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A Quick Look at Records from European Ports
by Deborah Glassman, copyright 2005

This is a page in our Documents section. Click the Documents button in the left-hand column to see other resources. You may also wish to see other pages related to Migration linked from our page Migration Documents

The tables mentioned in this 2005 article have now been integrated with our Lyakhovichi Migration Tables A-B and its alphabetical continuation on seven successive pages.

One of the lists you can find linked from this emigration page is that of the expanded list of emigrants with a last residence of Lyakhovichi. In its initial expansion for those with surnames starting A-C, it detailed 210 people of the 1500 then known. Examination of their records showed eleven named ports of exit for Lyakhovichi's former residents. Here is the list of those towns in the order in which they appear numerically.

59 from Antwerp *** 32 from Bremen *** 28 from Hamburg *** 23 from Rotterdam

22 from Libau *** 20 from Liverpool *** 9 from Southampton *** 4 from Glasgow

2 from Cuxhaven (Hamburg's North Sea entry port) *** 2 from Danzig *** 2 from Trieste

Records created in all of those ports, except Antwerp, are known to have survived. Antwerp's records are thought to have been destroyed in 1914 in WWI, though in other places, emigration records have been reconstructed from police registers, lodging registers, consulate visas, aid society records, ticket-agency records, etc. Hamburg's records from 1850-1934 have survived, are available online, and if the person entered the US before information on previous residence was required, are especially valuable because they list that last residence. if you have previously found your ancestor coming into the US at the port of New York or Philadelphia before 1906, take the time to investigate Hamburg records. You already know the date of their arrival so you are just checking the handwritten indices by the date which they might have embarked in Hamburg. Various organizations are currently indexing those Hamburg records but the records themselves include volumes of handwritten indices, where each year can be searched by the initial letter of the surname. It is tedious without an online index, but the clarity of the handwriting is much better in the indices than on the manifests, themselves. The information in the Hamburg records makes them especially valuable to one who like myself, traces the movements of a whole town: they list name, sex, age, occupation, last residence, nation to which subject, and the city of personal destination. Their volumes covering indirect passage to the Americas, list those who may have arrived in the US on ships with English or Belgian flags, Several emigrants in my own family, who I found arriving in the US on ships originating in Liverpool and Antwerp, turned out to have trans-shipped in Hamburg.

Rotterdam's records for 1900-1940 of the Holland-America line are in the Family History Library of the Latter Day Saints and are on their "to-do list" to digitize. Bremen's documentation for 1920-1939 are searchable online and may be purchased from the Bremen Chamber of Commerce. It appears that all of the pre-World War I records of Bremen were destroyed, and the city took such great damage in both Wars that there seems little likliehood of being able to reconstruct the early lists. And yet hope is not entirely gone. The records of the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden (the Relief Society of German Jews) survive in part in various archives. Bremen was the port of departure for the Galveston plan, and the Hilfsverein was responsible for the care and transport of those Russian Jews to Texas. The organization had existed before the project was begun and after it terminated and maintained an active partnership with corresponding agencies in the United States, England, and Russia. Archival material from all of those correspondents, still survive. More, Bremen was partnered with Philadelphia as a transoceanic port of call, and the records of four ticket agencies covering from the 1880s through 1950s, from the city of Philadelphia, survive. They are held at the Philadelphia Jewish Archives, and have an online searchable database in JewishGen's All USA database.

Libau's records (modern Liepaja, Latvia) survive in several different venues. The records of individual steamship lines like the Baltic feeder line of the Wilson Line of Hull, England and the records of the Castle and Union Lines, each survive. The Wilson line primarily moved people from Northwestern Russian guberniyas directly to England. The Castle and Union was the primary line for emigres from Lithuania and Belarus heading to South Africa. Some of the records of the F.A.A. the Finnish line, also cover Russian subjects who boarded in Libau, we provide a link to their searchable database under the information for those embarking at Helsinki's port of Hanko. The Russian American Line was founded in Copenhagen in 1900 and ran from Libau from 1906. It ran to North America with stops in Rotterdam and Halifax before NYC. It was interrupted during WWI, renamed the Baltic-American Line in 1920 and serviced Libau (Liepaja), Danzig (Gdansk), Copenhagen, NY. Intermittant stops at Glasgow, Falmouth England, Halifax, and Boston were also on the run. It was sold in 1930 and became the Gdynia America Line. The records of the Gdynia America Line were purportedly in one of the Polish archives and while the Russian American Line's, Copenhagen offices, may have preserved some of its records, it is not clear that manifest information ever went to the home offices. Please let me know what you discover about these records.

Libau Emigration Station
Libau Emigration Station

All embarkation in Libau, required proof of Russian passport. so the records of the Courland guberniya police in the Latvian State Historical Archives, when scanned and indexed, will be a powerful tool for many of those researching Russian emigrants. Most emigrants did not have all of the necessary documentation to leave by this port - a man needed to show that he had completed both his military service and his military reserve service or that he had valid exemptions. The police restricted access to the ships for 24 hours after documentation was presented. The Latvian SIG has published one fond found in that archives of the year 1900's police register of transients in Riga under the title Riga Passport and Travel Documentation for the year 1900. Two Lyakhovichi men show up even in that single year: Oscher NEMON son of Josel, a shoemaker, age 29 in 1900 from Lyachovichi, Slutsk d., Minsk p. and residing at Moskovskaya 108, Riga and       Peretz BUDEWITSCH son of Newach (Noah), not married, no occupation given, age 31 in 1900, from Lichovichi, Slutsk d., Minsk p. ; and residing at Izvestkovaya 21, Riga. The Latvian State Historical Archives, is also the holder of a large run of the Courland Vedemostii which published lists of emigrants with passports exiting via Libau. Those gazettes are also in the catalog of a commercial firm that sells large time runs of serial microfilms to libraries. Perhaps at some point their microfilm editions covering more than 50 gubernia will be digitized and made available to a wider audience or the thousands of dollars needed to purchase a fifty year run of the serial can be absorbed by a larger research group which will further fund the digitization. Supposedly, the emigrant was supposed to register with his own city officials as well, so that lists of people intending to emigrate might also show up for Lyakhovichi in the Minsk Vedemostii, available at the NYPL and again, when purchased in a complete run covering decades, from that commercial firm previously mentioned. Libau's importance in moving a legal but smaller population of Jews from Russia to the US, created a political situation that made it easier for some Jewish aid societies to function there. The Kurlander Young Men's Association of NYC provided transient housing in Libau in the 1920s, HIAS had offices there in the 1920s as well. Ticket agencies also provide records, that in some cases are still available. Each of the major steamship lines had agents all through today's Lithuania and Belarus. It was not necessary to go to Libau to purchase tickets and if you bought from a Danish ticket agency's commission salesmen, then the record of the purchase is in the Danish database listed elsewhere in this page. if you bought the ticket when you were getting exit papers in Minsk or when you acquired visas at the consulates in Libau, we can sometimes identify the likely agencies. Those in Minsk, may have had their records acquired by the Soviet Union's archive system at some point, the State Historical Archives in Riga can let you know which of Libau's agencies might be in their fonds. Libau area ticket agencies that I have so far seen in letterhead include: include Falk and Company which sold for the Union and Castle lines and Karlsberg, Spiro, and Co. from the early 1900s through the 1930s which sold for Wilson lines and for Cunard. If the ticket was purchased in the United States by a family member, the task becomes harder for all but the Philadelphia based ticket agencies. Four of those agencies covering from the 1880s through the 1930s have their ticket sales registers at the Philadelphia Jewish Archives and online at JewishGen. They covered all ports including those of Libau, and Lyakhovichi people have already been found in their registers.

Other Russian Empire ports not appearing in the initial list above of emigrants from our town, include: Helsinki and Hango (Finland); Memel (now Klaipeda, Lithania); Odessa (Ukraina); Vladivlostek (Russia); Archangel (Russia). The records of Helsinkifrom 1892-1931 including the names of thousands of Russian Jews are available for online search from the University of Abo. The free search engine does not list the town of birth or last residence but the upgrade and the records that they will help you locate, do list it. Remember, Finland was a Crown possession of the Russian Empire until 1918. Many different records related to Odessa emigration are available in the State Historical Archives in Kiev and in the Kherson Regional Archives in Odessa. I would have said that Jews would have been likely to emigrate from Lyakhovichi in Minsk gubernia through Odessa, but the registers of at least one Jewish aid society held in the Kiev archives, names some specifically. I have no information on pre-WWI emigration via Vladivlostek or Archangel, though we know that after WWI, Jews using the Trans-Siberian line did exit at the Vladivlostek port on the Pacific. I am seeking more information about the location and relevance of Memel records to the average Jew of the Northwestern Russian empire.

One third of the emigres cited in the list above, left Europe via Liverpool, Southampton, and Glasgow.The English Board of Trades Outbound Registers (1890-1960) created at Liverpool, and Southampton are held in the British Public Records office, but are unindexed, subject to research restrictions, and are the least detailed of manifest records for genealogical purposes. They do not have information on recent residences or birthplace. Even the remaining virtue, of good handwriting, is frequently not in evidence. The Inbound registers of the Board of Trade (1878-1960) do not cover immigrants from Europe at all. The University of Aberdeen's online database for Scottish ports covers 1890-1960 but they are not much more informative than those of other English ports and the nativity of migrants is divided into England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and "Foreign Countries." The handwriting is better.

Baltic port emigration which in the list above specifies Danzig (todays Gdansk), also included those of Denmark which from 1868-1908 required Danish ticket agents to provide lists to the police, of sold tickets. A quick perusal of the online database shows over 8,000 Russian subjects, many of them obviously Jews. Cuxhaven where the Elbe meets the North Sea, was where Hamburg's traffic actually met the North Sea (Hamburg was a river port 75 miles from the ocean, so people leaving through Hamburg might be notated as having departed via Cuxhaven. Cuxhaven emigres are usually found in the records of the Hamburg lists mentioned above, but perhaps some separate lists will be uncovered. Danzig, Still collecting info on the current availablity of records of this port today called Gdansk, Poland. It was one of the ports on the Russian-America Line and for that of the Baltic-American Line, its successor after WWI. Later the Gdynia-America Line began here in 1930 and its records are still in existence, but I have few details yet. If it followed the pattern of other cities invaded by the Soviet Union and then eventually passed to a satellite state, we would expect to find its records currently held in Polish archives, but I've seen no information to date.

Trieste 1912 -1914 The Lyakhovichi emigrants via Trieste, named above, turned out to be a chimera, a being, not really there. Trieste was certainly an important port - it was the port of embarkation for the whole Austro-Hungarian Empire. 88,000 emigrants moved through the port in just two years around 1907, half were Austro-Hungary's own subjects, the remainder Russian, Romanian, Turk, and Greek. Many were Jews. But despite the creation of records from 1904; such records being state-mandated from 1912; and that both sets of records are available in both the State Archives in Vienna (in the records of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Trade) and the Trieste State Archives in Italy (duplicates of the Vienna records), it is all irrelevant to a Lyakhovichi search. The Lechovichers who cited Trieste as their starting point, were from Lechowitz, Ukraine and Lechowitz in Austro-Hungary. Not named on the inital list of Lechovichers, were those on ships sailing from French ports. Those sailing on French-flagged ships out of the port of LeHavre 1750-1898 were recorded on manifests archived in Archives Departementales de la Seine Maritime, France. The records include valuable information on the place of birth or residence. Those sailing from French ports like Cherbourg are often named in the records of the Hamburg port which handled railroad ticket sales to those cities and lists these passengers in the "Indirekt" books. French law required transients to register with the police and police registers may be available in the state archives of the port cities, I hope you will send me information on this as you find it.

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What The Emigrant Saw

Most emigrations from Lyakhovichi and the other Jewish communities of Belarus, started at the local train station, or following a wagon trip to nearby Baranovichi which was a junction for multiple lines. The travelers made their way north to Liepaja (Libau) where they stayed on Russian trains right into the port or they moved west to Brest-Litovsk where you could transfer to the main European lines. Imperial Russia had created an effective gateway to unapproved rail entry, the gauge of the train track was not the same as in the rest of Europe and Brest-Litovsk was where you could portage to trains whose line ended there.

Train on Baranovichi Luniniec line through Lyakhovichi
Lyakhovichi train on Baranovichi Luniniec line c.1910

Click on image to see detailed picture.
This train would have rolled through Lyakhovichi on a regular basis, moving as it did on the Luninets to Baranovichi line before WW I.

Brest-Litovsk Train Station, western terminal of Russian Empire where gauge changed
Brest Train Station

The train station at an important terminal like Brest-Litovsk must have looked considerably less serene on a given weekday morning than in this postcard image of the time. Nevertheless, the size of the station suitably demonstrated to travelers transferring to Imperial gauge track at this junction from German trains, that the Russian government was a force with which to be reckoned. Departees, headed towards the Hamburg port and other points west, must have felt safer when it was far behind down the track.

Hamburg Quarantine station for 1880s cholera epidemics
Hamburg Quarantine Station 1890s

Hundreds of thousands of Jews exited Europe via Hamburg. The fear of disease spreading from a population of transients into the local people, prompted the early establishment of medical facilities and quarantine facilities. Europe had had major cholera epidemics in the 1880s and many of the "humanitarian" resources made available to transients, were put in place to keep local residents safe. This is Hamburg's quarantine facility at the end of the Nineteenth Century. The picture was from a set of publicity photos the shipping companies used for promotion, click on the title to see all the great details this newspaper-style photo included.

When Russian Jews arrived at the Emigration ports, they couldn't just buy their ticket and get on-board as they had at the train station at Lyakhovichi or Baranovichi. Even if tickets were pre-paid by a family member in the United States, the process at emigration was designed to minimize the risk to the steamship companies of having to pay for the return trip of unsuitable immigration candidates. Health inspections protected the voters resident in the city from contagious disease, and such inspections also reduced the numbers of those turned back by landing-inspectors in the United States and other countries, for chronic conditions.

The Hamburg Ferry taking passengers to the steamships at the North Sea harbor
Hamburg Ferry for boarding ships at Cuxhaven

Your great-grandfather got on a wagon at his home near Lyakhovichi, boarded the train either in Lyakhovichi or in Baranovichi, transferred to a Hamburg-bound train at Brest station, took his steamship ticket acquired earlier and stood in the offices of one of the Hamburg shipping lines. He was examined by medical personnel and quartered in transient housing. Eventually he was ready to embark, but no steamships stood at the docks of Hamburg. It was a river town, too far up a river that was not navigable by ocean-going vessels. So your great-grandfather got on the Hamburg ferry that took him to the ships waiting at the port of Cuxhaven and finally he was on a ship bound for America!

Russian Customs Station 1907
Russian Customs Station 1907

In-bound Russian traffic also was bureaucratic, as this postcard at New Year's 1907/1908 shows. People like my great-grandfather Abram Pilnik, a Lyakhovichi-registered resident, who lived in Slutsk, went back and forth from the US to Russia repeatedly from 1896 to 1904, passing through Customs each time.

Personal Migration Documents

Boarding Card from Libau
Libau Boarding Card

Feiga Kaszyrowskaya left Russia and her last residence Narodziy, via the port of Liepaja (Libau) and this inspection card from 1913, a small card designed to be folded in half, lists her last residence, her place on the manifest of a particular line, the date of her American Consular visa, and has a place for various important stamps including medical examination and railroad ticketing. This is used solely for illustrative purposes and will be happily replaced with one for your Lyakhovichi kinsmen! (This was spotted on ebay in the Summer of 2005)

1909 Ticket on Hamburg Amerika Line to Argentina
Ticket to Argentina via Hamburg for Russian Jew

Chajim Potash of Trockenbrot had no known connection with Lyakhovichi, but his transit ticket to Argentina is an example of records yet to be plumbed by our researchers. This was one of several documents of this type for sale on ebay in the Summer of 2005. I will replace this image immediately with one for a Lyakhovichi resident that you submit!

An organization that protected Jewish women travellers This letter mentions a business in Argentina with a Lyakhovichi surname - Shereschevsky Brothers. Hover in the lower right hand corner of the page that the link takes you to, for the expander icon.