen Shiplists. They are transcribed also. Inquiries and/or questions to the Bremen Passenger Lists will be replied to by members of DIE MAUS at kwesling(at)gmx.de.[3]

For the actual lists see: www.passengerlists.de.

References

  1. Genealogy Points, "Coping With Destruction of Bremen Passenger Lists," Nase rodina 18 no. 1 (March 2006): 23.
  2. Jaroschewski, Tuila. "Bremen Passenger Lists 1920-1939". GGD NL 27 (July 2001), 22.
  3. Jaroschewski, Tuila. "Bremen Passenger Lists 1920-1939". GGD NL 27 (July 2001), 22.