Ancestors who traveled abroad may now show up in subscription site Ancestry.com’s <Ancestry.com > database of 1.5 million passport applications dating from 1795 to 1925.
The applications can include your ancestor’s birthplace and year, occupation, hometown, length of uninterrupted residence in the United States, date and court of naturalization, reason for travel and physical description.
Ancestry.com’s record images some from microfilm in National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) <archives.gov> record group 59, General Records of the Department of state. The US government has issued passports to citizens traveling abroad since 1789. But except for short periods during the Civil War and World War I, passports weren’t required until 1941. A non-naturalized immigrant couldn’t get a passport unless he’d formally declared his intention to become a citizen.
According to NARA’s Web site, 95 percent of mid-19th century passport applicants were men. A man’s wife and children traveling with him were listed on his passport. Likewise, children traveling with only their mother were on her documents. Later in the 1800s, women obtained passports in their own names more often. By 1923, they constituted more than 40 percent of applicants.