Methods of Travel

The major French emigration ports were:

Cherbourg Cherbourg, France, ca. 1900
Library of Congress

Le Havre was France’s most important emigration port. Due to the relatively small number of French emigrants, this port was mainly of importance for emigrants from other European countries. During the 19th century, the majority of French and many southern German emigrants departed through the port of Le Have. In 1841, it was the home port of 32 steam vessels. In 1847 the city had a connection to the French train railway system.

During the 19th century, the port of Marseille became the French Empire’s most important port. This was mainly as a result of the French colonization in Africa and Indochina. Particularly the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 strengthened this position. In terms of emigration, this port mainly handled emigrants from the south of France as well as from other Mediterranean countries.

Some German vessels entered the port of Cherbourg among others for a last stopover for picking up fresh water and food before crossing the Atlantic. Oftentimes more passengers joined the ship. Other sailings originated from this port, too.

Bordeaux was another important port in terms of French overseas emigration.

On a smaller scale, Nantes gained importance particularly during the 18th century due to its ideal location in the Loire Delta. This was mainly due to the flourishing trade with slaves.

The port of Dunkerque was mainly served by English vessel of the Lloyds cruise line; La Rochelle was used by the Pacific Steam Navigation Company.

Other than that, some French emigrants chose to travel via Liverpool in England, Anvers in Belgium or Spain.

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