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Emigrants & Emigration

Ports of Embarkation

home.gif (868 bytes)   Emslanders to the American Mid-West



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General Port Information

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Early emigration from Germany was from whatever port was most convenient. Those who lived along the Rhine normally used Rotterdam or Amsterdam in the Netherlands, both located at or near the mouth of the Rhine, or Antwerp located nearby in Belgium. Emigrants from Switzerland, Baden and Alsace often found it preferable to cross France on foot or by wagon to the port at La Havre rather than pay the many tolls along the Rhine. Those in the interior of Germany might journey overland or on the the Elbe and Weser Rivers and their tributaries to reach the ports of Hamburg or Bremen. These two ports, however, were seldom used for emigration before the 1830s..

The conditions which the early emigrant faced at all ports was deplorable. As strangers, often coming from rural areas, they did not have the experience necessary to cope with the large port-city environment and were easily taken advantage of. Before 1840 ship departures were not regularly scheduled so emigrant had to find lodgings in the port cities, sometimes for weeks, while their ships lay at anchor either waiting for all places on board to be booked or waiting for a favorable wind with which to set sail. During this period the emigrant was subjected to very high prices for food, lodging and provisions. These conditions, which existed at all port cities, might even lead to complete impoverishment of the early would-be emigrant and keep him from making the journey at all.

In the 1840s and 50s the construction of railroads began and that would eventually make travel from home in the German interior to port a lot easier, and, at the same time, would normally give the potential emigrant more than one port to choose from. This resulted in the ports having to compete with one another for the emigrant trade and in time caused them to offer better services than they had done previously. This development of rail transportaion to port was probably less important a consideration for Emslanders who may have had to go some distance out of their way to get to a railroad.

At the same time that railroads were devoloping, the two German ports, first Bremen (and Bremerhaven) then Hamburg, were starting to seriously look after the welfare of their departing emigrants, giving them a reputation as better ports of departure for emigrants than La Havre and Rotterdam. By the 1870s extensive rail had been laid and the overseas voyage had become rather well organzied. Also by then steam ships were replacing sailing vessels, cutting travel time down considerably, while conditions on the ships and at port continued to improve.

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Emigrants wait on the docks in Bremen
Image and caption from the book German Settlement in Missouri, New Land, Old Ways by Robyn Burnett and Ken Luebbering, p. 14 (crediting A E Schroeder Collection, Western Historical manuscipt Collection, Columbia, MO, courtesy Countess von Lippe, Stuttgart),

Die Zeit (German Newspaper), Jul 27, 1990, page 13-14, Auf nach Amerika by Godehard Weyerer

Fame, Fortune and Sweet Liberty; The Great European Emigration Dirk Hoerder and Diethelm Knauf, editors, Edition Temmen, 1992.

German Ports: Gateway to America by Raymond S Wright III (on Ancestry .com)

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[Emigrants and Emigration]
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Emigrants with entries found on this website, alphabetical by surname
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Comments or additional information concerning
emigrants listed on this website can be sent to Barbara Salibi.
Contact info is at the bottom of Home page.