Pre-1820 Emigration from Germany

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Germany Gotoarrow.png Germany Emigration and Immigration Gotoarrow.png Emigration from Germany

Before 1820 German emigration was largely a group phenomenon.  Therefore, strategies for locating a town of origin in Germany must include research on the emigrant, potential family members, neighbors, and other associates. Finding the ancestor on an incoming passenger list can be especially helpful. 

Pre-19th century German immigrants to the United States are often called Palatines, because many of them came from the Palatinate, a region in Southwest Germany. Emigrants also came from many other areas of Germany, as seen on this map .

18th Century Sources for Locating German Emigrants
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Publications[edit | edit source]

Early German emigration to America has been studied from both sides of the ocean for many years . Numerous books have been published on the subject. Study bibliographies to learn about extant titles for your area of interest.

Older publications may be vieved and/or downloaded on GoogleBooks. One classic volume is

Rupp, Israel Daniel, A Collection of Upwards of 30,000 German, Swiss, Dutch, French, and Other Immigrants in Pennsylvania from 1727 to 1776 . It can be read online or downloaded as a free PDF.

FamilySearch Books also allows difgital access to numerous volumes that were previously only accessible in the Family History Library or one of its partner institutions. For example:

Trautz, Fritz, Die Pfãlzische Auswanderung nach Nordamerika im 18. Jahrhundert (Palatine Emigration to North America in the 18th Century) can be accessed online from home.

Materials under copyright can only be accessed online in the Family History Library, a family history center, or a partner institution of FamilySearch. 

Manumission Records[edit | edit source]

Emigrants were often required to pay a tax for their release from serfdom and feudal obligations. This manumission fee generally amounted to ten percent of the value of the emigrant's property. Werner Hacker indexed these records for many of the provinces of southern Germany. Among others, his publications include:

  •  Auswanderungen aus Baden und dem Breisgau (Emigration from Baden and the Breisgau), 1980 (FHL 943.46 W29h)
  •  Auswanderungen aus Rheinpfalz und Saarland im 18. Jahrhundert (Emigration from the Rhineland Palatinate and Saarland in the 18th Century), 1987 (FHL 943 W29h)
  •  Kurpfälzische Auswanderer vom Unteren Neckar (Electoral Palatinate Emigrants from the lower Neckar), 1983 (FHL 943.43 W2hw)
  •  A name index to the above three volumes as well as other volumes by Werner Hacker was published by Closson Press and includes 65,000 names, Eighteenth Century Register of Emigrants from Southwest Germany to America and Other Countries, 1994 (FHL INT'L 943.43 W2eh)

A complete list of Werner Hacker's publications available in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City is found in the FamilySearch Catalog

 U.S.- German Regional Studies[edit | edit source]

Some publications document emigrants in their German home town, on the passenger list, and in U.S. records. Research on each family has been done in both U.S. and German records. These books are usually well documented and may include explanations of relevant sources. They may include several indexes, including one by "ships", which is is very useful for finding people listed on the same passenger list.  Annette K. Burgert and Henry Z. Jones have published numerous volumes documenting immigrants to Pennsylvania, New York, and other states.

If you are researching New England colonial Germans, you should definitely check out this book:

Horlacher, Gary T.  and Wilford W. Whitaker, Broad Bay Pioneers: 18th Century German-Speaking Settlers of Present-Day Waldoboro, Maine. Rockport, Maine : Picton Press,1998, ISBN 0897252101. (FHL US/Can 974.157/W1 F2w)  

Germans in Nova Scotia[edit | edit source]

If you are doing Nova Scotia research, a good resource are Winthrop Bell's study and notes which are available at the Family History Library:

Bell, Winthrop Pickard, Register of Lunenburg settlers, FHL US/CAN Film 1421430. A card index compiled  ny Dr. Bell as he researched this work is also available on microfilm:

Part 1. Miscellaneous cards, A-Z FHL US/CAN Film
2113582 Item 1
Part 2. Lunenburg casuals (not permanent settlers), A-Z FHL US/CAN Film
2113582 Item 2

Bell, Winthrop Pickard, The "foreign Protestants" and the settlement of Nova Scotia : the history of a piece of arrested British colonial policy in the eighteenth century. [Toronto, Ontario] : University of Toronto Press,1961. FHL US/Can 971.63 F2b .
Huber, Paul and Eva, ed., European Origins and Colonial Travails: The Settlement of Lunenburg,  Halifax, N.S., Messenger Publications, 2003. For more information, including a list of settlers' names, see

Research different colonies[edit | edit source]

Even if you are not researching a family from New York, New England, or Nova Scotia, you perhaps should check out these sources as well. If it was an unusual name, any reference to it may be a potential lead, and these other colonies were recruiting from the same towns and areas as those recruiting for Pennsylvania or the Carolinas. In fact, often members of the same family ended up in different colonies. For example, the Heyler family came to Boston (Waldoboro, Maine) in 1742, but also had close relatives from the same village in Germany that settled in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

Swiss Emigrants[edit | edit source]

The Swiss Surname Book which lists all of the villages where a particular surname has citizenship rights back to 1800 is a key source for unusual surnames. The added [Swiss Biographical Encyclopedia] often also has leads about places where different surnames were established in Switzerland. The following additional sources are especially useful for Swiss 18th century emigration research:

  • Faust, Albert B and Brumbaugh, Gaius M., Lists of Swiss Emigrants in the Eighteenth Century to the American Colonies, 1925, Vol. 1: Zürich Canton 1734-1744, Vol. 2: Bern Canton 1706-1795 and Basel Canton 1734-1794 [FHL 973 W2fa]
  • Schrader-Murgenthaler, Cornelia, Swiss Emigration Book,1993 [FHL 973 W2smc]
  • Steinemann, Ernst, A List of Eighteenth Century Emigrants from the Canton of Schaffhausen (1734-1752),  [FHL 974.8 C4fg Vol. 16].

Other helpful resources[edit | edit source]

Additional sources may be found in unusual places. For example, in 1751 a shipload of emigrants to Boston were shown a wonderful time and then were persuaded to sign a petition concerning the good conditions in New England, which was then sent back to Germany to persuade others to join. Next to their names were the towns from which they originated. This petition was published in the German periodical, Hessische Familienkunde (Hessian Family Research), October 1961, Vol. 5, No. 8, pp. 435-438. (FHL 943.41 B2hf Vol.5.) Many such lists have been compiled into a few key indexes. Examples include:

  • Ehmann, Karl. Die Auswanderung in die Neuengland-Staaten aus Orten in Enzkreises im 18. Jahrhundert [Emigration to the New England States from Places in the Enz District in the 18th Century], 1977 (FHL 943 W2e)
  • Hinke, William J., A List of German Immigrants to the American Colonies from Zweibrücken in the Palatinate, 1728-1749 (FHL 974.8 C4fg)
  • Yoder, Donald H., Emigrants from Württemberg, the Adolf Gerber Lists. (FHL 974.8 C4fg v.10)
  • Pennsylvania German Pioneers Research Guide 1727-1808 explains Pennsylvania German Pioneers: A Publication of the Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia from 1727-1808. Compiled by Ralph Beaver Strassburger. Edited by William John Hinke. (3 Vols.) Digital copies of these volumes are available on

    - vol 1 , vol. 2  ($)

    - Hathi Trust: vol. 1  (free), vol. 2 (available to search only due to copyright restrictions)

Resources and databases online[edit | edit source]

Societies[edit | edit source]

The Palatines of America have published several indexes of early German immigrants on their website. Some are accessible only by members. Their website also includes research tips and helpful links.

German regional indexes[edit | edit source]

If you have identified a particular region you think is the most likely, that will be the area you want to focus on to see if there are any regional indexes or published sources available. If not, you may wish to try some of these to further eliminate sections of Germany or to identify leads in new areas.
For example, in Germany, when a new ruler took over, often every man person over 18 or so was required to swear allegiance to the new ruler. These records are called Oaths of Allegiance. By searching the 1709 published oaths of allegiance for the Margravate of Baden-Durlach (Einwohnerbuch der Margrafschaft Baden-Durlach im Jahre 1709, by Hermann Jacob, 1935, FHL film 1183617) you can identify all of the towns in this region where your surname appears or eliminate this area of the surname does not appear there at all. Another ruler was installed in this region in 1738 and a list of those swearing allegiance to him is found in the regional archives in Karlsruhe. Other such lists for some areas that had high numbers of emigrants include the following:

Untertanenverzeichnisse des Kurpfälzischen Oberamtes Alzey (Register of Citizens of the Electorial Palatinate District of Alzey). 1494, 1576, 1698 by Rolf Kilian, Franz Neumer, and Oskar Poller, 1995 (FHL 943.43 B4sb v.1)
 Pfälzische Untertanen-, Huldigungs- und Musterungslisten aus den Jahren 1587 - 1609 - 1612 - 1624 - 1731 - 1776 (Palatine Citizens, Oaths of Allegiance, and Muster Rolls for the Years 1587, 1609, 1612, 1624, 1731, and 1776) by Güünther F. Anthes, 1981 (FHL 943.43 B4sb no. 9).
 Untertanenlisten des Herzogtums Pfalz-Zweibrüücken aus den Huldigungsprotokollen des Jahres 1776 (List of Citizens of the Palatinate-Zweibrüücken Duchy from the Oath of Allegiance Record of the Year 1776) by Karl Schaaff, 1977 (FHL 943.43 B4sb No.6).
 Die Untertanen in den Ämtern Kreuznach, Kirchberg, Naumburg und Koppenstein der Vorderen Grafschaft Sponheim 1652-1707 (The Citizens in the Counties Kreuznach, Kirchberg, Naumburg, and Koppenstein in the Former County of Sponheim 1652-1707).

Other authors who researched early German immigrants to the Unites States include: