Local Genealogy · Local History · Passport · Photos · Records · Resources · South Bend Area Genealogical Society

Passport, please!

This is a picture of a stylish young lady, labeled on the reverse as Helen DeLorinza, niece to Mrs. Martin Beiger. The Beiger family is well known and documented in Mishawaka, so it was a fairly simple task to identify Helen as the daughter of Joseph and Sarah (Higgins) DeLorenzi, born in 1889. Sarah Higgins’ sister Susan was the wife of Martin V. Beiger.


There is also a large amount of information available for the photographer, A. Farsari & Co., Yokohama, Japan. A quick Google search tells us Adolfo Farsari was an Italian photographer based in Yokohama, Japan. His studio was one of Japan’s largest and most popular studios, very popular with foreign tourists.

The subject of this posting is neither the person nor the photographer, but rather where the photograph was taken. Since we know the picture was taken outside the United States, there is a good chance that young Helen had a passport to allow travel. We learned from our previous posting, Baby Katheryne, A Wealth of Information, that early passport applications are full of genealogical information!

According to the National Archives website, The Department of State began issuing passports in 1789. Early applications may be a simple letter, but forms were commonly used by 1860. Passports were generally requested for identification while traveling abroad, but were not required until 1941, except for a short period during the Civil War (Aug 1861 to Mar 1862). Passports were recommended by executive order beginning Dec 1915 and required beginning 21 June 1941. Early passports were valid for 2 years, so be sure to look for multiple applications over time.

In the 19th century, wives and children were commonly included on the husband’s application, and a single passport would be issued for the family group. Regular passport applications were for natural born citizens. Naturalized applications were for foreign born citizens or sometimes for children of naturalized citizens. Applications were not accepted from aliens, except in some cases when the person stated an intent to be naturalized. Emergency passports, good for 6 months, could be issued for identification or for a spouse or older child originally included on the parent’s passport, but now traveling alone. Insular possession passport applications referred to U.S. territories such as Hawaii, the Philippines, or Puerto Rico.


Let’s take a look at the passport applications of the DeLorenzi and Beiger families for examples. The earliest application we find is for Martin Beiger submitted 9 Nov 1871. The format was a simple letter.  Information included tell us Martin V. Beiger was a native born American citizen, age 25, born in Penn Township, St Joseph County, Indiana. A complete and detailed description is included, but in this application no parents or other family members are listed.

Letter no 16130

We find another application for Martin Beiger, accompanied by his wife Susie A. Beiger, submitted 22 Dec 1899. In addition to a complete physical description, we learn that Martin was born 3 Feb 1847 and his wife Susie S. Beiger was born 4 Aug 1856, both in Mishawaka, Indiana. We also learn that Martin’s occupation is the manufacture of wool and rubber boots. No separate application was found for Susie.

We next find an application for Susie Beiger submitted 4 Jan 1906. By now, Susie is listed as a widow, but no new information except for a detailed physical description of Susie Beiger.

Description of Applicant

Moving on to the De Lorenzi family, we begin to find even more personal information. Two applications were submitted 25 Apr 1904. Joseph de Lorenzi asked for a passport for himself accompanied by his son Joseph, giving his son’s birthdate and place. We hit the genealogical jackpot with this form for a Naturalized Citizen.  Birthplace, immigration to the United States, date and place of naturalization for the older Joseph along with his physical description.

Joseph DeLorenzi Naturalization

On the same date, son Joseph applied for a passport to travel with his father. He provides his birthdate and place, his occupation (high school student) and repeats his father’s birthdate and place.

Next is an example of an Emergency passport application filed in Berlin 27 Sep 1906 by Susie De Lorenzi. Notice that Susie is already living in Berlin, but intends to return to the United States within 2 years.

Emergency Passport Application

Helen DeLorenzi’s passport application filed 19 May 1922 has much of the same information, but now replaces the detailed physical description with a picture of the applicant. Notice that she was born in Mishawaka, but is now living in Ohio. This matches contemporary census records. This application also includes her travel plans, including the ship name and port of departure.

Helen Passport Application

Pictures were required with applications beginning in 1914. When looking at application on-line, always be sure to check all pages of the application.  The picture may be on the reverse of the form along with the oath of allegiance and Identification statement. In this case, the picture we see with page 1 of the application is NOT Helen, but Ellen French of Concord, Massachusetts from the previous application in the bound book.   Helen’s picture is on page 2 of her application and is documented by her signature. The identification was provided by Alice Johnston, who also appears as a traveling companion and in the same household as Helen in the 1930 and 1940 U.S. census.

Helen Passport

All this great information on passport applications! Who knew?!  Additional information, including where to write for copies of passport applications may be found at https://www.archives.gov/research/passport

Submitted by Alice Clark, SBAGS President, president@sbags.org


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