If you have a passport photo, it is no doubt on the same level as your driver’s license photo — poor and unflattering at best! Of course if that was the only image of you at a certain period of time or the only image at all, it would be priceless to a relative who did not have any photo of you. This is the case with thousands of passport images that are available with Ancestry.com.
You just might be able to secure an image of a great aunt, a second cousin or your grandfather that you never knew existed. For decades these images have been on the passport applications held by the U. S. Federal Government. Those applications then were placed on microfilm by the National Archives and Records Administration and now the digital images are on the Ancestry.com database, a fee-based subscription, which does offer a 14-day free trial.
What you learn is that passports were not even required of U. S. citizens to travel overseas until around 1918. A passport application itself contains a good deal of information. Besides a photo image which was started about 1915, there is birth place and date of the person applying, where they lived their father’s birth and place, spouse’s information and if and when they immigrated to the United States. There are two pages of information for each application.
The Ancestry.com database titled U. S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 has a search box allowing you to search for any ancestors. Even if you are not sure whether a relative traveled overseas, it is worth checking out. However, the database does only cover to 1925.
A reminder, it was not just the wealthy who traveled overseas, businessmen traveled, immigrants to the U. S. would make a return trip to their homelands and even those who worked for wealthy travelers such as nannies would need a passport.
The photos for a passport were not all individual ones like today. A husband and wife could be on the same photo because they shared a passport, as did a mother and her children. If you locate a passport for a relative you first have the information page. Go then to the next page (the back page) and if a photo was done, it would be placed there. Again not the most flattering, but at least a photo.
If an ancestor is not on this database, check with some relatives, see if there is old passport packed away in an attic, long forgotten. It just might be what you are looking for.