Germany Emigration and Immigration

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How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Online Sources[edit | edit source]

Refugees and Displaced Persons Records[edit | edit source]

Card Indexes[edit | edit source]

Regional Online Records[edit | edit source]

Palatine Germans Online Records[edit | edit source]

German Brazilians Online Records[edit | edit source]

German Argentinians Online Records[edit | edit source]

  • 1870-1945 Auswandererkartei von Rußlanddeutschen nach Argentinien, 1870-1945, images of index cards, arranged alphabetically by surname, for German-speaking emigrants from Russia to Argentina. Provides information on place of origin, state of allegiance, birth and death date and place, religion, date of emigration, destination abroad, profession, full name of spouse, birth and death date and place, place and date of marriage; names, birth places and dates of children, their residences and spouses' names. Information often incomplete.

Germans from Russia Online Records[edit | edit source]

In 1763 Catherine the Great of Russia offered free land, no taxes for thirty years, freedom of religion, and other incentives to encourage Germans to settle her vast, sparsely populated domain. Dozens of German colonies were established and grew until World War I. Many Russian Germans moved to the United States, Canada, or South America beginning in 1874.

Finding the Town of Origin in Germany[edit | edit source]

If you are using emigration/immigration records to find the name of your ancestors' town in Germany, see Germany Finding Town of Origin for additional research strategies.

Emigration From Germany[edit | edit source]

Significant numbers of German emigrants can be found on every continent and in many countries around the world. Millions of people left Germany in several waves of migration. For more details, see several Wikipedia articles:


Records that document emigration from Germany include passenger lists, passports, permissions to emigrate, German and French emigration indexes, published emigration lists, police registration records, and other departure documents, as well as sources in the emigrant's new countries. Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or arriving (immigrating) in Germany. These sources may be passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, or records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the emigrants' names, ages, occupations, destinations, and places of origin or birth places. Sometimes they also show family groups.

Most emigrants left Germany during the following periods:

  • 1683 to 1820. Emigrants left Germany and migrated to Southeastern Europe, North America, Russia, England, Scotland, and Ireland. This wave of emigration was caused by economic hardships and religious persecutions after the Thirty Years' War. Many of these emigrants were Protestants from Southwestern Germany, primarily the Rheinland, Westfalen, Hessen, Baden, Württemberg, and Elsaß-Lothringen. Read more about Pre-1820 Emigration from Germany
  • Starting in 1722, the Austro-Hungarian monarchs encouraged Germans to settle their lands, especially along the devastated border with the Turks. Colonies developed in what later became Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Initially, twice as many Germans moved to this area as went to America. Following World War II, most returned to Germany or Austria, but many also moved to the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and other countries.
  • 1820 to 1871. This wave of emigration was caused chiefly by economic hardships, including unemployment and crop failures. Many Germans also left to avoid wars and military service. In some cases, government entities encouraged poor citizens to emigrate. Helpful websites for 19th Century German Emigration
  • 1871 to 1914. The number of emigrants increased dramatically during this time period. Emigration had become more affordable while political and economic problems continued. Emigrants came from all areas of Germany, including large numbers from the eastern provinces of Preußen (Prussia). Emigrants included not only ethnic Germans but also Poles and Jews. Helpful websites for 19th Century German Emigration.
  • 1914 to 1945. Even though the quota system reduced German emigration to the U.S. significantly, it did not stop entirely. Emigrants included political dissenters, Jews, and others who were uncomfortable with post World War I developments.

Records of German Emigrants in Their Destination Nations[edit | edit source]


Dark thin font green pin Version 4.png One option is to look for records about the ancestor in the country of destination, the country they immigrated into. See links to Wiki articles about immigration records for major destination countries below. Additional Wiki articles for other destinations can be found at Category:Emigration and Immigration Records.

Types of Records[edit | edit source]

Passenger Lists[edit | edit source]

The earliest German emigrants went down the Rhine River and left Europe from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. As passenger traffic increased, Dutch, Belgian, French, and Danish ports were used. From 1850 to 1891, 41 percent of German and east European emigrants left via the port of Bremen (Germany), 30 percent via Hamburg (Germany), 16 percent via Le Havre (France), 8 percent via Antwerp (Belgium), and 5 percent via several ports in the Netherlands. For further information see German Ports: Gateway to America by Raymond Wright III.

Only a few Germans emigrated from other European ports. Southern and western Germans tended to emigrate through the ports of Bremen or Le Havre. Northern and eastern Germans tended to leave through Hamburg.

The records of departures from these ports are called passenger lists. Information given in passenger lists varies but usually includes the emigrant's name, age, occupation, last residence or birthplace, and destination. The records also name the ship and the date of departure.

Permission To Emigrate Records[edit | edit source]

Germans had to apply for permission to emigrate from most areas. They can list the emigrant's birthplace, residence, assets, and indebtedness. Many records consist of applications and accompanying documents that were collected by district offices.

Published Emigration Records[edit | edit source]

Lists of emigrants are often published. These usually focus on the emigrants from one town, principality, or state.

Police Lists or Registrations[edit | edit source]

German towns began keeping records of each person's residence in the 1840s. Citizens were required to tell the police or the Einwohnermeldeamt [resident registration office] when they moved. These records are discussed further in Germany Population Records.

Passports[edit | edit source]

Passports became important in Germany during the 19th century as a control measure. Before that a passport was a form of recommendation. A letter given to the traveler made his passage within and outside of German territories easier, depending on the influence the issuer had. Passports were both status symbol for uninterrupted travel and legal documentation for members belonging to fringe groups. Mandatory passports were required only in times of crises, when there were epidemics and political or military conflicts. Such documents were restricted to time and space.

Other Records of Departure[edit | edit source]

Church Records (Annotations). Often the local pastor or priest noted peoples' departures in the parish registers next to birth or marriage entries. Sometimes these notes include the year of emigration and names of those who went with the person. Where family registers were kept, the departure was sometimes noted there. See Germany Church Records for more information.

Probate Records of Relatives Who Stayed. Wills or testaments of relatives who stayed in Germany occasionally mention their relatives in foreign lands. For more information, see Germany Probate Records.

Newspaper Announcements. Local newspapers often told of residents in their area moving to other lands. See Germany Newspapers for more information.

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

Other Wiki Articles[edit | edit source]

FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

There are additional sources listed in the FamilySearch Catalog:

These links lead to listings of emigration records for several provinces/states of the German Empire:

Independent From Prussia

Prussia (Preussen)

Thuringia (Thüringen)



City-States