Prior to 1755 the Portuguese sent prisoners, degredados (exiles) or indesejáveis (undesirables) to its colonies, and prior to 1808 the Portuguese limited immigration to Brazil to Portuguese nationals. After 1808, Brazil opened its ports to international commerce and began to encourage immigration.

It was not until the law of 1871, when the Lei do Ventre Livre (Law of Free Birth) freed all newborns of slaves, and the law of 1888, Lei Áurea (Golden Law), which freed all slaves, that many Europeans saw the opportunity to immigrate and better themselves in a nonslavery environment. These laws forced the plantation owners (fazendeiros) to look to other sources for laborers. Therefore, in 1890s they organized the Sociedade Promotora de Imigração (Society for the Promotion of Emigration) to promote immigration.

From 1808 to 1940 immigrants came to Brazil from over 50 nations all over the world; most were from Portugal, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Japan, Russia, France, Spain, Turkey, the British Isles, and other South American countries. This wave of immigration was caused by political and financial conditions and by work opportunities on the plantations. Many settled in the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Rio de Janeiro.

After the United States Civil War, many Southerners emigrated to Brazil. By 1872, 4,000 Southerners had emigrated to Amazonas, Espírito Santo, and São Paulo, establishing rural colonies. A few of these survived, such as Americana in São Paulo, but most failed, and the settlers returned to the United States. One source for these emigrants is listed under the “Cemeteries” section of this outline. Other sources at the Family History Library include:

The Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, c1995. (FHL book 981.61 H2c; computer number 0736070.)

Griggs, William Clark. The Elusive Eden: Frank McMullan’s Confederate Colony in Brazil. Austin: University of Texas Press, c1987. (FHL book 981 F2gw; computer number 0475914.)

Most immigrants to Brazil arrived at one of three ports in Brazil: Rio de Janeiro, Santos (port city for São Paulo), or Salvador. As immigrants arrived to the port of Rio de Janeiro, they were registered by the Agência Central de Imigração (Central Agency for Immigration). Those disembarking in the port of Rio de Janeiro were taken to the Ilha das Flores (Isle of Flores) and processed at the Casa dos Imigrantes (House of Emigrants). Those destined for São Paulo continued on to Santos. After 1854, many ships went directly to Santos. The port authorities who registered and handled immigrants in Brazil were known as the Hospedaria de Imigrantes (Hostelry of Immigrants).

The Family History Library has microfilm copies of immigration records from each of these ports. These records can be found in the Family History Library Catalog under:


Rio de Janeiro

In the Arquivo Nacional (National Archive), in Rio de Janeiro, there is a large collection of immigration records on cards in nearly 30 drawers. These cards have information on Portuguese immigrants to Brazil. The National Archive in Brazil compiled a supplement volumes to this collection:

Registro de Estrangeiros e Entradas de Portugueses do Registro de Estrangeiros nas Capitanias, 1777–1819 (Register of the Foreigners and Emigrants from the Portuguese Register of Foreigners in the Captaincies, 1777–1819). Rio de Janeiro: Arquivo Nacional.

Registro de estrangeiros, 1808–1842 (Register of foreigners, 1808–1842). 4 vols. (From series: Publicações do Arquivo Nacional, vols. 46, 49–50, 54.) Rio de Janeiro: Arquivo Nacional, Ministério da Justiça e Negócios Interiores, 1961–1964. (FHL book 981 W2b; film 1090236 items 1–3 and 1162487 item 4; computer number 0022266.)

Another book from the National Archives in Brazil lists emigration records of French residents in Rio de Janeiro:

Os franceses residentes no Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1820 (The French Residents in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1820). Rio de Janeiro: Arquivo Nacional, 1960. (FHL book 981.53/R1 F2b; film 1102990 item 7 or 0897926 item 2; computer number 0023618.)

The original records of the Hospedaria de Imigrantes (Hostelry of Immigrants) in Rio de Janeiro are at the National Archives, in Rio de Janeiro. Records from this office have been microfilmed by the Family History Library and include arrival lists, passports, lists of ships, and so on:

Registros de imigrantes (Register of Immigrants). Arquivo Nacional no Rio de Janeiro, N.p., (1981). (FHL numbers 1285633–1285704; computer number 0183484.)

A published list of Brazilian immigrants from North America through Rio de Janeiro is:

Oliveira, Betty Antunes de. Movimento de passageiros norte-americanos no porto do Rio de Janeiro, 1865–1890 (Movement of North American Passengers in the Port of Rio de Janeiro, 1865–1890). Rio de Janeiro: B. A. de Oliveira, 1982. (FHL book 981.53/R1 W3o; film 1162490; computer number 0460038.)

Many records prior to 1940 of naturalization and citizenship are in the National Archives. Records created after 1940 are in the office of the Minister of Justice:

Ministério da Justiça
Serviço de Comunicações
Rua México 128 - Centro
20031-142 Rio de Janeiro, RJ
For an address of the National Archives, in Rio de Janeiro, see the “Archives and Libraries” section of this outline.

Santos (São Paulo)

Santos was the main port for the city of São Paulo. The original records of the Hospedaria de Imigrantes (Hostelry of Immigrants) from 1854 to 1885 in São Paulo are at the Arquivo da Secretaria da Promoção Social (Archive of the Secretary of Social Progress).

Copies of indexes for 1882 to 1925 and the original records for 1882 to 1920 of the Hospedaria de Imigrantes have been microfilmed by the Family History library and can be researched on film:

Matrícula dos imigrantes (Registrations of immigrants). São Paulo: Arquivo da Secretaria da Promoção Social, N.p., (1981). (FHL film numbers 1285566–1285623; computer number 0130816.)

The address for the São Paulo Hospedaria (Hostelry) is:

Central Histórico de Imigrante
Rua Visconde de Parnaíba, 1316 - Brás
03044-001 São Paulo, SP
Tel.: 01-55-292-1022 (Ramal 112)

Salvador (State of Bahia)

The Family History Library has copies of the record of immigrants to the port of Salvador from 1839 to 1854. These records were filmed from original records in the Public Archive of the State of Bahia (Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia). These can be found at the Family History Library under:

Títulos de residência a estrangeiros (Titles of residence of foreigners). Bahia: Público do Estado da Bahia, n.d. (1983). (FHL numbers 1366174–1366178; computer number 0223420.)

In the “Historical Section” of the Bahia state archive there are also six volumes of passport records (passaportes e guias) from 1718 to 1822.

Source: ... mmigration

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