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Overheard in GenForum: Le Havre Ship Records 1832
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

February 21, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: Does anyone know if there are records in France of ships leaving Le Havre for Baltimore in 1832. Arrival information is available in book form and from National Archives, but information is very limited. Exit lists should have listed more detail information. Boats arriving in Baltimore were split between City of Baltimore port and Baltimore. Lists are available but only comments as to where passengers are from was Germany. Any help would be greatly appreciated. There are many misspellings on the arrival side. -- Larry

A: Passenger lists for those disembarking in the United States prior to about 1891 are not full of much information on our ancestors. In fact, many are disappointed to have exerted so much energy in finding the passenger list only to discover, as you have, that there is no information as to where the individual was born and other useful information.

Such information was actually not taken on passenger lists until the 20th century. This had something to do with the authority in charge of the lists. Before 1891, the passenger lists fell under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Customs, and only asked for a minimal of information on the passengers.

Pre-1906 passenger lists may be disappointing.

Turning for More Information

Research on the immigrant after his or her arrival in the United States requires that you exhaust all possible records. These can range from vital records to biographical sketches. The key is to try to exhaust all records. Depending on the occupation of an ancestor, it is possible that he has been written up in a biographical dictionary for that occupation or locality.

Another record that may supply you with the pertinent information about where he was born would be naturalization records. While the time period in question, the mid-1800s, does not have as informative records as the latter years, it may still possible to find the information you are seeking. At this time naturalization records are found on the county level, though some areas have turned over records to the regional National Archives branch supporting that region.

Many naturalization records are available on microfilm through the Family History Library out in Salt Lake City. You can gain access to these microfilmed records by visiting your local Family History Center. Family History Centers are found in local chapels of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can find your closest one through the yellow pages of your phone book.

Emigration Lists

First, it is important to point out that not all emigration records have survived. Some of them have not been preserved, and the Family History Library's collection, while impressive, is not complete. This is usually the first place that researchers begin their search for emigration lists. A word of caution, these lists will be written in the language native to the country where the records are generated. This seems like common sense, but I often hear from people who are disappointed with the records because they cannot read the language in question.

While you ancestor emigrated from Le Havre, France, you indicate that in the arrival passenger list that your ancestor is listed as being from Germany. This means you will need to look in both countries for possible emigration records.

The emigration process was more than just the act of getting on the ship. Most countries required that the individual get permission to leave the country. Of course, there will be those ancestors who did not bother with this step. This step may generate either a passport or an application may be found. The information that you may find on these records could include the name of the individual along with their age, the name of a close relative or traveling companion, and either their last residence in the home country or their place of birth.

Accessing These Records

While it would be nice if all the records were microfilmed and therefore easily accessible this is not always the case. And in regard to the port of Le Havre, it is most definitely not the case. While emigrant lists do exist for this port, they have not been microfilmed. They cover the years from about 1750 to 1850. An aside to other readers, this port was used heavily by Italians.

The original emigrant lists for the port of Le Havre can be found at

Archives de la Chambre de Commerce
et d'Industrie du Havre
Place Leon-Meyer
(B.P. 1410) 76600
Le Havre, France

Because your ancestor came from Germany, it may be necessary to research in that country as well. Of course, you are in a catch-22 situation in that you are not sure where in Germany your ancestor came from. Hopefully the information you seek will be found on the records in Le Havre.

In Conclusion

Unfortunately, your immigrant arrived during a time when the records generated did not require much information. You will still want to exhaust all possible records in the United States. You never know when one will give you the clue you need. It may end up though that you will need to contact the Archives in Le Havre to see if they have any records on your ancestor.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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