If you’ve been watching Who Do You Think You Are? in the US, you may have noticed that both Josh Groban and Angie Harmon had ancestors who left Europe via Rotterdam. Rotterdam has been one of the most important harbors in the world for centuries. Since the 17th century, it has been the final port of departure for millions of emigrants. These people came from all over western Europe.
Many people ask me if I can find records about their ancestors who left via Rotterdam. Unfortunately, most people coming through Rotterdam would have left no records there. Many of them would have stayed in Rotterdam for only a short time, probably staying in a hostel or inn. Those places did not keep records of their guests’ names. There is a chance that they appear in the notarial records, of which an index is available at the Rotterdam City archives website (Dutch only), for example if they made up a will or gave a power of attorney before departure. But that would be mostly limited to richer emigrants.
The first record that an emigrant leaving from Rotterdam would definitely appear in would be the passenger list. But that traveled with the ship and would be left in the port of arrival.
There are exceptions, for example if one of the party died in Rotterdam. That’s what happened to Johann Jacob Zimmermann, the ancestor of Josh Groban, of whom I was able to find the burial record. Or a young family may have had a child born in Rotterdam, who appears in the baptismal records. But most people passing through Rotterdam would not have left any traces in Rotterdam records. Instead, search for them in their place of origin, arrival or destination.
If you happen to know about a source that features these people migrating through Rotterdam, I would love to hear from you 🙂