Delaware Emigration and Immigration

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Delaware was first settled by the Swedes in 1638. The area was conquered by the Dutch in 1655 and then by the English in 1664. From 1682 to 1776 the "three lower counties on the Delaware" River were part of the colony of Pennsylvania.

The Delaware River brought the original European settlers to Delaware. For more than three centuries it served as a waterway connecting many Delaware towns to each other and to Philadelphia.

A frequently used land migration route was from Philadelphia to Wilmington and then on to Baltimore. There was very little migration from New York and New Jersey to Delaware, but many people migrated back and forth among Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.


The United States Research Outline "Emigration and Immigration" section lists several important sources for finding information about immigrants. These nationwide sources include many references to people who settled in Delaware. The Tracing Immigrant OriginsResearch Outline introduces the principles, search strategies, and additional record types you can use to identify an immigrant ancestor's original hometown.

In addition, you may find an early immigrant ancestor to Delaware in:

Johnson, Amandus. The Swedish Settlements on the Delaware, 1638-1664. Two Volumes. 1911. Reprint. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1969. (FHL book 974 H2j; film 1364768 items 8-9.) General history with index.

Few passenger arrival lists of Delaware ports exist. The Family History Library and the National Archives have passenger lists on microfilm for the port of Wilmington for the years 1820, 1830-31, 1833, and 1840-49.

The Wilmington passenger arrival lists are included in:

United States. Bureau of Customs. Copies of Lists of Passengers Arriving at Miscellaneous Ports on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. . . National Archives Microfilm Publication. (FHL films 830234 and 830246.) These are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under UNITED STATES - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION.

For indexes to the Wilmington passenger arrival lists, see:

United States. Bureau of Customs. Supplemental Index to Passenger Lists . . . Atlantic and Gulf Coast Ports . . . National Archives Microfilm Publication. (FHL films 418161-348.) These indexes are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under UNITED STATES - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION - INDEXES.

You may also need to search the passenger lists of Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore. About 8,000 early arrivals are listed in:

Boyer, Carl. Ship Passenger Lists: Pennsylvania and Delaware, 1641-1825. Newhall, California: Carl Boyer, 1980. (FHL book 973 W3sb; fiche 6048670.) This contains reprints of passenger lists named in Harold Lancour's Bibliography of Ship Passenger Lists.

A comprehensive list of about 140,000 immigrants to America from Britain is:

Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1776 and Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775. [Novato, California]: Brøderbund Software, 1996. (FHL compact disc number 9 part 350. Not available at Family History Centers.) Includes Delaware immigrants. May show British hometown, emigration date, ship, destination, and text of the document abstract.

Records of major ethnic groups are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under DELAWARE - MINORITIES.