A. E. Jordan
Phyllis Kramer firstname.lastname@example.org wrote in response to a question >from
David Lewin You might send a NARA inquiry to determine if they have the
NARA (as does Ancestry and FamilySearch) only has the passport applications up
to the early 1920s and after that they remain at the Passport Bureau which is
part of the US Department of State.
Up until the 20th century passports were for the most part not required
although people did obtain them as a form of identification and proof of
citizenship when traveling aboard. The actual rules varied at different times
which I believe NARA and the State Department detail.
Looking at the applications they are numbered consecutively as opposed to
starting over each year. I am not sure if those numbers translate across to
the actual passport but the ones that NARA has have been named indexed and are
searchable on those sites. The applications that NARA has on microfilm are
identical to the ones that are online today. (Many years ago during one of
the Washington DC conferences I went to NARA and got my great great uncle's
applications off the microfilm long before they went online and after that
looked at the online versions years later.)
What some of you may be interested to learn though is that passport
applications are public record if you can confirm that the person is deceased
and a relative. I sent away for an received both my great grandfather and my
grandparents' passport applications >from the 1920s and 1930s. I had to
provide proof they were deceased and in the case of my great grandfather I
sent a New York Times listing for his estate that mentioned my father which
they seemed to accept as proof.
Since I did it years ago my experience might be slightly out of date but it
was a very laborious process. As I recall you could apply directly to the
Passport Bureau or via the State Department and someone told me going via
State was better. For my great grandfather I gave the dates, where he lived
and his basic details and I got the dreaded "not found" letter. Later I was
able to find his return to the USA on the passenger list and the clerks had
written in a number with a "pp" notation which turned out to be his passport
number. I resubmitted the request highlighting a printout of the passenger
list and I got it. As I recall it took almost a year and even then I had
to work with a very nice woman at the State Department who pushed the
Passport Bureau to fulfill the request. A year after that I got a second
copy in the mail >from the Passport Department as well.
The applications show things such as their name, the date of birth, where
they were born, their naturalization if they were foreign born, current
address and their plans for the trip aboard. I had hoped my great
grandfather would be specific to a town where be was born but he was not.
He actually had filed twice for a passport for two different trips he made
to Europe in the 1920s. The applications in this period have a photo too.
I do not recall ever seeing any passport files at the New York Public Library
and I do not believe they could have anything different than what is today on
I submit this because I consider passports one of those overlooked resources
that few people use in their research.