Passport applications can be great finds, with names, birthplaces, parents, occupations, and other details. Our latest update to the U.S. Passport Applications, 1795–1925, database added almost 250,000 new records to the collection, and they include four different types of U.S. passport applications. I didn’t know there were four types until recently, when the NARA website brought me up to speed.
The majority of applications were simply regular applications made by citizens planning to travel overseas. NARA notes that the earliest applications were typically just handwritten letters, though printed forms became the norm in the mid-19th century. In 1923, at age 65, Lionel Henry Moise applied for a passport to make his first trip abroad with his wife of three years to her homeland of Australia (with stops in Tahiti and New Zealand):
Say you’re publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst and after a month or two in Paris, you decide you want to pop down to Spain. What do you do? Apply for an emergency passport. These passports were issued abroad and were good for 6 months. NARA notes that the first emergency passports were issued in 1874, and the practice was discontinued in 1926.
These can include diplomatic and other passports issued under special circumstances. For example, this update includes a collection of Passport Applications of Wives of Members of the A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Forces) in Europe, 1919–1920. Mary Josephine Moore, of Queenstown, Ireland, was applying to follow her husband, U.S. Navy Coxswain William Thomas Moore, back to Evanston, Illinois:
The AEF applications also include Affidavits in Lieu of Passports, like the one submitted by Hildegard Meyer Herzberg, who, after her marriage was in limbo between German and American citizenship:
These were passports issued from territories controlled by the U.S., including Hawaii (1916–1924), Puerto Rico (1915–1922), and the Philippines (1901–1924), where Professor G.O. Ocfenia was returning after his stay in Madison, Wisconsin:
As I’ve mentioned before, my own ancestors didn’t do much globetrotting after they got to America, but I still managed to find one great-grandfather and his son in the U.S. Passport Applications, 1795–1925, collection. Apparently they even crossed paths in Europe. With almost a quarter million new records, who knows who might be waiting there for you.