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Emily Rocha, 2022 Junior Fellow, History & Genealogy Section
Barbara B. Walsh, Reference Specialist, Humanities & Social Sciences Section
Note: This guide is adapted from the previously published Legacy guide, German Immigrant Arrivals: Resources at the Library of Congress.
Created: May 26, 2022
Last Updated: March 17, 2023
Organized German immigration to America began on October 6, 1683, with the arrival of thirteen Mennonite and Quaker families from Krefeld, Germany. They settled in "Deutschstadt" near Philadelphia, incorporated in 1689 as Germantown. Since that time, more than eight million Germans have emigrated to America.
For genealogists researching their German immigrant ancestors, finding those ancestors on ship passenger lists can be a difficult, time-consuming process. Finding their hometowns in Germany, the vital next step in German genealogical research, can be even more problematic. Unfortunately, there is no central source for German genealogical records. Unless one knows the specific place of origin, it is almost impossible to locate the German religious and civil records that are so necessary to tracing a family in Germany. The purpose of this guide is to identify lists of German immigrants in the Library of Congress (published, manuscript, and electronic). The surviving passenger manifests are available on microfilm at the National Archives, its regional facilities, and at some libraries throughout the United States. Many lists of Germans immigrants do not include their German hometown. Others, published in both Germany and the United States, include emigrants from a particular locality in Germany or those who settled in specific areas of the United States.
We have listed catalogs and archives outside the Library of Congress that have local histories, censuses, and land records. Look for various genealogy periodicals and publications, lists, useful websites and online databases, as well as services subscribed to by the Library.
The Library of Congress has one of the world's premier collections of U.S. and foreign genealogical and local historical publications, numbering more than 50,000 compiled family histories and over 100,000 U.S. local histories. The Library's genealogy collection began as early as 1815 with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson's library.