One summer Bruce and I traveled to England. After researching for a few days in London, we rented a car and drove up the countryside to a hotel about an hour east of Liverpool. (We learned long ago that to protect our sanity and our marriage, we wouldn’t drive in the big cities).
The next morning we caught a train that took us into the city. Then we rode the subway and a bus and finally made it to the port where many immigrants had boarded ships for the United States.
On this day, the port was practically deserted. Some people wandered by on their way to the ferry, but Bruce and I were basically alone as we stood in the cold.
As I peered through the foggy mist, I could almost imagine the days gone by when it was a bustling gateway to the U.S. Two hundred thousand people swarmed the streets of Liverpool in the mid-1800s. The harbor stretched for six miles. Over 2,000 pubs kept the people stocked in grub and spirits.
Those who came to the port in days gone by probably didn’t come by train, and I’m sure they didn’t use the subway, but come they did. Some came with families, others alone.
Once there, they had to find their way through a maze of hawkers, ship agents, other travelers, and even unscrupulous pickpockets. They had to find the place to purchase their passage, and when that was accomplished, it was a miracle if they had any coins left in their pockets!
My ancestor, Thomas Francis Farrell, made his way from Manchester to Liverpool. He probably boarded the first ship he could just to get out of the town.
No matter what port your ancestor sailed from, he or she would have experienced the overcrowded bustling, loading and unloading, hawking and gawking, buying and selling that was characteristic of every port.
Maybe your ancestor sailed from one of these European Ports:
- London, England
- Liverpool, England
- Dublin, Ireland
- Sligo, Ireland
- Bremen, Germany
- Hamburg, Germany
- LeHavre, France
Some of these ports kept emigration records that we can access today. Lucky for you, you don’t have to sail or fly across the ocean to examine the emigration records.
Here are some websites that can get you started:
- Online German Emigration Indexes and Records: Wurttemberg Emigration Index and Baden Emigration Index
- The Hamburg Passenger Departure Records
- Bremen Passenger Lists 1920-1939
- Holland-America Line Passenger Lists 1900-1940
- Swedish Emigration Records, 1783-1951
- Passenger Lists Leaving the United Kingdom (UK) 1890-1960
- “Hamburg Passenger Lists 1850-1934”! (There is a gap during World War I from 1915-1919.) The Hamburg State Archives made the original index used here and it includes over five million records!
- “Wuerttenberg, Germany Emigration Index,” also available at Ancestry.com. This is a list of 60,000 Germans or Prussians who sought permission to leave Germany in the late 1800s.
- “Swedish Emigration Records, 1783-1951.”
- “Index of Departures 1825-1925” – 100 Years of Emigrant Ships from Norway
- “Norwegian Emigrants 1825-1875”
FamilySearch.org has online
- “Germany, Bremen Passenger Departure Lists 1904 to 1914.”
- “Netherlands, Passenger Lists, Holland-America Line, 1900-1974.”
If I haven’t listed a record that would involve your ancestor, try Googling the port of departure and the word “emigration” to see if any new sources have surfaced!
What port did your ancestor sail from? Have you found an emigration record for him?