by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff
Passports and visas are among the often overlooked documents that we may have about our Doukhobor ancestors. An official document issued by a country to one of its citizens, the passport allows an individual to leave and return to his or her country of citizenship and facilitates travel from one country to another. A visa, by contrast, is an endorsement by the country to be visited permitting entry into that country. The following guide describes Russian and Canadian passport and visa records used historically by Doukhobors – their background, content, usefulness and availability.
Passports in Russia
In Russia, the passport system was introduced in 1719 during the reign of Peter the Great. Whereas in most European countries, the main task of the passport system was to ensure peace and order, in Russia the passport also served as a means to regulate tax payments, military service and other obligations to the state. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, both internal passports and foreign passports were issued to Russian citizens.
Internal passports were issued to Russian citizens who traveled within the Empire outside of their registered place of residence. These passports were granted for a limited period (depending on social class) and then had to be renewed. Note that on occasion, for one reason or another, such passports would be denied to Doukhobor applicants. Citizens were required to present their internal passports on demand to Tsarist officials. Those found away from their registered place of residence without passports were subject to fines or imprisonment. Restrictions on passports were eventually lifted in 1903 and the internal passport system was abandoned altogether after the Revolution.
Issued by district police officers, the internal passport included the following data: the name, patronymic and surname, occupation, age, faith, place of residence, social class and facial features of the citizen, as well as date of issue, destination, duration and purpose of travel. Accompanying family members were listed in the same passport. It was printed in Russian.
There is no centralized repository of internal passports in Russia. Many of these records were lost and destroyed by war and revolution. Those that have survived are housed in various regional and state archives. Individual copies of internal passports issued to Doukhobors may have also survived among family papers and memorabilia in Canada. Researchers who come across these rare records should take steps to ensure their preservation.
Foreign passports were required by citizens of Imperial Russia in order to travel abroad. These passports were granted for a limited period of five years. Arriving at the Russian border station or port of departure, the traveller had to present his or her passport to border officers for inspection. If approved, the passport was stamped and returned to the traveller. However, if the passport was not in order, it was not stamped and the traveller had no chance to pass across the frontier.
Note that the 7,500 Doukhobors who emigrated from Russia in 1899 were issued foreign passports but not permitted to keep them. They were confiscated prior to their departure. This was because the Doukhobors were permitted to leave Russia only on the condition that they never return. However, the 1,160 Doukhobors who emigrated from Russia after 1899 were issued foreign passports and permitted to retain them like other Russian citizens.
Issued by local governors, the foreign passport included the following data: the name, patronymic and surname, occupation, age, faith, place of residence, information about the family, facial features and photo (sometimes) of the citizen, as well as date of issue, destination and purpose of travel. The passport stamp also indicated the date of inspection as well as the border station or port of departure. Accompanying family members were listed in the same passport. It was printed in Russian.
There is no centralized repository of foreign passports in Russia. As with internal passports, many foreign passports were lost and destroyed by wars and revolution. Those that have survived are housed in various regional and state archives.
Some foreign passports were collected by Russian consuls in Canada. The Likacheff-Ragosine-Mathers (LI-RA-MA) Collection at the National Archives of Canada consists of documents created by the Imperial Russian Consular offices in Canada during the period from 1898 to 1922. The Passport/Identity Papers series consists of 11,400 files on immigrants from the Russian Empire who settled in Canada. The files include documents such as passport applications and background questionnaires. However, only ten of these files relate to Doukhobor immigrants. See the Index of Doukhobors in the LI-RA-MA Collection for a listing of individual files.
Prior to 1923, it was unnecessary for immigrants to possess a valid passport in order to gain entry into Canada. Regardless, those immigrants who had passports issued in their homelands kept them; they were not required to surrender them to the Government of Canada. Consequently, copies of Russian foreign passports issued to Doukhobors (who emigrated after 1899) may have survived among family papers and memorabilia in Canada. Researchers who come across these rare records should take steps to ensure their preservation.
Passports in Canada
Since 1862, the Government of Canada has issued passports to Canadian citizens for travel to a foreign country. Early passports were issued as single-sheet certificates with the official seal. In 1915, Canada switched to the British form of passport, a ten-section single sheet folder printed in English only. Then, in 1920, Canada adopted a booklet-type passport. Since 1926, Canadian passports have been printed bilingual. Until 1947, two kinds of passports were issued in Canada, one for British-born citizens and one for naturalized citizens. That same year, the Canadian Citizenship Act, which stipulates that only Canadian citizens are eligible for a Canadian passport, came into effect. Canadian passports are valid for five years.
Issued from 1862 to 1947 by the Governor General, and since 1947 by the Minister of External Affairs, the Canadian passport includes the following data: the name and surname, date of birth, place of birth, place of residence, physical description, photo, occupation (sometimes), nationality, date of naturalization and photo of the citizen, as well as date of issue and expiry.
There is no centralized repository of Canadian passports. The Government of Canada did not keep copies of passport applications nor passports issued to its citizens. Individual copies may be found among family papers and memorabilia.
Note: a special collection of passports for Doukhobor leader Peter “Chistiakov” Verigin from 1934 to 1936 and a delegation of Doukhobors to Russia in 1931 is housed at the National Archives of Canada (RG25, External Affairs, Volume 1580, File 1931-1935).
Many countries require possession of a valid visa as a condition of entry for foreigners. A visa is a formal endorsement by the government of a country giving a certain individual permission to enter the country for a given period of time and for certain purposes. Visas are typically stamped or attached into the recipient’s passport.
Since 1923, immigrants have had to secure a Canadian visa in order to gain entry into Canada. Prior to that time, a visa was unnecessary. It follows that most Doukhobors did not require a visa when they immigrated to Canada, having done so prior to 1923. However, they may have required a foreign visa if they subsequently travelled abroad from Canada.
The need or absence of need of a visa generally depends on the citizenship of the applicant, the intended duration of the stay, and the activities that the applicant may wish to undertake in the country he or she visits; these may delineate different formal categories of visas, with different issuance conditions. Examples of different visas include: transit visas, tourist visas, business visas, student visas, research visas, diplomatic visas, journalist visas and work visas.
U.S. visa issued to John Nichvolodoff and family on April 4, 1923. Click photos to view larger images.
Photo courtesy John Nechvolodoff.
Depending on the issuing country, a visa typically includes the following data: the name and surname, date of birth, place of birth, place of residence, occupation, nationality, photo and personal references of the traveller, as well as the date of issue, destination, length and purpose of travel. Accompanying family members are often listed. It is printed in the official language of the issuing country.
Passports and visas are, of course, sources of limited value. They are of use only if your Doukhobor ancestor travelled abroad and was required to secure them. Those that still exist may be difficult to locate. Nevertheless, where they are found among personal records, they can be an excellent source of information for genealogists. The researcher should never assume that a Doukhobor ancestor did not require these documents.
As a source for anything other than the traveling done on that passport or visa, passports and visas are generally considered a secondary source rather than a primary source of genealogical information. Nevertheless, this does not negate the information one might find in these documents. The information contained in these documents should be cross-referenced with other sources to ensure their accuracy.
- Canadian Genealogy Centre, “Passports”. Retrieved Apr. 09, 2005, from www.genealogy.gc.ca.
- Citizenship and Immigration Canada, “Forging Our Legacy: Canadian Citizenship and Immigration, 1900-1977”. Retrieved Apr. 09, 2005, from http://www.cic.gc.ca.html.
- Government of Canada, Canadian passport No. 17928 issued November 13, 1931.
- Greenwood, Val D., “The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy”, 3rd Ed., (Baltimore: The Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000).
- Imperial Russia, Foreign Passport No. 5026 issued July 24, 1904.
- Imperial Russia, Internal Passport No. 1305 issued August 21, 1917.
- McLure, Rhonda R. (2000). “Passports – Primary or Secondary Material?” Retrieved Apr. 09, 2005, from Overhead in GenForum Web site: http://www.genealogy.com.html.
- National Archives of Canada, LI-RA-MA Collection, Passport/Identity Series, Microfilm Nos. H1971-H1975.
- Passport Canada, “History of Passports”. Retrieved Apr. 09, 2005, from http://www.ppt.gc.ca.asp.
- United States of America, Declarations of Aliens About to Depart For the United States, dated April 4, 1923.
- US National Archives and Records Administration, “Passport Applications”. Retrieved Apr. 09,2005, from http://www.archives.gov.html
This article was reproduced by permission in the Bulletin Vol. 36 No. 2 (Regina: Saskatchewan Genealogical Society, June 2005).