Did your ancestor travel abroad? If your ancestor was a U.S. citizen, then he or she may have applied for a U.S. passport. The records include standard information such as the date of birth, occupation, and citizenship information. Some of the applications provide additional information that may lead to immigration or naturalization records. Some even give detailed information about family members.
Cyril Bretherton’s 1915 application is a fascinating example of the type of information you can find. He submitted a letter with his application stating that he was naturalized on January 22, 1913 through the Superior Court of Los Angeles, California. In April of 1915, his wife, Norah Annie Bretherton, applied for a passport using Cyril’s naturalization papers as proof of her citizenship. Her passport, along with her husband’s naturalization certificate, was forwarded to the ship she was scheduled to sail on – the S.S. Lusitania. When the ship sank on May 7, Norah lost all of her luggage, including her passport and the naturalization record. Cyril wanted to bring his wife back to the U.S.
The National Archives holds the passport applications submitted to the Department of State between 1795 and March 31, 1925. You can view these records online at www.ancestry.com or www.footnote.com. For additional information, see http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/passport/