4 Replies Latest reply on Jun 7, 2019 11:45 AM by Becca Simons

    Departing Passenger Ships and Passports from USA


      1. A good many of the Slovakian immigrants returned to Slovakia from the USA and never returned and some returned in the time period from 1875-1920.  Is/are there departing passenger ship records from USA ports back to continental Europe, particularly Bremen and Hamburg?


      2.  What documents, if any such as a passport or exit visa, was required for the immigrant or former immigrant to obtain in order to leave the USA and/or re-entry should they elect to return to the USA?

        • Re: Departing Passenger Ships and Passports from USA
          joan stachnik Tracker

          Hi Julian, I have a similar question. One of my grandmothers immigrated to the US, returned to Eastern Europe for a short time, and then came back to the US. She was not a US citizen at this time. I was only able to find her name on the return ship manifest. But no information regarding the trip from the US to Europe.  I would be interested if you find anything. joan

          • Re: Departing Passenger Ships and Passports from USA

            Dear Mr. Harper,


            Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


            Although the United States did not require passenger records for ships departing from American ports but only for arriving vessels, there are some that exist in the pre-1920 time frame such as  Registers of Vessels Departing from New York, New York, 8/11/1917 - 12/31/1971. [National Archives Microfilm Publication No. A3487]. Here is a list of departure related microfilm at NARA: https://search.ancestry.com/search/dbextra.aspx?dbid=60882. Some departure lists exist on Olive Tree Genealogy. Another source for locating outgoing passengers is a newspaper from the port cities. The newspapers sometimes published names of outbound passengers.   


            Additionally, some foreign countries kept passenger arrival lists. Therefore, even if the departure from the U.S. was not recorded, the entry into a foreign country may be available. Ports like Bremen and Hamburg were actively creating/maintaining records. Any re-entry to the U.S. may be documented in a passenger arrival record from a U.S. port.  Many of these records have been digitized by NARA partners (Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org).


            Passports were issued to American citizens as early as 1789, but passports were not required until 1941 (with two exceptions during periods of the Civil War and WWI). As a general rule, aliens were ineligible for U.S. passports since the U.S. government only issued passports to U.S. citizens.  Learn more on NARA’s website at https://www.archives.gov/research/passport.


            Before WWI, visas were not required for aliens to enter the U.S. (except for a brief period during the Civil War). The practice of requiring all aliens to obtain visas from U.S. officials abroad before departure for the United States began in 1917 as a control measure during World War I, and has continued since then.  Unfortunately, with the exception of precedent cases and files that contain policy material, individual visa case files for 1914-1923 were destroyed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.


            We hope this information is helpful. Best of luck with your research!


            [Information provided by Elizabeth Burnes, Subject Matter Expert]

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