Florida Emigration and Immigration

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United States Emigration and Immigration >Florida
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Pre-statehood settlers of Florida generally arrived after 1817 from the older southern states, especially Georgia and the Carolinas. The East Florida non-Indian population hovered between 3,000 in 1763 and 5,000 in 1817 as the colony passed from the Spanish to the British and then back to Spanish possession.

By 1768 the British had imported over 1,200 Greeks, Italians, and Minorcans to the New Smyrna settlement. Many of them died, and by 1778 the remaining inhabitants were scattered through St. Augustine, where Minorcans are still an identifiable part of the population.

Thousands of loyalist refugees arrived from the rebellious American colonies beginning in 1775, but most were deported after 1783 to the Bahamas, Jamaica, and other islands of the British West Indies. A few Americans from the southern states and British planters returning from the Bahamas entered Florida between 1790 and 1804. In 1804, the Spanish officially closed East Florida to American immigration, but settlers continued to cross the Georgia-Florida border, especially after 1812.

Most persons migrating from the United States settled in the northern section of the state. After the Seminole Wars of 1817-18 and 1835-42 had dispossessed the Indians of their lands, white settlement gradually moved southward. Today there are over 1,000 Seminole Indians living in Florida near Lake Okeechobee.

The state remained sparsely settled until after the Civil War. Then land speculation, the construction of railroads, and the building of resorts attracted new residents from the northern states. There were white settlers in all parts of Florida by 1900, when the total population reached 500,000. The population doubled to one million by 1920, when a second Florida land boom was underway. As the thinly-settled areas of southern Florida filled in, 13 new counties were created between 1921 and 1925.

Blacks have been in Florida since early colonial times. There were as many blacks as whites in Florida between 1830 and 1900.

Refugees from revolutionary troubles in Cuba came to Florida beginning in 1868. Immigrants from northern Spain, Italy, Greece, and other areas of southeastern Europe arrived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


Ports of entry to Florida have included St. Augustine, Key West, and Tampa. The National Archives and the Family History Library have:

  • Passenger lists for St. Augustine, 1821 to 1824, 1827, and 1870, and Key West, 1837 to 1852 and 1857 to 1868. These are included in Copies of Lists of Passengers Arriving at Miscellaneous Ports on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and at Ports on the Great Lakes, 1820-1873. (Beginning on Family History Library film 830231).

These are indexed by Supplemental Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Atlantic and Gulf Coast Ports, listed in the Family History Library Catalog under UNITED STATES - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION - INDEXES (beginning on Family History Library film 418161).

  • Passenger lists for Key West, 1898 to 1920, (beginning on Family History Library film 1375956).
  • Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Miscellaneous Ports in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Southern Carolina, 1890 to 1924, are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under UNITED STATES - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION - INDEXES (FHL films 1324938-63).

You should also check passenger lists for other ports, especially New Orleans. The National Archives also has passenger lists for about ten minor ports in Florida, 1900-1945. More detailed information on immigration sources is in the United States Immigration article.

Records of the Seminole Indians are listed in the Family History Library subject catalog under the name of the tribe. Records of colonial Greek and Italian groups are listed in the catalog under FLORIDA - MINORITIES.

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