Announcements Methodology

Holland America Line Passenger Lists

One of the questions I often get from clients outside the Netherlands, is: “can you find records that tell when my family left Holland?” Recently, a new source has become available to answer that question: the passenger lists of the Holland America Line. The original records have been digitized and volunteers are now entering names and other details through crowdsource platform VeleHanden. The first results of these efforts are published on the website of the Rotterdam City Archives and the website WieWasWie. The index contains the names of more than 500,000 passengers who traveled from or to the United States or Canada through the port of Rotterdam between 1900 and 1920. Many of the passengers who traveled with the Holland America Line came from Eastern Europe. The index is thus important for all families with European ancestors, not only for those with Dutch roots.

Port of Bremen (collection: Library of Congres)

Let me give you a few examples of what you can find in these records.

  • Iwan Valtschoff traveled on the S.S. Pisa from Bremen (Germany) to Quebec (Canada) on April 4, 1912.
  • Iwan Valef traveled on the S.S. Graf Waldersee from Hamburg (Germany) to Cochrane, Ontario (Canada) on April 16, 1912.
  • On May 6, 1912 Ivan Valtchoff traveled on the S.S. Frankfurt from Rotterdam (Netherlands) to Hamilton, Ontario (Canada). 
  • On October 29, 1912 Alex, Ivan, Kole and Resto Valcheff traveled on the S.S. Potsdam from New York to Rotterdam (Netherlands) with final destination Bucarest (Romania).
  • Iwan Valeff traveled on the S.S. Willehad on May 26, 1913 from Bremen (Germany) to Montreal (Canada).
S.S. Potsdam (collection: Library of Congres)

Although the passenger lists do give information about the fares or the luggage, there are not many other personal details. Based on the five aforementioned passenger lists it is hard to determine whether Iwan Valef, Iwan Valeff, Ivan Valcheff, Ivan Valtchoff and Iwan Valtschoff are the same person. Research in other records is necessary to answer that question. The fact that in October 1912 four men with the family name Valcheff traveled on the same ship with final destination Bucarest, might indicate a family relationship. Were they a father and three sons, four brothers or cousins?

The Holland America Line passenger lists can be a valuable source if you lost track of one of your (distant) relatives. If his or her name is on one of the lists, you may want to look for this long lost family member in the United States or Canada or in one of the European countries.

Give it a try and look for your immigrant ancestor. Let me know if you found something interesting. You can find the Holland America Line passenger list index on the website of the Rotterdam City Archives.

The pictures in this blog post are taken from the digital collections of the Library of Congres. There are no known restrictions on publication.