Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The 21 Day Genealogy Challenge - Day 16: Passport Applications

Records Are The Life Blood of Genealogy – Jeff Hawkins
Welcome to day sixteen of the 21 Day Genealogy Challenge!  Today our focus will be on retrieving information from passport applications.  Passports can provide wonderful information to add to our ancestors’ sources.  They may reveal vital information regarding our ancestor's current residence as well as location of birth.

Let’s take a look at my great aunt Cecilia.  She was born in Wales, but when her mother passed away in 1910, Cecilia’s father moved the family to the United States.  While I have not yet located her immigration papers, we can review her passport application to get some clues.
Passport Applications

Like the military draft records we looked at in Day Eight, the passport application contains information given directly by the recipient.  Here we see that Cecilia gives her name as Cecile.  Prior to the 1930 census this is how she presents her name, so this gives me the clue to search for her under this variation of spelling.

Passport Application for Cecile Hughes. Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.Original data - Passport Applications, 1795–1905. NARA Microfilm Publication M1372, 694 rolls. General Records Department of State, Record Group 59. National Archives, Washington, D.C
 Cecile "swears" she was born in Port Talbot, South Wales on 17 August 1897.  If this information was not known beforehand, we have a wonderful clue directing us to look at the 1901 census record in Wales for further information.   What's more, she provides us with her father's name, Daniel Hughes, and tells us that he is also from South Wales.  

Cecile, as she is listed here, gives not only the name of the ship she traveled on to America, but gives the date of her voyage.  Armed with this information we can begin to search out a manifest.
"Sailing on board the Frankonia of the Cunard Line from Liverpool, England, on or about the 3rd of October 1911..."

 She goes on to state that she lived eleven years in the United States "without interruption," in New Castle, Pennsylvania, where she applied for and became a Naturalized citizen on 7 December 1917.  This is a clue for me to start searching for Naturalization announcements in the New Castle newspaper, as well as Immigration and Naturalization records.

At the lower portion of the passport form, she states that she is going to B.I. [British Isles] to visit relatives for six months.  We can glean from this that not only is there family still residing in Wales, there is communication occurring between the Welsh side of the family and the newly transplanted American side. Cecile will depart from New York on the Aquatania, May 3rd, 1922.   I will definitely want to look at the ship's manifest and see if Cecile traveled alone.

Like the WWI/II draft records, we see our ancestor's signature at the bottom of the document.  While the military records reveal height, eye and hair colour, the passport application gives us an actual photo; granted, this one is in black and white.

I will share a little secret with you.  For years I did not see this photo.  When I accessed the passport document online, I looked at the page that appeared on the screen.  It never dawned on me to scroll to the next page.  I mean, after all, we see the signature and have all the vital information!  I had no clue that there was more to learn.  In fact, the application does include a description of the applicant: Age 24 years, 5 feet 1 inches, eyes: dark brown, hair: dark brown.

 This passport application has given quite a bit of information to go on.  Cecile's signature reveals an alternate spelling of her name.  The core of the document tells when and where she was born, as well has her father's name and place of birth.  Because Cecile specifically stated when she emigrated to America and what ship brought her there, further research can be done regarding her journey to America from Wales.  

Hopefully our walk through Cecile Hughes's Passport Application has shown you how beneficial these documents can be in our research efforts.  You can learn more about researching passport applications at the National Archives.

Here is your 5 Point Review: 
  • Look for a passport application for your ancestor. 
  • Make certain you have seen all pages of the application.
  • Review the application and note any details pertinent to your research.
  • New information should be entered into your ancestor's profile in your family tree.
  • Based on your findings, be sure to follow up your research in areas mentioned in the application, ie. location of birth, immigration or travel

Congratulations! You have completed day 16 of the 21 Day Genealogy Challenge!  

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History not shared is History forgotten!