Acadian-Cajun Genealogy & History

Cajun Genealogy in the 19th Century

     Although other nationalities (Irish, Italian, English, etc.) married into the Cajun culture in the 19th century, many Cajuns still married within their culture.  Like most areas of the country, census records are a primary source of genealogical information.  But the Cajuns are blessed to have a wonderful collection of Catholic church records.  This section discusses:
Census Records | Church Records | Courthouse Records | Ship Lists | Compiled Works
CENSUS RECORDS 

    The 19th century census records for Louisiana are available in microfilm. Indices for the state have been produced for the 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses. A soundex is available for the 1880 and 1900 censuses. Some parishes have been printed in books or in periodicals; and some are available in periodicals. My index for censuses occurring in genealogical periodicals (up to the year 1990) is avaliable on-line at this website.
     The USGenWeb Archive Census Project, started in 1997, is trying to get the census data online.  To check on which parishes are online for the various censuses, go to the Main Louisiana Census Project page.  If you can volunteer to input data, I'm sure they would appreciate it.  They have a long way to go.

CHURCH RECORDS

     The Baton Rouge and New Orleans Diocese' multi-volume sets do not cover the entire century. Check with them to find how far they've gotten. New volumes are released periodically.
    Rev. Hebert's two series (South Louisiana Records and Southwest Louisiana Records), covered in the previous page, do cover much of Acadianna for the entire 19th century. Although they cover Catholic church records, marriage information from courthouses was also recorded; so Protestant records are also covered to some extent. It is often possible to sit down with Father Hebert's books and trace a family all the way back through the 19th century.
     Once Louisiana became U.S. territory in 1803, Protestant preachers entered the area and churches were begun.  Though most of the early members were not Acadian, more and more Acadians became Protestant by the end of the century ... though Catholicism was still the predominant denomination for Cajuns.  For Protestant church records, you would need to consult the individual churches or the repository for records for that church. For example, the United Methodist Church has an archives in Shreveport that contains some of the records from its churches in the 1800's.  Baptist churches, which may be independent, may have kept their records at the church.  Please remember that Protestant records are not nearly as complete as Catholic.

COURTHOUSE RECORDS

    Courthouse records are now more numerous and valuable. Documents filed in the courthouse often list family members and relationships. There are often indices available that make it easier to locate someone.  The courthouse is the repository for marriage records, successions, land records, and a variety of other records. 
     Marriage Records: Marriage records are the courthouse records with the most clearly relevant connection to genealogy.  While the church will (or should) keep a record of the marriages performed, a civil record of marriage licenses was also kept.  Sometimes they will have information that the church records doesn't.  And sometimes, when the church record can't be found, the civil record is the only documentation available.
     Successions/Inventories/Wills/Probate: Death records were sometimes recorded in the courthouse, but it was not the norm.  The 19th century didn't usually have wills in the sense we know them. Often, an inventory of the deceased's worldly goods was made so that they could be sold to settle the estate. 
     Land Records:  Though land sales/purchases are often recorded within the acts, sometimes there are separate books on land transactions and even plat maps.
     Acts: These contain a variety of documents.  Although not meant to be genealogically significant, you can often find a mention like "Pierre Breaux, son of Jean ...".  Sometimes there may be a good deal of information on relatives.

PASSENGER SHIP LISTS

    Ships arrived in New Orleans throughout the 19th century. Ship lists are available in microfilm. You can find them at the State Library, the State Archives, and the New Orleans Public Library. The National Archives also has some. Check to see if an index is available for the location/time in which you are interested ... it will make things much easier.

COMPILED WORKS

    Since the number of people in the state is growing larger, books now cover smaller areas and time periods. You need to look at the specific area in which you are interested to find information. In some areas, a history has been done of the town or parish.  Depending upon the source, there might be genealogical information on the early settlers.  There are a number of 'Family' books that cover a person, a couple, or everyone of a certain surname. Please consult the Book List for the titles. 

Copyright © 1997-09 Tim Hebert