Brazil Emigration and Immigration
Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigration) or coming into (immigration) a country. These lists are usually found as passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, and records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the emigrants’ names, ages, occupations, destinations, ports of emigration, and occasionally places of origin or birthplaces.
These sources can help you determine where in Brazil your ancestor came from and where he or she came from prior to settling in Brazil. These records can also help you construct family groups. If you do not find your ancestor, you may find emigration information on your ancestor’s neighbors. People often emigrated with neighbors and friends from the same communities.
Europeans left Europe (Portugal) for Brazil from the 1530s onward. General immigration began in the 1800s with the transfer of the court from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro when a royal decree in 1808 opened the ports of Brazil to direct trade with foreign countries. For the first time citizens of other countries were welcome to enter in substantial numbers and become permanent citizens and land owners in Brazil.
Although many foreigners came at that time, most newcomers continued to come from Portugal. The Portuguese were not regarded as foreigners and usually did not consider themselves immigrants. Many originally did not intend to become permanent residents in Brazil.
Records were created when individuals emigrated from or immigrated to Brazil. Other records document a person’s arrival in his or her destination country. This section discusses:
- Finding your ancestor’s town of origin.
- Immigration to Brazil.
- Records of Brazilian emigrants to the United States of America.
- Other records of departure.
There are some helpful records about Portuguese immigrants into Brazil. There are not many immigration records for Brazil prior to 1808.
Finding Your Ancestor’s Town of Origin
Once you have traced your family back to your immigrant ancestor, you must determine the city or town where the ancestor lived. Brazil has no nationwide index to birth, marriage, or death records. These records were kept locally.
There are several sources that may give your ancestor’s place of origin. You may be able to learn the town your ancestor came from by talking to older family members. Members of your family may have documents that name the city or town, such as:
- Birth, marriage, and death certificates.
- Family Bibles.
- Church records.
- Naturalization applications and petitions.
- Passenger lists.
- Family heirlooms.
Emigrants leaving Brazil may have left records documenting their migration both in Brazil and in the country they moved to.
Information on Brazilian migration is found in:
Ferenczi, Imre. International Migrations, volume I: Statistics. Series: The American immigration collection. Series 2, vol. 1. New York: Arno Press and the New York Times, 1970. (FHL book 304.8 F379i)
Most Brazilian emigrants left through the ports of Rio de Janeiro, Santos, and São Paulo. Records of departures are called passenger lists. The information in these lists varies over time but usually includes the emigrants’ names, ages, occupations, and destinations. In addition, relationships and last residences or birthplaces may be given.
There are few emigration sources for the ports of Brazil. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of some records of emigrants leaving from the port of Rio de Janeiro. These records, from 1835 to 1842, were filmed from the Hostelry of Immigrants (Hospedaria de Imigrantes) and are called Saídas (Departures) (FHL film 1285642 items 2–5, 1285643–1285644).
Many of those who emigrated from Europe and other western hemisphere countries to Brazil left from the ports of Bremen, Hamburg, La Havre, Bordeaux, Marseille, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Lisbon, Funchal, Cádiz, New Orleans, Naples, Tokyo, and New York.
The passenger records from Hamburg have been microfilmed and are available in the collection of the Family History Library. These passenger lists and indexes are most fully described in Hamburg Passenger Lists. Note: the old Hamburg Passenger Lists Resource Guide has been incorporated into the article. Also see the microfiche instructions in Hamburg Passenger Lists.
Departure lists from La Havre, New Orleans, and New York were not preserved.
Immigration to Brazil
Prior to 1755 the Portuguese sent prisoners, degredados (exiles) or indesejáveis (undesirables) to its colonies, and prior to 1808 the Portuguese limited immigration to Brazil to Portuguese nationals. After 1808, Brazil opened its ports to international commerce and began to encourage immigration.
It was not until the law of 1871, when the Lei do Ventre Livre (Law of Free Birth) freed all newborns of slaves, and the law of 1888, Lei Áurea (Golden Law), which freed all slaves, that many Europeans saw the opportunity to immigrate and better themselves in a non slavery environment. These laws forced the plantation owners (fazendeiros) to look to other sources for laborers. Therefore, in 1890s they organized the Sociedade Promotora de Imigração (Society for the Promotion of Emigration) to promote immigration.
From 1808 to 1940 immigrants came to Brazil from over 50 nations all over the world; most were from Portugal, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Japan, Russia, France, Spain, Turkey, the British Isles, and other South American countries. This wave of immigration was caused by political and financial conditions and by work opportunities on the plantations. Many settled in the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Rio de Janeiro.
After the United States Civil War, many Southerners emigrated to Brazil. By 1872, 4,000 Southerners had emigrated to Amazonas, Espírito Santo, and São Paulo, establishing rural colonies. A few of these survived, such as Americana in São Paulo, but most failed, and the settlers returned to the United States. One source for these emigrants is listed under Brazil Cemeteries. Other sources at the Family History Library include:
The Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, c1995. (FHL book 981.61 H2c)
Griggs, William Clark. The Elusive Eden: Frank McMullan’s Confederate Colony in Brazil. Austin: University of Texas Press, c1987. (FHL book 981 F2gw)
Confederates in Brazil website: Brazil Confederates
Most immigrants to Brazil arrived at one of three ports in Brazil: Rio de Janeiro, Santos, or Salvador. As immigrants arrived to the port of Rio de Janeiro, they were registered by the Agência Central de Imigração (Central Agency for Immigration). Those disembarking in the port of Rio de Janeiro were taken to the Ilha das Flores (Isle of Flores) and processed at the Casa dos Imigrantes (House of Emigrants). Those destined for São Paulo continued on to Santos. After 1854, many ships went directly to Santos. The port authorities who registered and handled immigrants in Brazil were known as the Hospedaria de Imigrantes (Hostelry of Immigrants).
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of immigration records from each of these ports. These records can be found in the Family History Library Catalog under:
BRAZIL - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
Rio de Janeiro
In the Arquivo Nacional (National Archive), in Rio de Janeiro, there is a large collection of immigration records on cards in nearly 30 drawers. These cards have information on Portuguese immigrants to Brazil. The National Archive in Brazil compiled a supplement volumes to this collection:
Registro de Estrangeiros e Entradas de Portugueses do Registro de Estrangeiros nas Capitanias, 1777–1819 (Register of the Foreigners and Emigrants from the Portuguese Register of Foreigners in the Captaincies, 1777–1819). Rio de Janeiro: Arquivo Nacional.
Registro de estrangeiros, 1808–1842 (Register of foreigners, 1808–1842). 4 vols. (From series: Publicações do Arquivo Nacional, vols. 46, 49–50, 54.) Rio de Janeiro: Arquivo Nacional, Ministério da Justiça e Negócios Interiores, 1961–1964. (FHL book 981 W2b; film 1090236 items 1–3 and 1162487 item 4)
Another book from the National Archives in Brazil lists emigration records of French residents in Rio de Janeiro:
Os franceses residentes no Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1820 (The French Residents in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1820). Rio de Janeiro: Arquivo Nacional, 1960. (FHL book 981.53/R1 F2b; film 1102990 item 7 or 0897926 item 2)
The original records of the Hospedaria de Imigrantes (Hostelry of Immigrants) in Rio de Janeiro are at the National Archives, in Rio de Janeiro. Records from this office have been microfilmed by the Family History Library and include arrival lists, passports, lists of ships, and so on:
Registros de imigrantes (Register of Immigrants). Arquivo Nacional no Rio de Janeiro, N.p., (1981). (FHL numbers 1285633–1285704)
A published list of Brazilian immigrants from North America through Rio de Janeiro is:
Oliveira, Betty Antunes de. Movimento de passageiros norte-americanos no porto do Rio de Janeiro, 1865–1890 (Movement of North American Passengers in the Port of Rio de Janeiro, 1865–1890). Rio de Janeiro: B. A. de Oliveira, 1982. (FHL book 981.53/R1 W3o; film 1162490)
Many records prior to 1940 of naturalization and citizenship are in the National Archives. Records created after 1940 are in the office of the Minister of Justice:
Ministério da Justiça
Serviço de Comunicações
Rua México 128 - Centro
20031-142 Rio de Janeiro, RJ
For an address of the National Archives, in Rio de Janeiro, see Brazil Archives and Libraries.
Santos was the main port for the city of São Paulo. The original records of the Hospedaria de Imigrantes (Hostelry of Immigrants) from 1854 to 1885 in São Paulo are at the Arquivo da Secretaria da Promoção Social (Archive of the Secretary of Social Progress).
Copies of indexes for 1882 to 1925 and the original records for 1882 to 1920 of the Hospedaria de Imigrantes have been microfilmed by the Family History library and can be researched on film:
Matrícula dos imigrantes (Registrations of immigrants). São Paulo: Arquivo da Secretaria da Promoção Social, N.p., (1981). (FHL film numbers 1285566–1285623)
The address for the São Paulo Hospedaria (Hostelry) is:
Central Histórico de Imigrante
Rua Visconde de Parnaíba, 1316 - Brás
03044-001 São Paulo, SP
Tel.: 01-55-292-1022 (Ramal 112)
Salvador (State of Bahia)
The Family History Library has copies of the record of immigrants to the port of Salvador from 1839 to 1854. These records were filmed from original records in the Public Archive of the State of Bahia (Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia). These can be found at the Family History Library under:
Títulos de residência a estrangeiros (Titles of residence of foreigners). Bahia: Público do Estado da Bahia, n.d. (1983). (FHL numbers 1366174–1366178)
In the "Historical Section" of the Bahia state archive there are also six volumes of passport records (passaportes e guias) from 1718 to 1822.
Records of Brazilian Emigrants to the United States
Sometimes the best sources for information about your immigrant ancestor are found in the country he or she emigrated to. Many Brazilians migrated to Florida, New York, Illinois, California, Texas, Washington, and Utah. Emigration from Brazil has occurred mostly in the 20th century.
Immigration records provide the town of origin and other information. To learn about these records, use handbooks and manuals on research in the United States.
Although there are some emigration records for Brazil, you should first research the records of the United States.
- Passenger lists. Most Brazilian immigrants to the United States arrived at the ports of New York and New Orleans. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the records and indexes of these ports for 1898 to 1940. See United States Emigration and Immigration for more information about emigration and immigration records of the United States.
- Immigration and Naturalization. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has a national index of immigrants who arrived in the United States between 1906 to 1956. For its records, write to:
Immigration and Naturalization Service
425 "I" Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20536
Tel.: 1-800-375-5283 1-800-767-1833 (TTY)
Other Records of Departure
People desiring to leave Brazil were required to obtain passports from the Federal Police (Polícia Federal) in each state capital.
The applicant had to provide an original copy of his or her birth certificate, two recent pictures, a voter’s registration, an identification card, CIC (income tax information), and a military release (required for males over 18 and under 45 years). After completing the necessary forms the police performed a background check. You can research these records if you can show your relationship to the person and a need to see the records. Useful records are:
- Permissions to emigrate (Rio de Janeiro).
- Probates of relatives who stayed.
- Police records.
- Court records.
The addresses for the Federal Police are:
Policia Federal (Escritório Central)
Avenida Prestes Maia, 700 Centro
05512-000 São Paulo, SP
Avenida Venezuela 2 - Saúde
20081-310 Rio de Janeiro, RJ
Directoria de Portos e Costas (CIPANAVE)
Rua Teófilo Otoni 4-Centro
Rio de Janeiro
RJ - Brazil
Phone: +55 21 2104 5195
Fax: + 55 21 2104 5196
Departamento de Policia Federal
Rua da Assembléia 70 - Centro
20011-000 Rio de Janeiro, RJ
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