Passport applications beginning in 1914 included photographs of the applicants, giving many people today the rare opportunity to see the faces of their ancestors. The documents also include applicants' occupations, foreign destinations and physical descriptions. Alexander Graham Bell's 1920 application, for example, described him as having a high forehead, a straight nose and slim mouth, a clean tanned complexion, and a full white beard -- which is clearly evident in the photo attached to his application.
Available online for the first time, this unique collection provides countless Americans interesting and sometimes humorous glimpses into the international wanderings of their ancestors and notable historical figures. Throughout the years covered by this collection, workers wages often put international travel within reach of only America's upper class.
"Mixed among the frequent travels of the rich and famous, you will find the successful business man and his wife voyaging to a foreign port or the immigrant-turned-U.S.-citizen sailing home to visit relatives," said Megan Smolenyak, Chief Family Historian for Ancestry.com. "You may even find different applications for multiple trips; since passports during this time period were generally valid for only two years or less."
Other historical figures whose passport applications appear in the collection include:
-- Anti-slavery advocate Frederick Douglass preparing for a 1886 tour of
Europe and Asia.
-- Thomas Edison arranges to attend the Paris Exposition in 1889.
-- Mark Twain, recorded by birth name Samuel L. Clemens and whose nose is
described as "ordinary," traveling in 1891 with three daughters and a
-- In the aftermath of World War I, John D. Rockefeller Jr. prepares to
travel to France to provide aid for restoration projects.
-- Author F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda, was pregnant when they
arranged a pleasure trip of Europe in April 1921. They were back in
the states for the October 1921 birth.
You can even find Paris Hilton's great-grandfather Conrad Hilton, Donald Trump's grandfather Fred Trump, Drew Barrymore's grandfather John Barrymore and two of George W Bush's great-grandfathers -- Samuel Prescott Bush and George H. Walker.
Before the early 1920s, men made up 95 percent of passport applicants. When a wife or children accompanied the man, their names were simply added to the application. Many applications for male travelers include photos of both husband and wife. By 1923, women accounted for 40 percent of travelers applying for passports.
View images of selected celebrities' passport applications at http://blogs.ancestry.com/.