8 Replies Latest reply on Apr 27, 2021 5:48 PM by Janice Urban

    Was a German passport required in 1913 to be admitted at Ellis Island?

    Janice Urban Newbie

      I am seeking a German passport based on my father who was born in Germany in 1901 and arrived in the United States with his family at Ellis Island in 1913.  (Although my father filed a Declaration of Intention (first papers) in June of 1940, he did not file a Petition for Naturalization (second papers) to become an American citizen.  I have submitted a Request for a Certificate of Non-existence to establish that he did not become a naturalized citizen.)


      The German Consulate has asked if my father had a German passport to enter the United States or was issued a US residence permit.

      Were these documents required of immigrants at the time of his entry? Are there other documents that a German citizen living in the United States was required to obtain during the period from 1913 to his death in 1961 that I could present?


      Is there an online database of Alien Registration records from the 1940s?  (I have my grandfather's 1943 alien registration red booklet; however, I do not have a similar document for my father.)


      Thank you for your help.

        • Re: Was a German passport required in 1913 to be admitted at Ellis Island?
          Bryan Cheeseboro Wayfarer

          Dear Ms. Urban,


          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


          To request information from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) you may use a Form G-639 (Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act Request), which is available on their web site at https://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis by clicking on Immigration Forms, and submit your request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, National Records Center, FOIA/PA Office, P. O. Box 648010, Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-8010.


          We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!


          Please note that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has suspended reproduction and digitization services until further notice due to COVID-19. Orders will not be serviced until operations can resume safely. Once operations resume, document reproduction requests will be filled in the order in which they were received. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.

          1 person found this helpful
          • Re: Was a German passport required in 1913 to be admitted at Ellis Island?
            Sabine Gorgas Adventurer

            Hello Janice,


            there could be also a chance to find records in the German archives. People who wanted to leave the country had to apply for passports. Sometimes they also needed additional permissions to leave, so that they do not leave debts behind or also that young men do not try to avoid military service.


            Maybe you can share the names of your family or at least the place/state where they lived before they left Germany? Then it is easier to help to locate records.


            Best wishes


            1 person found this helpful
            • Re: Was a German passport required in 1913 to be admitted at Ellis Island?
              Janice Urban Newbie

              I am seeking documents that establish that Johannes Tordsen Steensen and his family were German citizens when they arrived at Ellis Island on April 18, 1913, on the SS Pennsylvania from the port of Hamburg.  The "List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival" reports their citizenship as German and last permanent residence at Lutjenholm, Germany.  They brought a German birth certificate for my father, Ketel Steensen.  Are there other documents (eg passport) that would be available to support their German citizenship and where would one search for them?


              Thanks for your time and any help you can provide.



                • Re: Was a German passport required in 1913 to be admitted at Ellis Island?
                  Sabine Gorgas Adventurer

                  Hello Janice,

                  Since your father was just 11 years old when he was taken to the US there are probably not too many papers that can be found.

                  Maybe you should try to get a new copy of the birth register record of your father. Maybe you can write to the registry office for Lütjenholm and explain that you need this copy to proof that your father was German citizen. Old papers from the days they came to the states could have been changed, so that a new official copy with a verification might be better.

                  The copy you can try to get here:


                    This is the Standesamt/Registry office for the region where Lütjenholm is. On the bottom of the web page are e-mails where you could try to get the information what to do to get the record.
                    I am not sure whether children in the age of 11 already got passports in those days, but to find out whether there are still passport records available at all you might try the Landesarchiv (State Archive) Schleswig-Holstein. This is the contact information with an e-mail address.


                    Hope it helps.

                  Best wiches


                  1 person found this helpful
                  • Re: Was a German passport required in 1913 to be admitted at Ellis Island?
                    Susannah Brooks Pioneer

                    I don't know if the following church records would help prove German citizenship for you ancestors.  Many German church records state if a man is a citizen, but the records from Breklum (closest Protestant church to Lütjenholm) consistently did not list citizenship status.

                    When Ketel Steensen was baptized on 3 Jan 1902, his father was a Landmann (farmer, who probably owned land and was therefore a citizen).


                    [from Taufen 1897-1907 Breklum, Nordfriedland]


                    When Johannes Thordsen Steensen and Ingeborg Catharina Thornsen were married on 1 Jun 1894 the marriage records contained a lot of information (birth, confirmation, parents names) but not Johannes' occupation or status.

                    [from Trauungen 1763-1899 Breklum, Nordfriedland]

                  • Re: Was a German passport required in 1913 to be admitted at Ellis Island?
                    Pamela Anderson Wayfarer

                    Dear Janice Urban,

                    Adding to the resources above, it’s possible there is an Alien Case File (A-File) for your father. The National Archives website has information on what A-Files are, the types of records you may find in A-Files, and how to request them. You can find that information here Alien Files (A-Files)


                    You can search the National Archives Catalog for individual A-Files two different ways. You can search by the name of the individual (be sure to search any known variations of their name), or by their Alien Registration Number. When searching by Alien Registration Number make sure to include the letter “A” in front of the number. Ex: A1234567


                    The National Archives currently only maintains a portion of the A-Files. All other A-Files are still with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If you do not find an A-File in the catalog, you can submit a request for an Index Search to the USCIS Genealogy Program. Instructions on how to submit a request can be found on their website, along with information about other types of records available to researchers. USCIS Genealogy Program


                    Immigrants were not required to have a visa to enter the country at the time of your father’s arrival, so his A-File would not include a visa application, but it may contain other documents that could be helpful.


                    Finally, the National Archives website as a new feature that may be helpful. This link will take you to a list of frequently asked questions about the resources available for people seeking dual citizenship. Dual Citizenship Assistance – Frequently Asked Questions


                    Good luck with your search!

                    2 people found this helpful