Posted by Paul Rawlins on January 31, 2011 in Collections

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:

Insular Possessions

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.


  1. Robin

    I have a question maybe someone is knowledgeable enough to answer. Were merchant marine Americans that put into ports all over the world required to have passports? I have to grand uncles that I have crew manifest lists for in various locations (1918-1923) but do not find passports for them. Thanks to whomever has the answer.

  2. Edward Fields

    I traveled in the Soviet Union in the early 1970’s as a contractor with the U.S. Information Agency. Employees of the Agency had different passports. Their’s had maroon front and back covers instead of my passport’s standard navy blue color. It may be that this was the only difference, but I’m not sure about that.

  3. Caroline Mohr

    Some agencies still do have different colors. Employees of the Centers for Disease Control have official passports that are red in color, unlike the standard navy blue color.

  4. Gayle Mayo

    I have made extensive use of the passports online at, because a number of my relatives traveled frequently, especially between the US and Mexico, but also to other places. The passport applications frequently do provide a lot of useful information. One thing that frustrates me about the online records is that many of the images show the last page of the previous application, which frequently includes a photo, and the first page of the application of my relative. I have not found a way to get to the next page, which many times would include a photo of my relative. Does anyone know how to do this?

  5. Paul Rawlins


    There should be a small button toward the top right of your screen that says Go. Next to it are two arrow buttons. These let you go to the page directly preceding or following the one you are looking at.

    Does this solve your problem?


    Good question. I don’t really know. I’ll ask around here, and if I found out anything, I’ll let you know.

  6. Geoff

    Hi Robin,

    Those of us who have served at sea will know that when we put into ports all over the world we would present our Seaman’s Record Book and/or Certificate of Continuous Discharge Book use – these would be held by the Master and presented on arrival to the local Immigration Officers who then would give “passes” for going ashore. These books I mention belong to the individual and amazingly I still have mine and my Fathers! Hope that helps.

  7. Colleen

    How come the Emergency Passport application looks original on here and the other passport application looks like a photocopy?

  8. Lila

    My grandmother applied for a US passport for travel from Germany to the US in 1925/1926. Since she made the trip, it must have been issued. She had an extra copy of her passport picture, which I have. On the back it says that this is the one (photo) that went to “Waschington. I assume this is the Emergency passport described in the article. I can’t find her in the Applications, and wonder if Emergency passports issued abroad are in the database.

  9. Paul Rawlins


    I’m not sure if I’m seeing what you’re seeing, though there could be a difference in quality based on the original microfilm.


    We added quite a few emergency passport applications with this update. However, right now our database cutoff is 1925, so the record you want might fall outside the scope of the records or otherwise be part of a collection we haven’t had access to yet.

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