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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


This database consists of an index to Jewish names located in the applications for Emergency Passports made at various U.S. Consular Posts in the period of ca.1914 – 1926. The books of applications are part of the U.S. National Archives’ Record Group 59 (RG59): General Records of the Department of State, 1763 – 2002; Series: General Emergency Passport Applications, 1907 – 1923.

Applications were periodically bound in large volumes and sent for storage at the U.S. State Department. The Emergency Passport applications 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 were transferred to the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and are now located at the NARA facility in College Park, Maryland.

Volunteers from the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington (JGSGW) created the index to Jewish names appearing in these documents in 1986-1987. The project was undertaken because neither the State Department nor NARA could locate an 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 the passage of the Cable Act, also known as the Married Women's Independent Nationality Act, in 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 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.

Wives and minor children of a U.S. citizen could present themselves at the nearest U.S. Consular Post and apply for an Emergency Passport, because of this derivative citizenship status. An application, often with a photograph, would be submitted, a fee paid, and once the materials were reviewed 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 complications when a family member had an otherwise disqualifying medical condition. But even before the family left Europe, the precious passport offered its holders a sense of security and protection, particularly with World War I delaying departures 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 that people were experiencing.

After the war, and until the law changed in September 1922, women and children who had never set foot on U.S. soil were able to claim citizenship when they booked passage to the U.S. Although the Quota Act of 1921 implemented new stringent quotas restricting immigrants from many European countries, it also provided for family unification, enabling families to capitalize on the fact that wives and children had previously been recognized as citizens, by virtue of holding an Emergency Passport.

The Emergency Passport was also used by men who were U.S. citizens and at the outbreak of war, had been traveling abroad to visit family, conduct business or who had 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.

Many applications include 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 were rarely opened or handled.

Database fields:

The fields in the Emergency Passport Applications database include:

  • 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 application number on the document.  (Ignore the zeros in front of the number).

Viewing the Emergency Passport Applications

The Emergency Passport Applications have been digitized and made available online by Membership is necessary to view them. has created its own index for these records, and the index is interlinked with other passport application records at

If one does not have an membership, the collection can be viewed using National Archives computers in NARA Research Rooms, including regional archives branches and Presidential Libraries. These computers provide free access to

Additionally, the National Archives has added the digitized images to its catalog collection, however the NARA images do not include the index. As of the writing of this updated description all images are in the catalog (January 2023). The images, organized by country, may be browsed via this link.

Additional Information on U.S. State Department Records:

If an Emergency Passport Application is located in the JewishGen database, it might be possible to find supplemental material in Record Group 84 (RG 84), State Department Foreign Service Posts, at the consular post where the paperwork was issued. Material in RG 84 is more scattered, and likely incomplete, due to the way the records were maintained at the consulates, and how the Department of State accessioned the material to NARA.

Search the Database

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

This description updated 23 January 2023 by Renée K. Carl with assistance from National Archives staff.

Search the Database

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

Search the JewishGen USA Database
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