Florida Emigration and Immigration
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.
- FamilySearch. Florida, Key West Passenger Lists, 1898-1920 (Free) has digital images of the passenger lists arranged by date. Description of records. Also on 42 FHL films beginning with film 1375956.
- FamilySearch. Florida, Tampa, Passenger Lists, 1898-1945 (Free) has digital images of the passenger lists arranged by date. Description of records.
- FamilySearch. United States, Index to Passenger Arrivals, Atlantic and Gulf Ports, 1820-1874 (Free) has digital images of index cards arranged alphabetically by name. The cards give name, accompanied by, age, gender, nationality, last permanent residence, destination, port of entry, name of vessel, and date of entry. Often only a little information is given, such as U.S. for destination. Description of records.
- Ancestry.com, Florida Passenger Lists, 1898-1951 indexes passenger lists of ships and planes arriving from foreign ports at the following Florida ports:
- - Pensacola (citizens: Jun. 1924 – Aug. 1948, aliens: Mar. 1946 – Nov. 1948) (also includes passenger lists of ships departing from Pensacola for Aug. 1926 – Mar. 1948)
- - Panama City (citizens: 1933-1936, aliens: 1927-1939)
- - St. Petersburg (citizens, aliens, crew members: Dec. 1926-Mar. 1941)
- - Tampa (Nov. 1898-Dec. 1945) (Gaps for which no records exist: Dec. 21, 1902-Sept. 2, 1904 and May 1, 1915-Nov. 30, 1915)
- - Key West (1898-1945)
- - Knights Key (citizens and aliens: Feb. 1908-Jan. 1912)
- - Port Everglades (citizens, aliens, and airline crew: Feb. 1932-May 1951) (includes lists from vessels and airplanes)
- Ancestry.com, Index to Alien Arrivals by Airplane at Miami, Florida, 1930-1942. The index cards give name, place of birth, age, sex, marital status, occupation, language, nationality, last permanent residence, name and address of relative or friend in country of origin, destination within the United States, purpose for coming to the United States, height, color of hair and eyes, etc. From 68 NARA films, RG 85, A3382. Also on 68 FHL films beginning with film 2445697.
- 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. In Ancestry.com ($) as part of Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists, 1820-1873 and 1893-1959. Also on 16 films beginning with Family History Library film 830231. These are indexed in the Supplemental Index below:
- Supplemental Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Atlantic and Gulf Coast Ports indexes the Copies of Lists... above plus many more passengers. (188 films beginning with Family History Library film 418161).
- Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Miscellaneous Ports in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Southern Carolina, 1890 to 1924. 26 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.