Immigration through Philadelphia

1. Immigrant records, 1884-1952: Microfilm of original records at the Jewish Archives in the Balch Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Records give name, sex, nativity, date, destination, and ship of arrival. Most are arrivals at Philadelphia with some at New York City. Few records exist for 1924-1941. Records are alphabetical by first letter of last name. Final destinations include locations all through the United States.

These records can be used in conjunction with the ship passenger lists listed under "Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), records, 1884-1948," which are chronological in arrangement. Many of the immigrants are the same in both records.

2. Card file of detainee immigrants, 1914-1921

Microfilm of original records at the Balch Institute, Philadelphia Jewish Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Cards are generally arranged alphabetically.

Records are for those generally arriving at Philadelphia who were detained by authorities for various reasons. Information includes name, ship and date of arrival, address of final destination, and reason held.

3. Jewish immigrant aid societies' records of Jewish arrivals, 1913-1947

Microfilm of original manuscripts at the Balch Institute, Philadelphia Jewish Archive Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Some cards are not in strict alphabetical order.

Includes records primarily of the Port of Philadelphia, Association for the Protection of Jewish Immigrants; Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society of America (headquarters, New York City). Also includes a few records of the Council of Jewish Women, Department of Immigrant Aid; Port of Boston, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Massachusetts; Port of Baltimore, Hebrew Immigrants Protective Association.

If you check the NARA catalog entries for the topic "Detention of persons" ( ), you will see that there are 27 entries...  Publication M1500 "Records of the Special Boards of Inquiry, District no. 4 (Philadelphia), 1893-1909" is the only BSI hearings collection.

Immigration through Hamburg

The usual route for emigrants from Germany and northern Europe was by ship from Hamburg to Hull or Grimsby on the east coast of England, thence by train to Liverpool where they would board another ship to the US or Canada. This was in the days before passports were required and, as they were only 'passing through', no UK record was made of their arrival or departure.

Emigrants from southern Europe to the US and Canada usually travelled through Cherbourg (France) and Southampton (England), although other departure ports on the mainland of Europe were sometimes used.

 check out Hull and Liverpool Universities for their info on Jewish immigration by sea, both cross Baltic and cross Atlantic. Note there is very little in the way of passenger documentation from the Baltic to Hull - but Hull Uni has info on the boats and ship lines that plied this trade, and the ports they used - the majority of ships manifests are cross Atlantic

Holland-America Line:

Open Archives which is a Dutch genealogical website announced they have placed the passenger lists of the Holland-America Line 1900-1920 online.  Go to:

Type in the name you are researching in the search box. You may not get the actual manifest but a listing of what is on the manifest. When you click on the manifest a list of passengers names appears. Click on the name you are searching then a new window appears with the source listed a passenger registers.

The Holland America Line (HAL) transported about one million Eastern Europeans t America from Rotterdam between 1880 and 1920.  The HAL had offices in Bulgaria, Latvia and Russia where tickets could be purchased for the train to Rotterdam, the boat to America.

HAIS Special Inquiry card

HIAS - Boston

Liverpool as a transmigration hub:  

Using Hamburg passenger lists, 1850 - 1934:

The British Board of Trade outbound passenger lists: Transmigration via England 

Germans to America/using Hamburg passenger lists: (Also on

The St. Albans lists on FamilySearch

Notations on Ship Manifests

The annotations relate to applications for naturalization, but the numbers are NOT the petition numbers (they are application for a certificate of arrival numbers).  These annotations have three pieces of information, two of which can help you.  The three data points are the prefix number, the application number, and the date.  

The first (prefix) number indicates the US naturalization district where the application was filed.  You can translate the number into a geographic district (as of the date in the annotation).

The date annotated is the date the manifest record was checked, telling you (approximately) when their application was processed.  The actual date of naturalization can be weeks, months, or even years later.

If you do later find the naturalization petition, it should include a blank for "Certificate of Arrival No. ____ filed" and that certificate of arrival (c/a) number should match the application number annotated on the manifest.  Matching those numbers tells you the US Gov't believed the person listed on the manifest and the person named on the naturalization petition were one and the same person.