Passports Issued to Individuals Traveling Through Indian Lands
While working on a project with the Sarasota County Genealogical Society, I recently learned a piece of history that never appeared in any text books when I was in elementary, junior, or senior high school, nor in any college. Upon further review, I have discovered that very few people appear to be aware of this historical fact, including many genealogists.
From 1785 through 1820, individuals from Georgia or traveling through Georgia from other states who desired to travel to or through Indian Territory were required to obtain a passport from the Governor of Georgia. Later on around 1809 and 1810, this same practice impacted many citizens of spread to North and South Carolina.
Documents included in these records primarily impact the Mississippi Valley region and include all known travel documents for the period of 1770-1823. Each entry gives the names of the passport recipients, the official granting the passport, the date the passport was executed and other identifying particulars. In addition the history of the passport process as it affected the various jurisdictions under consideration is explained in detail.
Passports were issued to individuals, families and their slaves to go through the Indian Nations. The earliest ones found (1785) were recommendations for men to go into the Indian Nation to recover stolen horses, slaves or to collect debts. In 1809 and 1810 many passports were issued to citizens of North and South Carolina, who were passing through Georgia in large groups with their families, their household goods, pack horses and slaves. Passports were necessary even for those whose goal was to migrate to the area with the ultimate intention of settlement.
These passport documents include recommendations to the Governors to allow these people to travel through the area. These recommendations came from neighbors, friends, and Justices of the Peace, who vouched for the industry, sobriety, and good character of the persons applying for permission to travel through Indian lands.
There are many options for access to the information. Many libraries nationwide have the printed copy in their genealogy collections as is the case at Fort Myers Regional library in our Georgia Collection. Both the Georgia State Archives and the National Archives have the complete set of passports in their respective collections. Family Search has the complete set on their website. All of these options are linked to the following two books originally published by Mary G. Bryan, former Director of the Georgia State Archives called Passports Issued By Governors of Georgia 1785-1809 and Passports Issued By Governors of Georgia, 1810 to 1812.
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