Italian immigration ports of departure

- Updated: 28 Jul 2013

From 1861 to 1985 30 millions of Italians immigrated to different places of the World.   Around 50% of those Italians were to other European countries, as France or Germany. More than 4 millions immigrate to USA. Many of them departed from Genoa, but also from Napoli and from Sicily, and from other European harbors.

Certainly, Genoa was one of the most important emigration harbors during the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. This role was officially recognized by the Law Nr 23, about emigration, on January 31st 1901.  Then, it was established that the departure of emigrants should be done only from the ports of Genoa, Napoli and Palermo.

Although some of the records of departures from these Italian ports exist, they are usually shipping lists and do not list passengers. Each individual shipping company maintained its own lists, and most lists have been lost or destroyed.

Clandestine immigration - Italian Immigrants

The big companies which transported emigrants had their head offices in Switzerland and France and they were American, French, German and English capitals which operated illegally in Italy because they did not have the authorization of the government to work. To attract immigrants they developed intense advertising activities per each city and valley offering comfortable low cost voyages, which they never complied with and which turned out to be humiliating for the voyagers.

This underground work did not consist only of the people who emigrated not to comply with the law or avoid their military obligations. Within this frame, there were people who were recruited by immigration agents who acted without any authorization. They emigrated in this way because the cost was lower but they lost the state’s support.

The law punished the outlaw recruiter but the immigrant was free to board a boat in a foreign port without protection. The ports which received the largest number of illegal immigrants were Le Hâvre, Marseille. In this link we can read the news items for the trial against Domenico Bernardini, the unauthorized emigration agent, at the Courts of Law in Civil and Criminal cases in Perugia in 1896.

Port of Naples (Napoli)

Port of Genoa (Genova)

CISEI of Genoa, established as a Research Centre on Italian Emigration, aims to constitute a database which is still largely incomplete, starting from existing archive data present in Genoa (first port of departure during the period of Italian emigration) or ports of arrival for Italian emigrants, as well as to organise data from other Italian archive sources.

- The purpose of the researches developed in this project is to create a data base that contains names and other information about people leaving the Port of Genoa, as point of departure for Italian and foreign emigrants with any destination in the world.The study takes into consideration passenger traffic coming from Italy and continental Europe in the period: 1833 – 1852. The investigation is focused on the Registers of Maritime Health kept in the Genoa State Archive .