Going to America. Travel Routes of Zeeland Emigrants R.P. Swierenga Dutch emigrants thought long and hard before deciding to go to America, and once the decision was made they were just as deliberate about planning the journey across the ocean and selecting the place of settlement. They had time to plan their journey to America because they were not forced like the Irish to flee from famine, or like the Germans to run from revolution, or like the Russian Jews to escape persecution.' Among this number were at least 25,000 Zeelanders who sailed into U.S. ports between 1835 and 1920. In the first period of emigration, 1835-1880, 14.100 left for overseas destinations, of which 96 percent settled in the U.S.A. Zeelanders made up almost one-quarter of all Dutch emigrants in these years. Between 1881 and 1900 11,300 more Zeeuwen emigrated, with 87 percent going to the U.S.A. From 1901 to 1920 another 8,000 Zeelanders departed overseas, but less than two-thirds went to the U.S.A. In the important early years from 1835 to 1880, the province of Zeeland ran ked first in overseas emigration on a per capita basis and in total numbers. Zeeland's overseas emigration rate was 841 per 100,000 population, or more than twice that of any other province. Zeeland also led in per capita emigration in the period 1881 to 1893, although Friesland and Groningen surpassed it in total numbers.2 Before crossing the great ocean immigrants had to make plans and consider a number of key questions. Which port cities were most conveniently located, taking account of fares and the quality of service offered by the various shipping companies? What was the most favorable time of year to sail, considering weather conditions and also the prospects for finding work upon arrival? Was it advantageous to travel in large groups, which offered greater security but also the inevitable delays and loss of control over travel arrangements? What shipping companies had the best reputation for reliability, cleanliness, and service? The answers to these and many similar questions about the immigrant traffic can be found in official records and reports, personal travel diaries, and in letters sent back to family and friends about the journey across. The letters and diaries portray individual experiences and reveal the pathos of leaving, the routine of the ocean pas sage, and the exhilaration of arrival in the land of promise. A federal law required ship captains beginning in 1820 to submit under oath to American customs officials detai led lists of arriving passengers.3 The ship manifests reported the standard biographi cal facts on each immigrant but, unfortunately, not the municipality of origin.4 The Netherlands government, however, compiled annual lists of overseas emigrants from each municipality for the years 1835 to 1880, which I have linked with the ship pas senger manifests to provide the detailed information needed to answer the questions posed earlier. Ships and Ports of Embarkation The immigrant trade was clearly tied to the normal lines of transatlantic commerce. The early vessels were mainly freighters that carried raw American produce such as cotton to Europe and on the return trip 'human freight' provided a paying ballast. In TRAVEL ROUTES OF ZEELAND EMIGRANTS 19

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Nehalennia | 1997 | | pagina 21