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Source Information

Ancestry.com. Jewish Transmigration Bureau Deposit Cards, 1939-1954 (JDC) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.
Original data: Jewish Transmigration Bureau Files and Index. New York: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives. This data provided in partnership with American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

About Jewish Transmigration Bureau Deposit Cards, 1939-1954 (JDC)

Historical Background:

The Transmigration Bureau was a non-profit service agency established in New York City on June 21, 1940 by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in order to deal with emigration of Jews from Germany, Austria, former Czechoslovakia, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. In 1940, JDC was assisting refugees in transit in more than forty countries in eastern and Western Europe, Asia and Latin America. The Transmigration Bureau’s primary purpose was to accept monetary deposits made by American friends and family to pay the full or partial travel costs of the Jews emigrating from the European countries. In the same month that the Transmigration Bureau was established, JDC's European headquarters transferred from Nazi-occupied Paris to neutral Lisbon. JDC leased every available ship to enable the thousands of refugees arriving in Lisbon to proceed to safe havens in North and South America, and many of the émigrés found on the Transmigration Bureau Deposit Cards left from that port.

Because an emigrant could not purchase steamship tickets in local currency, it was necessary in practically all cases that the ticket must be purchased either by an American friend or relative, or with JDC funds placed at the disposal of the local Jewish emigration committee located nearest the place of residence of the prospective emigrant.

While the exact amount of money needed to cover transportation costs varied with each individual case and country of origin, the average cost as of June 1941, at the height of the Transmigration Bureau’s activities, was approximately USD $450 per person, itemized as follows:

Steamship Passage (approximate)...................$350.00
Embarkation Fee.............................................19.50
U.S. Head Tax.................................................8.00
Maintenance at Lisbon (10 days average)............10.00
Board money on ship........................................10.00
Rail fare Spanish Border to Lisbon.......................42.00
Cable Charge...................................................2.50
Balance to apply to possible additional cables........8.00

The funds, received from an American depositor, were held in escrow by the Transmigration Bureau until such time as the European emigrant was able to secure a steamship reservation and acquire all necessary travel documentation, including transit visas and entry permits. In some cases, local Jewish emigration committees provided technical assistance and consultation to prospective emigrants.

About the Database:

The database contains deposit cards for approximately 60,000 individuals who emigrated from the above mentioned European countries mostly between the years 1940 and 1942, though the cards document some travel being completed as late as 1956. Emigrants were destined for various countries, though the majority of cases came to the United States by steamship via Lisbon or Yokohama, and passage to Shanghai was arranged via the Transiberian Railroad. The cards were pre-printed forms, not all of them identical in format. Some cards document amounts paid by the depositor to the Transmigration Bureau on behalf of the beneficiary or ship passenger, as well as the ship name and date of embarkation. Other cards contain only names of depositors and beneficiaries associated with a specific case number. This collection may not cover all cases managed by the Transmigration Bureau, as some cards may have been lost or destroyed.

Information recorded on the deposit cards includes:

  • Name of depositor(s)

  • Name of beneficiary(ies) or Passenger

  • Last residence (Depositor)

  • Last residence (Beneficiary)

  • Case number

  • Date and amounts of deposits or refunds

  • Ship name

  • Embarkation date

  • Disembarkation date

  • Country of destination

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