FrancoGene: Genealogy of Louisiana


Origin of the State's name

Louisiana, named for Louis XIV (1638-1715) by Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle.

History of the colony at a glance

The inside area of the North-American continent was firstly inhabited by Natives (called Amerindians or Indians) for 10 to 40,000 years.

In 1538, the Spaniard Hernando de Soto navigated along the Mississippi River, but the Spanish settlements were limited to the South.

The French, who settled the St.Lawrence Valley (Quebec City, 1608, then Montreal, 1642), explored the continent looking for furs. In 1673, Louis Jolliet and father Jacques Marquette discovered the Mississippi River.

The colony of Louisiana once covered an immense region extending from the Gulf of Mexico, north along the Mississippi river valley to the Great Lakes and west into the unexplored watershed of the Missouri and Arkansas rivers. However, the early French-speaking population of Louisiana was thinly spread among the numerous posts established along the colony's principal waterway, the Mississippi, and its lower tributaries.

The Louisiana colony claimed by La Salle remained a French colony until 1762. As the colony had become an excessive burden on the French treasurer, Louis XV, via the Treaty of Fontainebleau, happily ceded the entire region to Spain. It remained under Spanish rule until 1800 when it was retroceded to France in accordance with the Treaty of San Ildefonso.  Three years later, in 1803, the emperor Napoleon sold the region to the United States for sixty million francs (or about fifteen million US dollars). The present-day State of Louisiana, formed in 1812, is one of approximately twenty US states formed from the area  encompassed by the Louisiana Purchase.

History of the state at a glance

In 1699, D’Iberville arrived in the mouth of the Mississippi, later known at the New Orleans (Louisiana).  This town was founded in 1718.  The South area was mostly a land of plantation and settlement was slow, with many slaves.

Early French colonists in Louisiana came from many different backgrounds.  The very earliest were Canadians (at that time, Canada was itself a French colony) and French-speaking Europeans. Then, immigration of German people was organized, giving St-Charles des Allemands (litterally, St-Charles of the German) on the German coast.  They were later joined by French Acadians expelled from Acadia by the British and by French colonists from Saint-Domingue (Haiti) fleeing the slave rebellion.  The Acadians were surprised to find that the area was Spanish, when they arrived, firstly about 1765 (from English colonies) and later about 1785 (from France).  Their Louisianese descendants took the name of Cajuns (Acadiens -> Acadjens -> Cadjens -> Cajuns).

In 1762, the area then called Louisiana and forming the inner part of USA was divided into 2 parts.  The part east of the Mississippi River was given to the British empire, forming later USA.  So, Illinois for example became British at that time.  In the south of the area, the east of Mississippi River formed the territory of Western Florida (this explains the many references to West Florida in early Louisiana records).  The west bank of the river became Spanish.  In 1800, the Spanish part was given back to France and in 1803, Napoleon sold it to USA.

Louisiana became the 18th American State in 1812.

Why Louisiana has parishes and not counties

It is the only State that is divided in parishes and not in counties.  Its French background is probably the reason.  France had a very irregular naming pattern at that time.  Some provinces were divided into "elections", other in "civil dioceses", some in "juridiction", etc.  The civil dioceses were divided into civil parishes (corresponding to towns, not to townships or counties).  The religious dioceses were also divided into religious parishes, not always similar to civil parishes.  It is quite possible that the regions of Louisiana were called parishes to use a similar naming pattern used in some French area.

Some French pioneers

Very scattered index of marriages of the French era:
[A-F] [G-Z]

Number of Franco-Americans in the State

French Canadians
French Canadians 
(Born in Canada)
French Canadians 
(Parents born in Canada)
French Roots
1990 4,219,973        
1980 4,205,900        
1970 3,641,306         
1960 3,257,022        
1950 2,683,516        
1940 2,363,880        

List of old French posts with records

Register: type and year of registers.  Register: type (bms for b/baptisms, m/marriages and s/burials) and years with records.  "rec" is a census.  A post is called a fort in French.
Post Today US state Registers Publication
Fort Condé de la Mobile
Fort Louis de la Louisiane
Mobile, Co. Mobile Alabama bms:1704-1764 C-2224 
Old Mobile -- Fort Louis de la Louisiane 1702-1711 
Fort St-Jean Baptiste de Natchitoches (St-François) Natchitoches, Natchitoches Parish Louisiana bms:1729-1796 list below 
Fort St-Philippe ??? Louisiana bms:1761-1765 NAC:C-2899
Mission des Illinois du Chapilatas à la Pointe Coupée Pointe-Coupee, Pointe-Coupee Parish Louisiana bms:1722-1723  
Pointe-Coupée (St-François) Pointe-Coupee, Pointe-Coupee Parish Louisiana bms:1756-1794  NAC:C-2237 
Bâton Rouge Diocese Records 
St-Martin des Attakapas Attakapas (St.Martin), Assumption Parish Louisiana bms:1756-1794  First register of St.Martin des Atakapas, etc. 
Fort Biloxi Biloxi (Harrison) Mississippi s:1720-1723 ANF:G1-412 
Fort Rosalie Natchez, Adams County Mississippi rec. 1726
First Families of Louisiana
Mississippi Provincial Archives 1-122-126

Principal genealogical sources

There are many old records and a good job is made in some Catholic dioceses, to gather all vital records (catholic, protestant and court house).

Note: in Louisiana, counties are called " parishes ". Thus, " New Orleans, Orleans Parish " means the New Orleans, county of Orleans and not the catholic parish of Orleans.

Some notes suggested by Don Pusch and Elizabeth Shown Mills.

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