Here is where to look for records in Louisiana. Some sites have downloadable forms you can fill out and send in. Don't forget to include any fees if you want a reply. It's also helpful to include your phone number and email address in case they have any questions. Sometimes calling ahead and asking if they have the records and how much the fee is will save you time.
In Louisiana, we have "Parishes" where the rest of the country has "Counties." Be sure to differentiate a civil parish (geographic divisions made by the government) from a church parish (the geographic area a specific church serves).
Rootsweb has a nifty Town-County Converter which allows you to enter a city and state and find out what county or parish it's in.
Louisiana became a part of the United States in 1803, this means that the first U.S. Federal Census was done in 1810. Here is a Louisiana Timeline.
Map of Louisiana civil parishes, and when they became parishes, from Wikipedia.
- For any kind of civil records, you want to contact the parish Clerk of Court. They will have land records, wills, births, marriages, deaths, court cases, etc. I have given you more specific information of where to look for certain records below, under "Primary Sources" (some records are not in their parish of origin). Once you find out where you think the record will be, you should call them. Some records can be searched quickly and for free over the phone (if it's in a computer database and it's their policy), otherwise you'll have to send in a fee with a request letter. Orleans parish has pages you can download, fill out, send in.
- In Louisiana, the Catholic Church has kept more records beginning earlier than the governments. This is an excellent source of baptisms (confirming births and parentage), marriages (see marriage notes above), and funerals. Below in the "Primary Sources" I have given you the links for specific parishes. Calling before sending a request to be sure someone has the records you want, and to make sure you're sending the correct fee, can only save you time. There are also some books filled with the Sacramental Records of the Baton Rouge and New Orleans Diocese, see Books with Louisiana Records or Guides to Louisiana Records in Other Resources below for links. These books are available at various Louisiana genealogy library branches.
- Every parish in Louisiana has a public library system. I have been told that every parish's public library system has a genealogy collection. These libraries will have local genealogy resources. Go Here and do a search of public libraries, find the parish you're interested in, contact them. Many people have published indexes to records and these may be found in the local libraries. Many people have also published their genealogical research, these books may also be found in the libraries. They may have obscure things of which only a few copies were made that nobody else has ever heard of. If they don't have what you are interested in, they may be able to suggest where else to look. I have found (not surprisingly) that some of these collections are broader than others, and that some have dedicated and helpful genealogy librarians and others don't. If you contact a parish library housing their genealogy collection and don't find what you want, it's worth checking nearby parishes. University libraries also sometimes house local genealogy collections.
- To find what Louisiana newspapers are available for where and when, try The WebIndex of the Louisiana Newspaper Project. You'll then have to order the microfilm through your library to view the newspapers.
- For all Louisiana birth certificates less than 101 years old: Louisiana Vital Records Registry.
- For Orleans Parish birth records over 100 years old: Louisiana State Archives click on archives, click on research library, click on vital records. There is a searchable database on the website.
- For birth records other than Orleans Parish over 100 years old: Contact the parish Clerk of Court, but there may be no records.
- For all Louisiana death certificates less than 51 years old: Louisiana Vital Records Registry.
- For statewide death records more than 50 years old: Louisiana State Archives click on archives, click on research library, click on vital records. There is a searchable database on the website.
- For Orleans Parish marriages over 50 years old: Louisiana State Archives click on archives, click on research library, click on vital records. There is a searchable database on the website.
- For marriage records other than Orleans Parish: Contact the parish Clerk of Court.
- For divorce records: Contact the parish Clerk of Court.
- For property sales and successions: Contact the parish Clerk of Court, Office of Conveyances.
- For Confederate Pension Applications: Louisiana State Archives. If your ancestor was a Louisiana Confederate soldier in the Civil War, and he or his spouse applied for a pension, you can get a copy of the application. They can include some very useful information, from the source. There is a searchable database on their site.
- Catholic records, Parishes of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, and Washington: New Orleans Archdiocesan Archives. Records may include Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Funerals, Cemetery records, Orphanage records. "Sacramental Records of the Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Volumes 1-18 (1718-1829)" have been published. This series can be found in the public libraries of many parishes, and is well worth checking out. The Orleans Archdiocese will not make copies of originals, and I've read they won't allow the records to be viewed, either. You can get an official transcription of their records for a fee.
- Catholic records, Parishes of Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupée, St. Helena, St. James, Tangipahoa, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana: Diocese of Baton Rouge, Department of the Archives. This department houses sacramental registers of baptisms, marriages, and burial records up to about 1920 (They have a page showing exactly which parish records they have, on their website). Later registers still remain in the custody of the individual Catholic Church parishes. All of the sacramental records from 1707 through 1898 have been published in a 22-volume set entitled "Diocese of Baton Rouge Catholic Church Records." This series can be found in the public libraries of many parishes, and is well worth checking out. I believe this Diocese also houses the Acadian Church records brought from Acadia with the settlers.
- Catholic records, Parishes of Natchitoches, Winn, Caldwell, Franklin, Madison, Vernon, Rapides, Grant, LaSalle, Catahoula, Tensas, Concordia and Avoyelles: Diocese of Alexandria. Click on Offices and Ministries, St. Joseph Catholic Center, then on the map click on Archives.
- Catholic records, Parishes of Lafourche and Terrebonne and parts of St. Mary, Jefferson, St. Martin and Assumption: Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Archives & Historical Research Center.
- Catholic records, Parishes of Vermilion, St. Landry, St. Mary, Evangeline, St. Martin, Lafayette, Acadia, Iberia: Diocese of Lafayette, Archives/Research and Information.
- Catholic records, Lake Charles area: Diocese of Lake Charles.
- Catholic records, Parishes of Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne, DeSoto, East Carroll, Jackson, Lincoln, Morehouse, Ouachita, Red River, Richland, Sabine, Union, Webster, and West Carroll: The Archives of the Diocese of Shreveport.
- New Orleans Notarial Archives They have several resource types available, including: adoptions, bonds, authorization, building contract, emancipation of a slave, interdiction, inventory of estate. See them all.
- New Orleans Public Library: Louisiana Division. The amount of information in their collections is huge. Go to their site and browse around to get an idea of what's available. They will make copies and mail them to you for a fee. There are New Orleans City Directories which were published yearly and list the head of household's name, address, and occupation: these can help you pinpoint what years your ancestors were in New Orleans. Biography and Obituary Index, New Orleans (La.) Justices of the Peace. Marriage Records, 1846-1880, Information on Records of Passenger Arrivals at the Port of New Orleans, are a few of their online databases.
- Free Databases for Louisiana Genealogy This is a list of resources hosted by Southeastern Louisiana University.
- Resources for Finding Passenger Arrival Records at the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana, Compiled by Joe Beine. Appears to be a pretty comprehensive page pointing to different resources for accessing ship passenger lists.
- Louisiana Library Directory. A searchable database to help you find libraries in the state. Every parish library system in the state also has a genealogy collection with published records specific to their geographic area. Some collections and librarians are better than others. Most, if not all of them, now have searchable online catalogs, but often non-circulating items (like genealogy reference materials) are not in the online catalog. Also check local university libraries for genealogical and historical reference materials.
- The USGenWeb Archives Louisiana. Some parish sites have more information than others, it's very hit-and-miss, but still well worth checking out. The information is compiled and sent in by volunteers.
- The USGenWeb Census Project This project consists of volunteers who transcribe census microfilms and put the information online for free access for everyone. The census years available are limited.
- The WebIndex of the Louisiana Newspaper Project "The Louisiana Newspaper Project is proud to make available this parish and chronological index to over 1,700 extant and currently published Louisiana newspapers." You can't search this database for articles, it simply lists what dates of what newspapers have survived. You can search by location and year. Microfilms are ordered through inter-library loan, through the State Library of Louisiana.
- Louisiana Cemeteries is a large site with info on many cemeteries in Louisiana, as well as lots of info about Louisiana Governors.
- Acadian-Cajun Genealogy and History is a magnificent website for Acadian information.
- Louisiana State Archives Research Library (click on archives, click on research library) has many records of interest. They have online searchable databases. About a third of the way down the page, download the .pdf Fee Schedule for a complete list of the records that are available by mail. Included are ship passenger lists, naturalization records, New Orleans and Baton Rouge City Directories, and more.
- Ancestry.com's Library Edition Louisiana Library Connection Databases. Access some of Ancestry.com's genealogy databases, from a Louisiana public library. This includes images of census records on microfilm and other sources- not only Louisiana records, all of Ancestry's records in this collection. You must be a Louisiana resident, you must get a library card to access the computers (call your library to find out what you'll need, they often require recent mail with your name and address and a picture ID), and you must be physically at the library using their computers. This service is provided by the The State Library of Louisiana for all public libraries in the state. (Your state's libraries may provide the same service, why not call them and ask?)
- Books with Louisiana Records or Indexes to Louisiana Records are listed on these webpages.
- Hebert Publications Catalog- Home of the South Louisiana Records series and the Southwest Louisiana Records series, which are indexes to both church and civil records for various Louisiana civil parishes.
- Acadian-Cajun Genealogical & Historical Resource Material
- The New Orleans Catholic Archdiocese
- The Baton Rouge Catholic Diocese
- Le Pays des Fleurs Oranges by William R. Stringfield. The Land of Orange Blossoms, 2nd edition, Volume 1, published 2001. A Genealogical Study of Creole Families of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. This lists genealogies of several families that moved from the Rhine River region of France, Germany, and Switzerland and settled this southern Louisiana parish.This is a large book, very good.