Doug Bowerman left a comment on the August 27 post Stefania Chmielewska Arrives at Ellis Island, where I mentioned that my Great Aunt Stefania had sailed on the SS Barbarossa from Bremen to New York. Doug had read that the records for Bremen had been destroyed in a fire during World War II bombings and asked if there is any way to access the records that survived this catastrophe.
The short answer to this question is that, yes, some emigration records from Bremen did survive and one may be able to obtain those records.
To begin, Bremen was once a major port for emigration from Europe, processing over seven million emigrants over the past two centuries. Bremen is located on the Weser River and served as a major port of departure until silt in the river began to restrict access to Bremen’s docks. In 1825, the mayor and senate of Bremen purchased land for a new port at the mouth of the river and, in 1830, the port of Bremerhaven opened and served as the actual place of embarkation for those emigrating through Bremen.
Beginning in 1832, all companies transporting emigrants from Bremen were required to file lists of emigrants with Bremen’s emigration department. Between 1875 and 1908, these passenger lists were purposely destroyed for lack of space, and only the most recent three years of passenger lists were maintained. Thus, all Bremen Passenger Emigration Records prior to 1905 were destroyed, but the records from 1905-May 1914 were preserved. Unfortunately, even these records were destroyed during an Allied bombing raid on Bremen on October 6, 1944.
However, Bremen Emigrant Passenger Lists for the years 1920-1923 and 1925-1939 still exist. The surviving passenger lists are maintained at the Handelskammer Archiv in Bremen, and, although these lists are not indexed, the archives personnel will search these lists on request. The lists have also been transcribed and are searchable online at Die Maus.
Some other lists, indexes, and historical materials for earlier years also exist. Some ships that departed from Bremen provided copies of the emigration lists to officials at the ports of arrival. The information on these lists is summarized in Lists of Passengers Bound from Bremen to New York. The reference works Germans to America and Migration from the Russian Empire also include information on emigrants who passed through Bremen. These works are available through the Genealogical Publishing Company and many public and private libraries.
In addition, some information may be obtained directly from Germany. The City Archives of Bremerhaven holds some records on emigrants, the Bremen State Archives holds copies of passenger lists for ships involved in court cases, and the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum holds plans, photographs, and logs of emigrant ships.
Finally, the Family History Library holds a few microfilms of indexes to the Bremen Emigration Lists under the title Namenskartei aus den “Bremen Schiffslisten” 1904-1914. These indexes were prepared in 1941 and contain mainly information on emigrants from Germany, but not on the 80% of emigrants who were Slavs, Jews, and Hungarians.
Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko