Poland Emigration and Immigration
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Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigration) or coming into (immigration) Poland. These lists include passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, and records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the name, age, occupation, destination, and place of origin or birthplace of the emigrant.
These sources can help you determine where in Poland your ancestor came from and also in constructing family groups. Unfortunately, there are few emigration records from Poland, but there are some useful records of Polish immigrants into America.
This section discusses:
- Emigration from Poland, including the historical background of Polish emigration
- Finding an immigrant’s town of origin
- Passenger lists
- Other records of departure
- Records of Polish emigrants in their destination countries Emigration from Poland
People emigrated from Poland to places such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, and South America beginning in the 1820s. Most early emigrants came from areas under Prussian (German) rule to the United States and, to a lesser degree, France. These included both ethnic Poles and ethnic Germans. The earliest emigrants from Russian-governed Poland were from the districts of Suwalki and Łomża. A great many of these people were Jewish.
Most of the early emigrants to the United States settled in Texas; Hamtramck, Michigan; and the Chicago area. Emigration was minimal until 1854, when Poles from Silesia began settling in Texas. A great wave of Polish emigration started in the 1870s.
Most later emigrants left from Austrian-governed southern Poland (Galicia) and Russian Poland, destined largely for Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, Michigan, and other areas of the United States. From 1900–15, many Poles settled in Chicago, New York City, Connecticut, New York State, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. From 1870–1914, 3.6 million Poles left from the three empires that controlled Poland. The Russian Poles constituted 53%, those from Galicia 43%, and the Prussian Poles 4% of the total Polish immigration from 1895–1911.
If you cannot find your ancestor, you may find emigration information on neighbors of your ancestor. People who lived near each other in Poland may have settled together in the country they emigrated to.
Finding an Emigrant’s Town of Origin
Once you have found your immigrant ancestor, you must determine the city or town the ancestor was from. Poland has no nationwide index to birth, marriage, or death records or other records needed for genealogical research.
Several sources may give your ancestor’s place of origin. Family members or a library may have documents that name the city or town, such as: birth, marriage, and death certificates.
- Family Bibles
- Church certificates or records
- Naturalization applications and petitions
- Passenger lists
- Family heirlooms
Sometimes it is possible to guess where an immigrant originated through surname distribution maps.
Additional information about finding the origins of immigrant ancestors is given in Tracing Immigrant Origins.
The Polish ports of Gdańsk (Danzig) and Szczecin (Stettin) were primarily freight ports. Not many passengers sailed from these ports. Most emigrants went by train to Germany and then embarked from a German port. The major ports of departure for emigrants from Poland were Hamburg and Bremen, but because Hamburg had more agents and advertising in Eastern Europe, it served more Polish emigrants than Bremen did. The passenger lists of Bremen have not been preserved, but those of Hamburg from 1850 to 1934 are preserved and accessible for research. Information in these lists varies but usually includes names, ages, occupations, and destinations. In addition, relationships and last residence or birthplace may be given.
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the original records from the port of Hamburg. The film numbers of these records are listed in the Place section of the Family History Library Catalog under:
GERMANY, HAMBURG, HAMBURG EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
These passenger lists and indexes are most fully described in Hamburg Passenger Lists. Note: the old Hamburg Passenger Lists Resource Guide has been incorporated into the article. Also see the microfiche instructions in Hamburg Passenger Lists.
Other Records of Departure
Emigrating from Poland potentially gave rise to several types of records, including passport applications, police reports and registrations, newspaper announcements, and annotations in church records or civil registration. Such records, if preserved, are in municipal and district archives. The Family History Library has not microfilmed any such records for Poland, and they are not easily accessible to the public.
A very useful site showing a card index of emigrants can be found at this link.
Records of Polish Emigrants in Their Destination Countries
Sometimes the best sources for information about your immigrant ancestor are found in the country he or she emigrated to. You should search the records of the place where your ancestor settled, such as passenger arrival records and naturalization records. These sometimes provide the town of origin and other information. To learn about these records, use handbooks, manuals, and FamilySearch Wiki articles, if available, for that country.
Most Polish immigrants to the United States arrived in New York, Baltimore, Galveston, or New Orleans. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of arrival records for these and other U.S. ports. Most are indexed. See United States Emigration and Immigration for more information about U.S. emigration and immigration records. It is very important to note that many immigrants heading for the U.S. arrived in North America at a Canadian port and made their way to the States via rail. If heading to the prairies, many went as far as Winnipeg, Manitoba before turning south into the States. Canada, Australia, and other nations kept similar records of arrivals. The FamilySearch Wiki articles "Emigration and Immigration" for the country where your ancestor went should provide information about that country’s immigration records.
A bibliography of over 2,500 published lists of emigrants and immigrants is:
Filby, P. William. Passenger and Immigrations Lists Bibliography, 1538–1900. 2d ed. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1988. (FHL book 973 W33p 1988.)
More than 1000 of these passenger and immigration lists are indexed in:
Filby, P. William, et al.Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. 9 vols. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, Q1981–. (FHL book 973 W33p.) This does not index official U.S. arrival lists. Many of the names are from post-1820 published sources.
There are several immigration lists directed specifically toward persons who emigrated from Poland. These include:
Surname Index. Houston, Texas: The Polish Genealogical Society of Texas, 1988–. (FHL book 976.4144 F25p.)
Geraldine Moser. Hamburg passengers from the Kingdom of Poland and the Russian Empire. Washington, D.C.: Landmen Press, 1996. (FHL book 943.8 W2m.)
Immigration into Poland
Significant numbers of immigrants moved to Poland from 1770–1850. Most of these came from Germany, but others came from the Netherlands, France, and even Scotland. This wave of immigration was caused by offers to settle new lands in Russia. Many of these immigrants had suffered economic losses or religious persecution in their homelands.