Thursday, January 19, 2006

Louisiana Research and Resources

  I copied this from another email of another group I belong to but wasn't sure if
anyone would like this info. I just thought I would post it.

As for the status of any records in New Orleans (hard copies):
-- the Notarial Archives are currently closed (this is the vast repository of all
records in New Orleans prior to the early 1900s.) The building it was in was
significantly damaged -- viritually every window in a 35 story building blown
out, and papers flown about, but no water damage (well, a little rain around the
edges.) Plus, this archive contains some 40 Million records, the vast, vast
majority of which are not computerized, catalogued or indexed, only about 10%
are. Indeed, if you do NOT know the name of the Notary Public who made the
record it is impossible to look up something for all records are "catalogued" by
the Notary. Say, for instance, your grandfather stayed in New Orleans for a few
months, did something official, and that was Notarized. It's in the records --
but if you Do Not know the name of the notary there is no way to find it with out
going through hundreds of orginial indexes (if that notary even made one,) page
by page, by page -- 10,000s of pages.
If you know the name of the Notary, say Mr. Thibodaux, then if Thibodaux made an
index it might run to several volumes, inches thick, and in order of date of
instrument made -- not by name. If the Notary made no index (25% or so did not,)
then you need to go page by page through each of that Notaries bound copies of

The Loyola Ave branch of the public library is open, but with limited hours. This
is the other great repository of records in New Orleans, mostly court documents,
and incredible obituary and marriage record card catalogues (the former in the
basement the latter two on the 3rd Floor. However: Anything they had in their
basement is in a precarious state -- which was all the old stuff -- due to
significant water damage -- much of it is in Boston Mass. being dried out. The
records went back to 1803 They are currently operating at about 50% of staff.

If your ancestor spent any time in New Orleans and did anything remotely official
then it is in one of these two repositories. It is a quirk of Louisiana law that
many transactions of incredible diversity made between two people were "Made" by an
"Act" before a "Notary" -- or was "Passed" before a Court and thus there's a record.

Pretty much 75% of all the records of Louisiana prior to the Purchase in 1803 are
in the State Archives in Baton Rouge -- however, if they are not microfilmed they
are basically unvailable. They are considered to valuable to let mere folks
handle them, so they are slowly being microfilmed, and somewhat loosely catalogued
or indexed. The rest scattered around the state made it through unscathed.

The City of New Orleans itself actually kept no records related to people per se
-- that is, Notarial Records are a Parish and State matter, not a City matter, and
thus the City had no authority over those records. Since most transactions were
notarized they were Parish records, and see Notarial Achives above. There is no
"records" repository of the City of New Orleans itself, other than current
Immigration records were Federal, and just not kept.
City Court records were in the basement of the Loyola Public library if before the
early 1930s, and in the City Court houses if later -- various ones, around the
city, and mostly are currently out of commission in one way or the other.
Basically, the Court system in New Orleans is closed -- at best it operates out of
temporary space in Gonzales and Baton Rouge.
The property records are also divided between the Notarial Archives if before the
early 1900s -- and in the Recorder of Mortgages on Loyola Avenue if later, after
1985 they were computerised -- but -- they were kept in the Basement! Need I say
more? They're working on the problem now. The office is so closed there hadn't
been a property transfer in New Orleans since the Big K came through until just
about early Dec.

So -- anyone trying to do ancestor research in New Orleans at this time should
keep in mind Katrina and the damage it caused - balanced with the paucity of
records in the first place, or the lack of a convenient look up system for early
Except property records, oddly though, are incredibly easy. There are indexes of
Vendors and Vendees (Sellers and Buyers, in that order) -- cross referenced,
alphabetical, and big clear writing in every court house in the state. Some
parishes, except New Orleans (it's different, see above) keep records back to the
early 1800s (except what was lost to fire, flood or Yankees.) Look up a person's
name, find the number of the document, go to the book with the document -- and
there you are -- exactly what you want.

A great place is in Alexandria -- the Alexandria Genealogical Library -- it is
chock-a-block filled with genealogical information from every state in the Union.
But, you got to go to Alexandria to use it. It's a "blue hair" institution, but

Diane Baldwin


FrontPorchRockerNews said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
FrontPorchRockerNews said...

Early Louisiana and Territory slave sales and purchases. One can search by surname of buy or seller. Search of slaves can be made by given name. This site also gives the source of the original documents.

FrontPorchRockerNews said...

Early Louisiana and Territory slave sales and purchases. One can search by surname of buy or seller. Search of slaves can be made by given name. This site also gives the source of the original documents.