The Passenger Lists in the Port of Trieste

Aleksej Kalc

The study of spatial mobility of human populations has been traditionally encountering the problem of availability and quality of statistical sources. The period of great migrations in the course of the 19th century coincided with the development of modern state statistics, which eventually created an indispensable numerical groundwork for the study of this exceptional period of human migrations. However, the direct and indirect numerical presentations of administration and other statistics are, in spite of their thorough break-down according to various parameters and due to the aggregated form, still insufficiently indicative and can therefore only partially satisfy the needs of investigators studying the inner diversity, incentives, course, socio-demographic and other characteristics of migration movements, as well as migration models and strategies from the aspect of duration of migration periods, re-migration, the role of professional, kinship and social networks, microeconomic aspects, etc.

In the search for a more suitable study of the above mentioned characteristics, more interest has been shown in the last few decades as far as transoceanic emigration is concerned in the police, customs and ship passenger lists in various European ports, as well as for analogous material piling up during the entry of emigrants into foreign countries. This kind of individual records, which have brought increasingly longer lists of details for every emigrant, constitute rich material that can be used for original analyses and comparisons. This documentation is very precious and is even more directly offering itself to genealogists who were in fact the first who began to make use of it long before it attracted – thanks also to the development of computer science - the attention of social historians and other emigration researchers. Preliminary work for the utilisation of this kind of records is at present thus taking place at two often interactive levels. On the one hand, recording of sources, making microfilms of them and often their publishing, usually adapted for the needs of the "searchers of roots", in a book form or on the Internet, and on the other hand a thorough historical, demographic, socio-economic and anthropologic study of emigration flows. Among its most precious fruits is certainly the monographic study by Kristian Hvidt of the Danish emigration to the States during 1869-1914, based on police records of the emigration traffic through Copenhagen. The work is considered classical in the sphere of emigration historiography.

In spite of their basic common denominator, the emigration lists constitute a very diverse material as far as its quality is concerned, of course subject to their specific purposes as well as to various periods of time and manner of their origin. If, for example, we have a look at the States' entry lists that were made within the framework of the American customs service and later on within the framework of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service and constitute the most complete continued records of people immigrating to the States, we can see how in compliance with the immigration policy and the need for an increasingly greater control over the mass of newcomers the wide range of details for their personal identification and wider characterisation was being enriched. The applicability of this source is therefore very diverse and let us emphasise that even as far as the most detailed records are concerned it can be very problematic already in its very roots. The difficult reading of handmade records, diverse criteria, accidental and systematic errors, inconsistencies and deficiencies in filling in the forms, and other indistinctnesses are only some of the obstacles encountered by the user, particularly if tackling the material from the statistical-analytical aspect and is liable to fulfil the criteria of the data base's homogeneity. Their mastery demands – as underlined by Robert Swierenga – a thorough study of the source's history, development of a critical approach to the estimation of the records' authenticity, their conditioning with subjectivity and prejudices of the record makers, development of methodology and suitable programmes for digitalisation and its adjustment itself.

The lists of emigrants travelling to North and South Americas prior to WW1 via Trieste were used, like similar documentation in other European ports of emigration, for control and statistical recording of the emigrant traffic. They were made in the offices of the Trieste Port and Maritime Health Administration Offices (K.u.k. Hafen- und Sanitätskapitanat, I.r. Capitanato di Porto e Sanità Marittima) , which was from the opening of regular emigrant routes from Trieste in 1903 and 1904 liable to report every single emigration and return transport to the Maritime Government in Trieste (K.u.k. Seebehörde, I.r. Governo Marittimo), and the Maritime Government in turn to the Ministry of Trade, Ministry of the Interior and some other central authorities. To them, the Maritime Government was liable to send, on regular basis, annual accounts of the migration transit. For years the reports contained only summarised data on provincial or state origin and on travel destinations. A more detailed account was introduced only in the last period prior to WW1, which means that lists and personal data for every single emigrant are available only for the 1912-1914 period. This material is today kept in the Austrian State Archives in Vienna, i. e. in the emigration documents (Auswanderungsakten) of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Trade, while a specimen of the 1914 lists is kept also by the State Archives in Trieste in the Maritime Government's collection.

The history of the Trieste transoceanic emigration lists is still not utterly clear. Due to the almost complete loss of the Trieste Port Administration's collection for the above mentioned period and the gaps in the collection of the Maritime Government, we were unable to reconstruct fairly accurately its development, the same as the procedure according to which the lists were made. Most probably, however, they were compiled on the basis of the data handed over by various shipping lines. Namely, the latter kept record of all their passengers and prepared the lists that they were liable to hand over in the ports of entry. The delay with which the authorities began to make individual records, however, is linked with the difficulties in the introduction of port statistics in the Port of Trieste.

The opening of the Trieste port of emigration was a milestone in the history of the Austrian transoceanic emigration and in the development of the Austrian emigration statistics. While till then the Austrian emigration currents were directed exclusively through foreign, particularly North European ports and while even the statistics, in view of the failure of a direct register of emigrants at the administrative-political level, was based on the data "borrowed" from various statistical services of foreign countries, the establishment of a national port of emigration at last enabled a direct control and registration of emigrant traffic in accordance with one's own needs and criteria. For the year 1904, the Central Statistical Commission in Vienna thus drew up an ambitious plan for the introduction of a statistical system according to the highest standard of that time. The system envisaged registering both individuals and families according to criteria, which would enable a direct comparison with the existing materials and results of censuses. Among the items providing an insight into the morphology of emigration flows, the forms also included, in addition to the name, surname, gender, age, marital status and profession, family relations with travelling groups (head of the family member, individual), level of literacy, religion, type of emigration (temporary or permanent), province and political district of birth, province, political district and municipality of the last place of residence, country of destination and language of communication (Umgagssprache). The purpose of these items was not only to establish the geographical origin and nationality of emigrants, but also served as indicators of previous internal migration.

The plan, however, was not implemented, for the draft was withdrawn from the Houses of Parliament, as " ... the Ministry of the Interior had not legal means to be able to demand such detailed data." The Austrian Central Statistical Commission thus prepared the statistics of transoceanic emigration via the Port of Trieste on the basis of summary reports of various shipping lines, travel agencies and agencies for the despatch of emigrants, reports received from the Trieste police via the Trieste Lieutenancy (K.u.k. Statthalterei in Triest; I. r. Luogotenenza in Trieste). These data, however, were limited only to emigrants' gender and province or country of origin.

All the time, the Central Statistical Commission in Vienna was striving to introduce the 1904 statistical plan at least in its contracted form. This is why it again and again suggested to the Ministry of the Interior that data on marital status, age, last place of residence and profession should be gathered at least for the Austrian emigrants, particularly from 1907 onwards, when a regular line was opened for South American countries (apart from lines for the States) and when emigration traffic was becoming increasingly heavier after the critical year of 1908. It seems, however, that the Ministry did not consent to these requests, as the problem of emigration statistics was to be solved within the framework of the emigration act being prepared at that time. The act, however, was never passed, and a tighter control of emigration traffic through Trieste was introduced, as already said, in 1912 on the initiative of the Ministry of Trade, after the latter assumed, in 1910, competency over the emigration statistics when the competencies over emigration issues were decided to be shared out with the Ministry of the Interior.

Detailed list of migration movements through the Port of Trieste includes only emigration traffic, while return traffic was still presented by the Port authorities for each ship merely summarily per separate countries or countries to which the emigrants were returning. In compliance with at that time valid criterion for a legal definition of a transoceanic emigrant, who enjoyed a special protection and whose travel from one continent to another followed some very special bureaucratic and hygienic procedures, in both kinds of lists only the so-called steerage passengers were taken into consideration, or passengers travelling third class, which was equivalent to between decks. The number of class passengers, however, was shown separately and was excluded from the emigration statistics, although there were certainly emigrants among them as well.

Detailed emigrant passenger lists include primarily passengers from Austria and Hungary (shown by provinces), then those from other countries. The lists include the following columns:

Apart from these details, date of departure, name of ship and shipping line are written on the front page of each passenger list.

The material is therefore of a lesser quality than it would have been on the basis of lists as per proposed plan of the 1904 port statistics. Details about religion, literacy, intended permanent or temporary emigration and notably about place of birth as well as language of communication would contribute some important elements towards the profile of the emigration currents and for their association with the place of origin. An important deficiency is absence of information on family ties amongst emigrants.

Use of the Trieste lists can be, the same as any other similar material, double, on the one hand for the needs of genealogical research, although with fairly limited possibilities if we think of the short temporal frame of the source and – as far as the Slovenes are concerned – of the relatively moderate presence of Slovene emigrants on Trieste transoceanic lines. The search for roots and data about ancestors can be to a much greater extent satisfied by records in the immigrant countries, where suitable services are already available as well as some practical instruments for their consultation.

This material can be of much greater use as foundation for the statistical-analytical research. If we again turn to the Slovene case, then the Slovenes who emigrated through Trieste constitute about a third of the Slovene transoceanic emigration of that time as well as a representative profile of the last phase of the Slovene transoceanic emigration prior to WW1. The extent of database for these purposes can be substantially increased by considering gender that is revealed by the passengers' first names, while the information about the last place of residence can be arranged in greater units (council, judicial district, district board). In spite of the absence of some explicit statements it is also possible to extract, to a certain extent, information on family emigration, in view of the fact that the family aggregates are stated in the following sequence: husband (pater familias), wife, children (from the oldest down to the youngest), grandparents and other individual members of the inner family.

The detailed passenger lists of emigrants were made on printed and at times typewritten forms. The front page of every list carries the title: Ausweis über die Auswanderung via Triest nach Nord/Süd-Amerika mit dem am [date] abgegangenen Dampfer der Austro-Americana/ Cunard Line [name of ship]. The lists of transports on the lines for Canada that were in 1913 and 1914 maintained by the Austrian-Trieste company Austro-Americana (Vereinigte österreichische Schiffahrtaktiengesellschaft vormals Austro-Americana) and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company used the same front page, except that the word Canada was added with a typewriter next to the crossed out printed destination (America) and the postscript Canadian Pacific Railway Company next to the shipping lines. The front page, which also served as a cover, is followed by numbered pages with the following columns: consecutive number (Fortlaufende Zah), surname and name (Vor- und Zuname), age (Alter), marital status (Familienstand), profession and post held (Beruf und Stellung im Berufe), place of last residence (Letzter Wohnort), citizenship (Staatsangehörigkeit) and port of destination (Bestimmungshafen). Backside of the front page-cover contains tabulated summary (Rekapitulation) per provinces or countries of origin (Herrkunftsland) in view of the port – travel destination (Bestimmung). In the column marked Note (Anmerkung) the number of "class" passengers (Klassenpassagiere) is also stated.

The original draft of the form made by the Maritime Government envisaged a greater number and somewhat different formulation of columns. Apart from those stated above, these were: place of birth (gebürtig aus), administrative authority (zuständig nach), religion, province or country, from which passenger was emigrating (Herkunftsland), port of destination (Einschiffungshafen) and country of destination (Bestimmugsland). In the final version, the first five were omitted, the columns profession and post held were merged into one, year of birth and country of destination were transformed into age and port of destination. The column province or country of origin was deleted as well, while its details were preserved with classification of emigrants according to provinces (for Austro-Hungarian empire) and states. These changes were made partially for a better overview of the matter and an easier counting, but especially due to the great amount of work needed to compile such lists. This is indirectly confirmed by the complaints of the Port Administration's clerks who hardly managed, especially in 1913 when the emigration traffic through Trieste more than doubled, to perform the task, in spite of the reduction in the number of columns.

The lists were typed after the steamers' departure as shown at the end of each record, which means that they reflect true transports. A copy was sent monthly to the following institutions: Ministry of Trade, Ministry of the Interior, Central Statistical Commission, Directorate of Central Warehouses in Trieste (K.u.k. Lagerhäuser in Triest), and to the Hungarian Emigration Commissariat in Budapest. Summarised monthly reports were regularly sent also to the German Consulate in Trieste. In 1912, the records were compiled in the Trieste Port and Maritime Health Administration (Capitaneria di Porto e Sanità marittima), while the Maritime Government was taking care of copying and delivering the copies to the above mentioned institutions. In order to hasten the work and to disburden the Maritime Government's office, where two persons were fully employed merely for typing and collating the copies, the entire work was to be transferred in the ensuing year (at least as we can gather from the available documents) to the Port Administration, where all copies were to be made simultaneously with the aid of copying paper.

Classification of passengers as per provinces or countries of origin followed the well-established sequence: Austrian-Illyrian Littoral, Dalmatia, Carniola, Carinthia, Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Galicia, Bukovina, Tyrol, Styria, Bosna, Herzegovina, Hungary, Croatia, Montenegro, Russia, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Romania, Italy, Serbia. In the end, passengers from other countries were added. The same was the classification of the summarised statistical presentation (Rekapitulation) on the backside of the cover.

The columns in the lists were regularly filled in, and only exceptionally a detail or two were missing. The typology of plain errors is double: errors made during typing names of passengers and places, and classification errors. Apart from misprints, errors can be found particularly in Slav names, mainly due to the lack of suitable typewriting letters. The Slovene names were thus systematically typed with letters c, s and z instead of è, š and ž respectfully. Something similar can be said of other nationalities (for some, there was also the question of transliteration) and names of places. These appear in different linguistic versions (e.g. Postojna and Adelsberg) and at times in discordant combination with provinces (e.g. Sesana – Krain instead of Küstenland) or nationality, which can be most often attributed to the repetition of the same detail in the column "country and citizenship" with the use of quotation marks. The same reasons caused the discordance between gender and profession, when profession of a man was written in female form (Arbeiterin, Feldarbeiterin) or vice versa, and between age and marital status (e.g. age: 12 years, marital status: married). Part of these errors can be eliminated through comparison with accompanying details.

At last but not least, a special problem is the question of informative value or quality of sources. In this respect let us state just a couple of general observations that offer themselves already when superficially examining the lists. First of all, the indicativeness of separate columns is very different, on the one hand due to the use of too general descriptive terms and, on the other hand, due to the ambiguous title of the columns or as a result of negligent filling in. This counts particularly for profession or social status: the passengers with peasantry status (and these were in a substantial majority) were for example classified (without a detailed distinction per various categories) only as farmers or agrarian workers. On top of it all, the use of these denominations was at times very inconsistent as well. Very unclear are also the criteria of stating profession for passengers under 15 years of age and the criteria regarding the classification of places, where it seems that the names are at times meant as actual places of the last residence and at times as administrative authorities.