This is part of my series of interesting newspaper articles and snippets that I find in the old Latvian newspapers available through Periodika. Most of the articles I post are in some way related to migration, wars or other events that are of particular genealogical note.
Source: Liepājas Atbalss (Liepāja’s Response), January 31, 1908
Issuing of External Passports.Under the guidance of some emigration agent, 46 emigrants arrived here yesterday with their parish passports and local police notes, and turned to the Liepāja external passport issuing divison. Being as the notes given by the police clearly stated that emigrants had to get passports from the Vidzeme governor, the Liepāja external passport issuing division refused to give them passports.
Emigration was a complicated process under the Russian Empire! Applying for a passport wasn’t enough – to travel abroad, you needed an “external” passport – that is, a passport like the passports we have today. But they also needed an “internal” passport issued by the parish to travel within the country – even to just the next parish over at certain points in time. To be granted an external passport, it appears that they also needed a note from the local police to confirm that they were not criminals (and presumably also that their debts were cleared and were not suspected of revolutionary activity). Certainly, these documents were sometimes faked as well – but the many layers of bureaucracy were probably a way to try and prevent counterfeiting.
All these documents (well, not the copies issued to the emigrants, but the copies kept by the officials) should be a great genealogical source – however, I have yet to find any. I have found some mentions of “passport books” – however, in almost every case, these mentions in the abstracts have been accompanied by “missing”. I soldier on, however, and hope that eventually I will track some of them down. This article suggests two new places to look, so that will be next on my list!