21 October 2006

RESOURCE: Gold Rush Jews

The California Gold Rush lured many Jewish immigrants to a new life. Now there’s an easy way to see if your ancestors were among them.

This site contains passenger lists for ships and wagon trains traveling to California from 1848-1873. The lists come from microfilm of the New York Daily Times, the New York Herald, the New Orleans Picayune, the Panama Star, the Panama Herald, and the Boston Daily Evening Transcript.

A linked database, The Maritime Heritage Project, offers a search engine for more than 30,000 ships, captains and passengers.

Announcements of ship arrivals provide a glimpse into life in the burgeoning city of San Francisco. A quick search for some common Jewish names among passengers arriving in San Francisco produced these results among many others:

July 6, 1850, SS Panama from Panama: J. A. Cohen, A. Jacobs, J. Levin, J. Levy.

Aug. 15, 1850, SS Northerner from Panama: M. Cohen, Nathan Cohen, Mrs. Jacoby, J. Levi, Charles Levy, Nathan Shalissel.

April 3, 1851 Steamship Oregon from Panama: J. Abrams, Miss Adler, Mr. Adler, H. Berliner, M. Cohen, a possible Nusbaum, M. Raphelsky, E. Wolfe, M. Wolfe.

In addition to passenger lists, the newspaper accounts also include other interesting details. For example, a Sept. 7, 1853 article noted that a San Francisco store called Brown & Keyes had "received a rich and extensive assortment of gents clothing and furnishing goods of latest styles and papers in vogue from the New York market," including frock coats, dress coats, business suits, business black doeskin pants, fancy French cassimere pants; buff cassimere vests, white and buff Marseilles vests, white and buff gauntlets.

For more West Coast shipping information or research requests, contact The J. Porter Shaw San Francisco Maritime Library.

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