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This is a brief guide which will tell you how to trace historical passport records. It is not for people looking for information about their own passports - instead please contact the Identity and Passport Service.

Surviving historical records of passports are not comprehensive. The National Archives holds some registers and indexes of passport applications up to 1916, but most of the passports themselves do not survive.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the full name of the bearer of the passport
      • the year in which they travelled abroad
  • What records can I see online?

    • Indexes of British passport applicants (1851-1903)

      Search and download indexes of names of passport applicants between 1851-1856, 1858-1862 and 1874-1903 (FO 611/1-19) on findmypast.co.uk (£There may be a charge for accessing this information. Searching indexes may be free.).

      Please note that there are no indexes at all for 1857 or for 1863 to 1873. The indexes for 1858 are missing the entries for A-G.

      Later indexes often only show the name and date of issue, but earlier indexes can show

      • the name of the bearer of the passport
      • the passport number
      • the date the passport was issued
      • any observations (rare) that may have been noted during the application

      .

  • What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

    • Indexes of British passport applicants (1904-1916)

      Search the indexes of names of passport applicants between 1904-1916 in FO 611/20-25. The indexes are not in strict alphabetical order but are listed chronologically by initial letter of surname.

    • Registers of British passport applications (1795-1948)

      Browse the registers of British passport applications in FO 610, which are arranged by date and by passport number. They generally contain little more than the information in the online indexes and sometimes even less, but provide a longer, unbroken run of years.

    • Passports (1802-1961) and case papers (1916-1983)

      Search by name for Foreign Office passports in FO 655 and Passport Office case papers in FO 737. These are small collections of records and therefore not comprehensive.

      Narrow your search by using quotation marks to find a person's full name, such as "John Williams"

    • Entry books of passes issued by Secretaries of State (1674-1794)

      Browse entry books of passes issued by Secretaries of State to people travelling into and out of Britain. These records cover the date ranges 1674-1784 (SP 44/334-413) and 1748-1794 (FO 366/544). Some of the information is included in Calendar of State Papers Domestic and Calendar of Home Office Papers.

  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Records held elsewhere

      Search our catalogue and refine your results using the filters.

  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Books

      Search The National Archives' bookshop to see whether any of the publications below may be available to buy. Alternatively, look in The National Archives' library catalogue to see what is available to consult at Kew.

      Roger Kershaw, Migration Records (The National Archives, 2009)

      Martin Lloyd, The Passport: the History of Man's Most Travelled Document (Sutton, 2003)

      Read Original Lists of Persons Emigrating to America, 1600-1700 by JC Hotten (Chatto and Windus, 1874), which contains information from The National Archives' registers of licences to pass beyond the seas (E 157).

Did you know?

Before the First World War it was not compulsory for someone travelling abroad to apply for a passport.

Possession of a passport was confined largely to merchants and diplomats, and the vast majority of those travelling overseas had no formal documents.