Getting a digital or print copy of an ancestor’s passport application can provide some great information. Of course, not all individuals got a passport during their lifetime, only if they were traveling from USA to a foreign country. So unless you know for sure a relative never traveled overseas, you do need to check if there was an application for a passport completed. Sometimes an application for a passport was filled out, even a passport issued, but the person never did leave the country and travel overseas. If a person went overseas because they were serving in the military, they had a military ID but if they went to other places outside their military base to travel they did need a regular passport.
All types of information can be found on a passport. The type of data does vary over the years. One item very important would be about the person’s father, his name, when and where he was born. Or information on the person’s spouse and children. The later years also have a photo of the individual or of a couple traveling together.
For passport application for 1795 to early 1925, the online site FamilySearch.org has free scanned images of passports from October 1795 to March 1925; some 3,038,874 images. In the search you can place the full name or just a surname. On the list that appears it will provide also where they were born and where they lived when applying for a passport, this is helpful to find the right person. Click the camera icon to the right to call up the scanned application. Always check the next page, many had two or three pages on FamilySearch.org.
About 95 percent of mid-19th century passport applicants were men, many women also traveled overseas. If the applicant was to be accompanied by his wife, children, servants, or other females under his protection, their names, ages, and relationship to the applicant were stated on the passport application. One passport was then issued to cover the whole group. Passport applications by women in their own names became more frequent in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and by 1923 women constituted over 40 percent of passport applicants. Passports were issued for a specific period of time, about 2 years. So there could be multiple applications over the years.
To get a copy of passports applications for ancestors issued from April 1925 to present these are not online but must be ordered. Paper copies of passport applications, covering April 1, 1925 to the present, can be ordered by mail from the Department of State, Research & Liasion Branch, FOIA Officer, 44132 Mercure Circle, PO Box 1227, Sterling, VA 20166
Passport records in this time frame for a third-party person are processed under the Freedom of Information Act. Make a request in writing stating if the copy is your own passport application, or if it is for genealogical purposes of a relative (so state how you are related).
Photos: David Musselman in 1849; James W. Bixler in 1909 ; Arno B. Luckhardt and family in 1924-three pages.
Related FamilyTree.com genealogy blogs:
< Return To Blog