Before 1824, the Secretary of War was responsible for the Federal government’s relations with the Indian tribes. The department wanted to insure that only “reputable” people, with good intentions, entered the area; thus, the issuance of passports authorizing travel. State Governors, military commanding officers, and those authorized by the President actually issued the passports.
Sometimes a pass only contained the date, the name of the person(s) it was issued to, where they were traveling to and who issued the authorization. Other times, the pass and supporting documentation contained more information about the individual, their family and acquaintances. For example, a passport was issued on 17 Feb 1798 for “Mr. Robert Trimble … to call upon his brother-in-law Thomas Tirchey.” Families travelling together were frequently identified. In one passport issued 18 Mar 1798, a large party travelling down the Holston and Tennessee rivers was identified as including “five negroes;” and the back of the passport included the names of the “Negroes.”
The book is well indexed, easy to consult, and a great resource for tracing early inhabitants of Tennessee.