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Emergency Passport Applications at Various U.S. Consular Posts, 1915-1926

U.S. National Archives, Record Group 84 (RG 84), State Department Foreign Service Posts

· Introduction
· Database fields
· Obtaining Records
· Additional Information
· Search the Database

Introduction:

This database consists of an index to Jewish names among the applications for Emergency Passports made at various U.S. Consular Posts in the period of 1915-1926.  The books of applications are part of the U.S. National Archivesí Record Group 84 (RG84): The U.S. State Department records from Foreign Service Posts abroad.  Applications were periodically bound in separate books and sent for storage at the U.S. State Department.  The Emergency Passport application books are categorized in the State Department decimal system as 855 within each consular post (Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Romania, Siberia, Switzerland, Poland, etc.).  The records are stored at the U.S. National Archives II, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740.

The index to Jewish names appearing in these documents was created by volunteers from the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington (JGSGW) in 1986-1987.  The project was undertaken because neither the State Department or the National Archives could locate the index to the Emergency Passport applications for that period.

Although passports were not required for U.S. citizens who were returning home from travel abroad until 1918, after U.S. entry into World War I, passports were useful as a means of identification and protection while traveling outside the U.S.  Congress authorized U.S. consular posts to issue Emergency Passports which were, generally, issued if the passport of a U.S. citizen traveling abroad, was lost or stolen.  However, this type of passport came to have special, and, perhaps, Congressionally unintended significance for the wives and children of naturalized citizens who had not yet joined their husbands and fathers in the United States.

Prior to September 1922, women could not become U.S. citizens in their own right, with some special exceptions, usually requiring Congressional intervention.  However, foreign-born women and children automatically became citizens when they married a native-born U.S. citizen or when he became a naturalized citizen.  Minor children of these native born or naturalized fathers also received derived citizenship.

Because these wives and minor children of a U.S. citizen had derivative citizenship, they could present themselves at the nearest U.S. Consular Post and apply for an Emergency Passport for themselves and their minor children.  When the required photo was submitted, the fee was paid, and the application accepted, a passport was issued.  With an Emergency Passport in hand, the family could enter the U.S. as a citizen, avoiding inspection as alien immigrants, and, perhaps, avoiding unpleasantness when a family member had an otherwise disqualifying medical condition.  But, even before they left Europe, the precious passport offered its holders a sense of security and protection, particularly as war was breaking out all over Europe, delaying their departure for the U.S. and causing massive population disruptions.  The Emergency Passport had to be renewed annually and, during the war, this became difficult as U.S. Consular offices closed in many countries.  A family caught in Europe for the duration of the war, may have applied multiple times in multiple locations, reflecting the chaos and disruption that people were experiencing.  The Emergency Passport was also used by men who were U.S. citizens who, at the outbreak of war, had been traveling abroad to visit family, conduct business or who had, effectively, returned to Europe to live as U.S. residents abroad.  When they also were stuck in Europe for the duration of the war, they had to apply for an Emergency Passport when their passports expired and then every year thereafter.

After the war, until the law changed in September 1922, the women and children, who still had never set foot on U.S. soil, were able to claim citizenship when they were booking passage to the U.S. and upon their arrival in the U.S.  Although the law included new stringent quotas restricting immigrants from many European countries, the law also provided for family unification, enabling many families to capitalize on the fact that wives and children had previously been recognized as citizens, by virtue of holding an Emergency Passport.

Each application includes a photograph of the adult applicant and, very often, the minor children.  The applicant had to show proof of U.S. citizenship, turn in the expired passport and present other documents verifying birth and marriage.  Occasionally there are copies of these documents interfiled with the applications, while more often, the information was simply recorded on the application.  The photos are pristine because, once bound, the books have rarely been opened or handled.

Database fields:

Here is a description of fields in the Emergency Passport Applications database:

  • Surname, Given Name — Last name and first name(s) of the individual whose name appears in the original document.
  • Birthplace — Place of birth (town and country).
  • Country — Country where application was made.
  • Box # / Book # — Two numbers, indication that Box and Book numbers. (Ignore the zeros in front of the number).
  • Page / Application # — The number in this column refers either to the page number or the number given to the document.  (Ignore the zeros in front of the number).

When requesting a record, be sure to provide information from all fields, along with the information that the material is in Record Group 84, and #855 in the decimal system.

Obtaining records:

Mail requests for records:

Archives II
Textual Reference Branch
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, Maryland 20740

When these bound documents are requested by mail, you will receive a microfilm of the pages.  The minimum fee is $10 for the first 15 pages to be microfilmed.

On-site requests for records:

Records are pulled five times each day, Monday thru Friday.  9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.,11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.  An archivist must review the pull slip when turned in.  If research is to be conducted on Saturday or after the last retrieval time on a particular day, you must arrange in advance to have records available. 

Records will be in the Textual Research Reading Room on the second floor within one hour of the scheduled pull time. † Pull slips may be submitted in the Textual Research Reading Room, 2000.

Textual Research Room hours:

  • Monday & Wednesday 8:45 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 8:45 a.m. - 9 p.m.
  • Saturday, 8:45 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.

Phone requests for records:

Requests for records may be phoned in before an on-site visit.  Call Civilian Records Branch Archives II, 301-837-3480, prior to pull times.  Records will be pulled and held in the Textual Research Reading Room, 2000, for three days.
Fax 301-713-6907, e-mail inquire@nara.gov.

Additional Information on U.S. State Department Records:

Search the Database

The U.S. Emergency Passport Applications database can be searched via the JewishGen USA Database.


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