Sunday, February 8, 2015
Find your ancestor in FamilySearch Passport Application Collection? Indexing is crucial
FamilySearch.org is constantly adding new collections. The total number of these monster genealogy sources is now at 1920, with 13 collections either updated or added since February 1, 2015 and the date of this post. A while ago the United States Passport Applications, 1795 - 1925 was added with 2,038,874 images. If you had ancestors that traveled outside of the United States, this is a valuable source of detailed information. I got interested as my wife started making searches for her ancestors.
It looks like only 959,931 of the applications have been indexed so far, so you will likely have to browse through the collection to find your own ancestors. I decided to do searches by surname to see how many of my ancestors traveled outside of the country. The images are split between National Archives and Record Administration numbers M1372 from 1795 to M1490 for applications from January 2, 1906 to March 31, 1925. I looked at both sets of documents and found that both were organized initially by date. This means that the index is going to be crucial in finding any particular ancestor's application unless you just happen to know when the application was made, which is not very likely.
This issue dramatically points out the need for indexing for some types of records. You can get along pretty well in some collections even if they are entirely unindexed, but in this case, a lack of an index, even a surname index, puts most of the information beyond your grasp.
For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with legacy ancestors in the Church, this is an interesting website because so many of our ancestors went on missions for the Church and to foreign countries.
Here is a sample application for one of my Tanner cousins, Freeman Dan Tanner (b. 1878, d. 1943). It is interesting from this application to get a physical description of the person.
Some of the later applications have photos. This will be a collection to return to as the indexing gets more complete.