Fifteen Years of “Germans to America”:  Truly Enough!   Passenger Lists and their Outcomes

By: Antonius Holtmann
Translated by:  LaVern J. Rippley, St. Olaf College, Northfield/MN

(The organization ‘ Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte in Augsburg,’ an agency of the Bavarian Ministry for Science, Research and Art, in October, 2002 held a colloquium for the Exhibit:  ‘Emigration from Bavaria to the United States’ held from the fall to the winter of 2003/2004.  My contribution to that conference resulted in this, my last word on the publication series “Germans to America” which covers the years 1850-1897.  Now that the series II (1840-1849) is beginning, attention is turning to these volumes to which I will turn my penetration at the appropriate time.)

           Passenger lists usually are the only source to which one can turn to find out whether a given person has emigrated—with whom he has traveled and from where immigrants have departed.  Every emigrant during the 19th century, in a manner of speaking, had to pass through the eye of the needle to be registered when going on board.  Since 1820, Federal officials of the United States have demanded of ship captains that they abide by the “Act Regulating Passenger Ships and Vessels,” of March 2, 1819.

“The captain or master of any ship or vessel arriving in the United States . . . shall . . . deliver . . .  a list or manifest of all passengers.  .  .  .  it shall be the duty of the said master to designate particularly the age, sex, and occupation of the said passengers respectively:  the country to which they severally belong and that of which it is their intention to become inhabitants;  and shall further set forth whether any and what number have died on the voyage.”

 Thus the act was concerned about the age and gender, the professions of those departing and their nationality as well as those who may have died at sea.   In terms of carrying capacity, two passengers were permitted for each five tons of load capability and ships that left American harbors for Europe had to carry for each passenger 60 gallons of drinking water (227 liters), 100 pounds of bread, 100 pounds of food conserves plus one gallon of vinegar in addition to the fresh food supply including live animals as judged judicious by the captain.

 The instigation for new legislation resulted from the catastrophic conditions on Netherlands vessels of 1817, reported in Günter Moltmann, Aufbruch nach
Amerika.  Die Auswanderungswelle von 1816/17, Stuttgart: Metzler, 1989, and in Hans-Jürgen Grabbe,  “Vor der großen Flut: Die europäische Migration in die Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika 1783 – 1820,” Stuttgart: Steiner, 2001.  On August 8, 1817, the ship Hope proceeding from Amsterdam arrived at a quarantine station below  Philadelphia, following 86 days at sea.  Of the 346 passengers on board, 48 had died at sea and 46 more died in a wayside hospital.  On September 9, 1817 the Hope finally arrived with its survivors in the Port of Philadelphia.

This list from the Hope is still an unprinted Manifest of Cargo; the actual passenger “List of Steerage Passengers” is but an attached hand-written list (National Archives Microfilm Publications, henceforth cited as NAMP, 425, Roll 25). The list of the “Zwey Gebrüder Johanes & Henerich” (Hamburg/Calais to New York, March 20, 1820:  NAMP 237, Roll 1) demonstrates the new quality expected on board, based now on the legal regulation of March, 1819, even though it took years, especially in Baltimore, New York and New Orleans until the required hand written manifest forms were an accepted practice.  For the most part, though, these lists do supply ample answers.  For example, there is the list of the Charlotte und Louise (from Bremen to New York on July 24, 1834: NAMP 237, Roll 24) which, like to many others, went beyond the requirement on board or the stipulations in the office of the travel agencies.

Later on, this requirement was changed again and again according to the provisions of new legislation supplying new forms to fill out (for example in 1897: 21 items) with reference to places of origin, questions as to “Last Residence, Province, City or Town” and also as to “Place of Starting,” and “Place Hailing From.”  Or take the instance where the question was answered about the country to which the emigrant intended to travel, giving rise to words like “Transient, in transit, intending protracted sojourn” and the like.

Emigrants, agents and captains probably also offered more information than required because, quite understandably, they explained their own thoughts and perceptions about local and regional identities in their own way.  Family historians as well as local and regional historians like to inquire about town site statements, which are especially interesting if they do not simply let words like “Germany,”  Prussia, Bavaria, and Oberfranken suffice, but rather provide he names even of small hamlets or farmsteads.

 Relevant dates, social structures and their possible correlation are now available to immigration researchers, some being upgraded further by digitalization.  There are more than enough problems with false, inexact and perhaps passages that are difficult or even impossible to decipher.  All the more it is imperative that we have passenger list editions and data banks, even if they originally only offered name and place indexes.  Demanded are competent and conscientious evaluations of the originals and an accurate and adequate reporting system that includes also critical annotation, even historical-critical precision and reliability.  Editions of books and data banks must make the need to return to the originals completely superfluous.

 Germans to America (GTA) (Glazier / Filby, eds., Germans to America.  Lists of Passengers Arriving at U. S. Ports.  Vols. 1-67, January 2, 1850-June 17, 1897, Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources 1988-2002): This is the title of the now-concluded first series on which the most comprehensive listing of Germans is referenced, the names of whom are in the above works accessible via an Index in each volume.  These indexes are offered also on two CD-Rom disks (1850-1874 and 1875-1888)   (  which in turn is coupled to the German Emigrants Data Bank, DAD ( which incorporates parts of these data (1850-1891) into its offering.  All three publications of Germans to America do not render a return to the originals something quaint and unnecessary, rather they make continuous references back to the originals absolutely a necessity, in particular when the indexes offer no information at all.

 The originals were not competently and conscientiously studied by the GTA team and the data are rendered more or less inaccessible. The production shortage earns for the edition Germans to America the following honest evaluation: "deficient but of some service."  Of service above all are the CD-ROM and the book editions if used together as introductions for a return to the originals. The only complete set of the originals (1800/1820-1897) existing in the whole of Germany at this juncture is the one from the Microfilms of the National Archives in Washington, C. D. as contained in the library at the University of Oldenburg (  Indexes to it are at the Research Institute “Deutsche Auswanderer in den USA” (DAUSA) (

 On October 10, 1992, the Frankfurter Rundschau published my first review of the book edition, containing at that time 22 volumes.  To my critique there, I have made additions concluding with the CD-ROM publication and the DAD (See the articles at, “Passagierlisten,” which first appeared in Genealogie 9/10: 1996; 1/2:1999; 11/12:2000; 1/2:2001; 9/10:2001).  In spite of ten years of numerous and repeated examples of documented  mistakes, no changes worthy of mention have been implemented by the GTA team.  What follows, therefore, is not significantly novel in outcome.  Only the examples are new.  They are essentially the result of inquiries and depict the need for further research as undertaken in August and September, 2002.  To be sure, some things expand beyond a given circumference, as compelled by the details of every investigation.

A Typical Inquiry

Mary David from Rush near Rochester, New York ought to have been found in “Germans to America.”  With respect to the David family, the book edition (Volume 58) does know the name of the ship, Graf Bismarck, the port of arrival; (New York) and the date of arrival (April 23, 1890).  But it does not give the place of departure (“Unknown village”) and makes Wilhelm, Albertine and Emil David travel to MI (Michigan).  As we know, the original (NAMP 237, Roll 546) knows better:  All three came from “Rittershof” in Prussia (today the Saarland) and they traveled to Rochester in the state of New York (even though the actual list gives “Roc”, New York.  The succeeding passengers on that list also have the same travel destinations making the abbreviation perfectly legible.)   The Deutsche Auswanderer-Datenbank (DAD) declares the cleanly written town of departure as “illegible” and accepts from the book edition the false destination of Michigan.  The problem is that the passenger on the list right before the Davids was the one who actually wanted to go there.  (The two CDs only go up to 1888.)

Likewise, Nik. Schott from Sparneck in Oberfranken (northern Bavaria) in “Germans to America” loses his domicile and gets sent to Pennsylvania even though he intended to travel to Massachusetts. The DAD also makes him go to Pennsylvania and reports his place of origin as “illegible.”   However the first five letters are perfectly legible as “Sparn. . .” and anyone who reaches for a magnifying lens and perhaps fumbles for a town registry for Germany will easily bump into the town's full name of Sparneck.

The “Ems” and their Fate

In September, 2002 Mrs. Härtl of the Bavarian Society for Family History asked for a photocopy of this passenger list.  This particular list is very legible and all names have an attributed domicile in Germany (NAMP 237, Roll 488).  The book edition (Volume 52), the CD and the DAD remove the place of origin from all of those who were accepted into the publication of Germans to America as Germans, for example, from the married couple Kille from Munich as well as Josefa and Felicitas Thomas from Augsburg.  In addition, from Marie Toepper (28 years old), they separate the  child whom she bore while en route on the ship.  However, on the original list, its birth place is conscientiously reported as July 4, 1885 at 1:45 A. m. at 49 degrees 23’ North and 13 degrees 25’ West (which would be about 400 kilometers southwest of Ireland).  German-Americans of course continuously are dropped from consideration.  For instance, there is Amalie Oberhardt (23) and her three month old son, Wilhelm, who in the original are staying for a time in Munich.  Visits back to Germany are part of the overall content of migration, be it that home sickness plays a role or that they do not want to lose contact back home, or they are preparing for a return or maybe it’s a question of working out matters of inheritance.  Maybe they are returning for relatives or friends or at least trying to do that.  All this and more is simply deleted from the printed texts.

 Shoved off the table in like manner are the home towns of all those who arrived on the Neckar (July 6), the Fulda (July 6) and the General Werder (July 11).  Likewise, the Westphalia (July 11), the Lessing (July 13), and the Eider (July 18) lose a great many, while on the Suevia (July 6) everybody loses everything.  Furthermore,  Germans to America, even considering just this minute field of vision from the 6th to the 18th of July (NAMP 237, Roll 488), bestows on us all kinds of aggravating and ridiculous details.  For example, on the Neckar, Robert Bier (32) commits suicide: “Jumped over board on June 24.”  Both the book and the DAD register him as “died.”  In the column for “final destination,”  the CD states he “died on board,” mind you, on board a ship that has no reported port of arrival.  In the columns for the Fulda, the “Germans to America” permits “tourists” to stay in the United States while the “tourists” on the lists of the General Werder are given a destination of Germany though the ship is headed for the United States whereas the original only contains his official occupation as “tourist” with a further clue “transient” but no official annotation from the immigration officials about a “return.”  After all, one can arrive as a tourist but nevertheless remain in a country.  But since the reader of the originals does not know the actual facts, he should at least refrain from making his own interpretation.  In particular, he should refrain from adding an express source of authority, as does the DAD, which reports: National Archives, USA Manifest Number 38254.  Another example is Johan Harfmann who, according to the original, came from Munich and not just from “Deutschland” (as touted by the DAD), or from “Germany” (as claimed by the CD/DAD).  His destination, furthermore, was the United States and not “Germany.”  Moreover, he in no way had to depart because of an authoritative directive, indeed, tourists generally do have some sort of “return” in mind when they arrive.

With respect to the ship’s list from the Westphalia, it is clear that the territorial history of Germany in the 19th century simply over stretched the capabilities of the GTA team.  Alfred von Sodenstern came from “Cassel” in Hessen-Nassau.  Since 1866 this was a Prussian province with its administrative center in Kassel, which resulted from Hessen Kassel, the duchy of Nassau, and the city of Frankfurt.  The book, the CD and the DAD stick with the designation Hessen Kassel, and thus take no cognizance of the Prussian policy concerning annexation.  Georg Appel from Hanau (Hessen-Nassau) is treated differently in each of the editions.  The original microfilm lists him correctly as coming from Hessen-Nassau but the book edition has him coming from Hanau in Frankfurt, the CD as coming from Waldeck in Hessen Nassau (even though since 1867, Waldeck had come under Prussian administration and was eventually incorporated into the Prussian Province of Hessen-Nassau in 1929.)  Then again the DAD correctly reports him coming from Hessen-Nassau.

 But the DAD is in error when it deals with the ship Eider.  In the DAD, it comes up as Eiler just as it does on the CD, but not in the book.  Volume 52, the CD and the DAD show these people traveling as tourists to Germany.  The very clearly written city name of Lübeck in the original (the place of origin for Georg Pflug, 35, a tourist or transient) is retained in the book and in the DAD but in the CD it is printed as “Luebbecke.”  But here, too, the port of arrival is missing although, considering the other failures, this hardly costs anyone very much at all.

November 13-30, 1857 / February 1866

 Eva Katharina Winkler (25) supposedly arrived in New York in November, 1857.  That much was clear.  But Germans to America does not include her in its index.  After a long and costly search, we came across her on the list for the Southampton arriving on November 30, 1857.  She boarded ship in London and not in Bremerhaven, as supposed by her descendants.  In clearly written form, the names are barely anglicized.  Between the 13th and the 30th of November 1857 thirteen ships from British harbors but carrying German passengers are missing in Volumes 11 and 12—on the CD, and in the DAD as well (NAMP 237, Rolls 180-181).

But the real picture is even more crazy-quilted:  The lists of 31 ships which departed continental European harbors carrying Germans are missing in the book edition, but not in the CD and likewise, not in the DAD.  No one can find Ludwig Hartlep (14) from Bavaria in the book.  However, our CD was of some assistance.  Yet it was missing the port of arrival.  The New York film rolls of the originals brought success: the Oldenburg Bark Olympia from Bremen arrived in New York on November 25, 1857.

 The list for the Hamburg Bark Johannes which arrived on November 27, 1857 had the same experience.  But unfortunately, in this instance, the CD and the DAD have us believe that 21 people from Mecklenburg arrive from Württemberg.  The CD then goes on to ruin everything, causing the ship to loiter, stuck in the harbor of Marseilles, which fate happens to many of the Hamburg ships on the CD.   One more look at the month of February, 1866:  Leopold Zander is the individual sought.  The CD recognizes the existence of an “L. Zander” (30), a U. S. citizen, but leaves him sitting on board in Marseilles on deck a nameless ship which on October 2, 1866 has him disembark into “nowhere.”  The book edition (Volume 17 and 18) does not recognize him at all.  For it is their policy to exclude, among others, all those who are German-Americans -- German immigrants who have returned to Europe for one reason or another.  (The microfilm shows no such person for October 2nd, but due undoubtedly to a number inversion, reports February 10 (NAMP 237, rolls 261 and 272).  The ship bearing the name Prinz Albert departed from Hamburg and landed in New York.  In the book they report the Prinz Albert arriving on February 2, but as noted, without the American L. Zander.  The DAD has him listed in its data base, almost correctly, but has him arriving via Hamburg, from the United States, and traveling to the USA.  The CD also shows a 30 year old Leopold Zander.  But now he is allegedly an English man,  coming from London but boarding ship in Bremen; but then the CD deprives us of information concerning the name of the ship, the arrival harbor and its date.  The book edition and the DAD did not even register this Leopold.

 Sixteen ships arriving from Great Britain in February 1866 are missing in Germans to America.  So are six ships from the Caribbean.  Only five ships in all from this region were given consideration in this time span for the various editions.  For purposes of limitation, we stick with the year 1866.  The GTA team rarely cast even an oblique look at ships from the Caribbean.  But if we take note of July 20, 1866, we come to the realization just how absurd their policy decision becomes (NAMP 237, roll 269).   The list for the Nile which arrived from Maracaibo to New York is mentioned with Chr. Martell but then he is travelling by way of New York to Germany and did not intend to immigrate into the United States (GTA).   Yet they did not include anyone from the list for the Montezuma which sailed from Kingston to New York with H. W. Rathje on the original list, making no mention that he wanted to enter the United States and remain there.  His descendants knew only that his immigration took place in the summer of 1866 and they were pretty sure he had come from the port of Bremen as his departure point.  GTA did nothing to find him.  The microfilm at Oldenburg, copied from the National Archives, was requested by email to the Research Arm for Germans to America (DAUSA) and we were able to yield success:  His descendants received a photocopy of the original lists for the Montezuma by airmail.  Now the date of July 20, 1866 for his arrival in New York is documented in the family archives for Rathje.

The Soltenberger Family and their Situation (September 1 to December 29, 1874)

 On November 1, 1874 this family had supposedly landed in new York.  Searching the CD yields nothing. The DAD, likewise nothing.  The index to the book edition Volume 31 does contain family name "Goltenberger" on board the Donau from Bremen to New York, having arrived on October 31, 1874.  Since the names and ages agree, what could be up?  On the original there is a "Soltenberger” (SAMPP 237, roll 394).  Just any attentive glance to the right side would have prevented the family from becoming "Goltenberger”:  The "G" letter is written in exactly the same handwriting for the nation of "Germany," entered many times over, with a low sweeping curve but nothing remotely hinting at curves we expect for the letter "S" as in the name "Soltenberger."  Thus, other names were also checked:  In the GTA book the list of the Donau is included but is not available on the CD and in the DAD.  In the time span of four months, looking forward and backward, there were 132 ships on the CD that have no departure or arrival harbors and no arrival dates.  In the DAD are found registered the data that are missing on the CD.  But going beyond that, 71 of the lists included in the book are missing from the CD and the DAD (NAMP 237, rolls 393-395).

Volume 67:  January 1 to March 31, 1897:  Pitfalls to the Bitter End

 The following information is taken from the latest volume (2002) of the book edition, which corresponds to the microfilm rolls of the New York Series 1820-1897 (NAMP).  With reference to the first quarter of the year 1897 (NAMP 237, rolls 670-672) there are 24 ships from Europe with Germans on board that are missing, and in addition, 23 ships from middle and Latin America. Only the Segurauca sailing from Havanna to New York on January 4 received notice for its four Frenchmen and its three Germans.  Here, once again, the Germans to America book offers its usual share of curiosities, to be sure, only as yet in the book edition because the data are not yet available on a CD or in the DAD.

 On board the Phoenicia from Hamburg to New York with arrival on January 6, Berta Scerch has given birth to a child.  GTA registers it with the name of "Scheroh." But then, five additional passengers ranging in age from 24 to 38 are also annotated as having been "born at sea."  In the registries of the city of Hamburg for the years 1850-1934 (, to which books the GTA team make no reference whatsoever in any of their 67 volumes, one can readily learn the details for nearly every departure from Hamburg, including the hometown for these "newly borns."  In this instance, Braunschweig (Emilie and Augusta Reinecke), Berlin (Hasso von Wedel), Ritzow (Friedrich Conradi), and Hannover (Carl Weiss).

 On the listings of the GTA for the München from Bremen to New York arriving on January 29, 1897, there are only three listed from the 43 on the originals, while none of which travelers gets a hometown reported.  In their creativity, however, the GTA team report 40 people coming from  “Brooklyn!”  For instance, Theodor Mohrmann enjoys a short trip indeed!  On his passage from Bremerhaven to New York, all he has to do is globe-trot from Brooklyn to Brooklyn, as his destination (code: BRO) states.  Even this does not suffice.  Travelers who wanted to disembark the vessel only after it reached Baltimore are seemingly deported here by the GTA team as soon as the ship reaches New York.  In working over the list for the Trave from Bremen to New York with arrival on January 30, 1897, the GTA team rehearses a similar abortion.  The GTA people have taken 68 passengers on board.  The first seven in this edition derive from Germany but the following 61 come from the sunny regions of “Florida”-- in Germany!  Of course they then cause the ship to depart from Bremerhaven by way of Southampton for New York.  No mention in the GTA that eight Germans actually boarded in England, for they are simply assigned to a departure from Bremen.

Even the final 17 days of this edition under consideration are not spared when the question is one of arbitrary treatment (NAMP 237 rolls 674/675).  Of the ships carrying Germans, 16 are deleted from the list entirely.  On the list for the Patria from Hamburg to New York on June 4, 1897 in Volume 67, from among the 59 listed passengers, 51 come from the German hometown “USA.”  The GTA team then causes three passengers to travel via Hamburg to New York on a HAPAG steamer from the USA to the USA.  The list for the Bremen arriving from Bremerhaven to New York on June 17, 1897 is the final one on the concluding roll of the Microfilm Series 237, New York, 1820-1897 (Roll 675) in the National Archives.  Thus, we would assume that this would be the final listing for the Germans to America publication, Volume 67, for it too concludes with the date of June 17, 1897.  However, in the final book, this entire list is missing.  [The CD and the DAD only cover the listings up to the dates of 1888 and 1891.]

This deficit on the part of the GTA is, therefore, a fitting cut-off for their publication efforts; for it contributes a defining act to an entire series starting from its very beginning with Volume 1 and continuing to the dire end.  Booby traps start right off with the list for the Ohio from Bremen to New Orleans on January 2, 1850:  Here, two Rat(t)erman(n) families travel by way of New Orleans en route to Cincinnati where they are soon accepted, acknowledged and acclaimed within this German-American city.  Sadly, the GTA team report that they come from an unknown village somewhere in Germany.  In the original (NAMP 259, roll 32), we would note, that unknown village is the easily deciphered town of “Merzen” in the Artland vicinity of Osnabrück.  The CD reports this town to be “Mergen” and this database also reports the entire shipment, including the Ratermans themselves, traveling on board the Fuskina from Rotterdam to New York on May 25, 1850.  Realistically, this sailing vessel, Fuskina, on the original (NAMP 237, roll 88) is already rather burdened down with 206 Netherlanders and six people from Baden.  The DAD in Bremerhaven takes no part in the fiasco, reporting neither the real trip nor in the virtual one.  It simply ignores the Ohio with all its passengers, entirely.


In Appendix, this nominal curiosity deserves a concluding thought:  If we take the entry for Anton (ius) Holtmann in Germans to America, we know enough now to expect confusion.  A glance at the screen for the CD 1850-1874, reveals there is an “Anton Holtmann, age 25, last residence —Prussia, port of embarkation—Bremen”.  There is no name of a ship, no port or date of arrival.  So I turn back to the book edition.  I work back through the various indexes, beginning with 1874.  In Volume 21, intriguingly,  I bump into “Anton Holtmann,” 12 years old, from an unknown town in Germany who travels to the USA on the Union from Bremen arriving in New York on September 25, 1868.  The CD never picks up this Anton Holtmann, for that matter, nobody from the Union was included.  In contrast to Volume 21, the original (NAMP 237, roll 301) provides the hometown of the 12-year-old boy from Laufenselden [which is near Heidenrod].  So I continue the search and in volume 18 bump into a 25-year old Anton Holtmann who travels on the Astronom from Bremen arriving in Baltimore on October 29, 1866.  The original (NAMP 255, roll 15) confirms the name of the ship, the town and his date of arrival.

 These data are also confirmed by Bremerhaven’s DAD and it also shows me 12-year old Anton Holtmann, whom the CD has disqualified, but now without his hometown of Laufenselden.  This database reports his final hometown as unknown.  It also denies this and more information about those also traveling on the Union.  Johan Pichtelberger is re-created into “Jonah Richtelberger” and he must acquiesce here, as in the book, to losing his home region of “Oberfranken.”  The DAD correctly reports Louise Plueske (in the original a “P” as in Pichtelberger) as coming from Heldburg in Thüringen.  So we are led to ask with respect to the GTA rendition:  Why not Louise Rlueske, which would be consistent with their change patterns used to get Richtelberger?  But then we learn that in the originals Louise Plueske really comes from Herford in Westphalia, as correctly coded in Volume 21.  The poor fellow, Heinrich Potthoff (with a “P” as in Plueske and Pichtelberger!) comes from Gross Aschen (near Melle in the Wiehengebirge); he must be content that the book as well as the DAD not only rob him of his hometown but change his name to Heinrich “Pettheff” – even though the two “o”s in the original (Nr. 316) could not be more identical, being far removed from the use of “e” in Louise Plueske (Nr. 319) only three lines farther down.

 As often stated up to this point:  The Germans to America edition is useful as a starting point in order for users to access to the originals.  But all three editions to date:  the 67 volumes, the two CDs, as well as the DAD, are not dependable, are not credible as evidence, and therefore are not quotable in reference works.  Even our young 12-year-old Anton Holtmann can prove that.

(First published in German: Wie man mit genealogischen Daten nicht umgehen sollte: 15 Jahre “Germans to America”,  in: Genealogie 52 (2003) 1-2, 385-401; and  in English, translated by LaVern Rippley, St. Olaf College, Northfield / Minnesota: Fifteen Years of “Germans to America”: Truly Enough! Passenger Lists and their Outcomes; in:AEMI Journal 1 (2003), 127-136; and in: Society for German-American Studies Newsletter 24 (2003) 2, 11-15)