G U I D E T O G E N E A L O G I C A L M A T E R I A L S |
in the New Orleans Public Library's Louisiana Division & City Archives
I N T R O D U C T I O N to the Fourth Edition
C O N T E N T S
Guide to Genealogical Materials Home
This is the fourth edition of the Louisiana Division’s guide to its genealogical holdings. The first was published in 1975, at a time when interest in researching family history was broadening to include not only the “traditional” genealogists, bent on finding documentation in support of their applications for membership in old line hereditary organizations, but also a wide spectrum of citizens who were simply interested in learning about where they came from – in digging up their “roots.” Few, if any, books had been written about their ancestors. If they were to be able to find answers to their questions about their family histories, their sources would have to be the records themselves.
At New Orleans Public Library, this widening interest in family history came more or less on the heels of the consolidation of genealogical holdings within the Louisiana Division. Collin B. Hamer, Jr., then Head of the Division, had a personal interest in and appreciation for genealogy and agreed to accept responsibility for developing the Library’s collection. He began to order materials that he knew would be useful to our patrons: federal census records, passenger arrival records, military service records, and a variety of books designed for the beginning researcher. He also enlisted a corps of volunteers to work on extending the scope of the newspaper obituary index that had been started years before by the WPA.
Hamer also recognized the wealth of research material present in the New Orleans City Archives, housed within the Louisiana Division. He encouraged his staff to identify and catalog relevant records and taught them how to assist genealogists with their use. He took extraordinary steps to insure that the family history-rich records of the Orleans Parish civil courts found a new home at the Library. He developed a close working relationship with the Genealogical Society of Utah and facilitated the continuation of their program to microfilm relevant documentation in the City Archives and the Civil Courts Collection, as well as assisting them in identifying additional records housed outside of NOPL’s walls that might also be microfilmed and made available.
The 1975 guide was effective in expanding knowledge of the Library’s genealogy collection well beyond the local area. A second, expanded guide appeared in 1984, adding new information about existing holdings as well as listings of newly-acquired materials. The third edition of the guide, published in 1998 with the support of the Friends of New Orleans Public Library, was characterized by an even more extensive revision and expansion. It won the 1999 ALA/RUSA Gale Group Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services; the full-text version of the guide also made its first appearance in the library's website (neworleanspubliclibrary.org), where it became available to a world-wide audience.
In preparing this new edition, we decided to go forward with a complete revision rather than stop with an updated version of the 1998 guide. Unlike its predecessor, this new edition employs a topical arrangement in which publications and related records – national, state, and local – are listed and described together. We hope that this presentation will help researchers better understand how the various resources complement one another.
In the relatively few years since we last published a guide to our collections, the Internet has changed the face of genealogical research at an astonishing pace. Several major subscription-based genealogy websites have made access to the federal census and other key source material easier than ever. In addition to these pay services, a vast amount of invaluable data has been, and continues to be, processed and posted online by innumerable individuals, institutions and organizations. The Louisiana Division and its corps of volunteers are part of this world-wide effort, as is the indefatigable New Orleans Volunteer Association (N.O.V.A.). Given the vast resources available online and the rate at which new material is appearing on the Internet, this guide can make no pretence to being a comprehensive description of online resources. Where appropriate, however, we have indicated online accessibility of the materials the guide describes. This access is indicated throughout the guide by a little square like this: .
Like its predecessors, this volume also makes no claim to being a “how-to” guide. Although it describes the materials in our collections, it does not, for the most part, provide instruction in the methodology of conducting genealogical research. There are many fine instructional manuals, both in print and online, that serious genealogists can (and should!) consult before beginning a family history quest. Our book collection includes a selection of such works among its holdings, and NUTRIAS provides links to several of the virtual variety.
In addition to the descriptions of City Archives records found in this guide, detailed archival finding aids to many of the records are available online at neworleanspubliclibrary.org/inv/invlist.htm Throughout this guide, finding aids available online are indicated by this symbol: .
Genealogical Materials would not have been possible without the financial support of the Friends of New Orleans Public Library and the institutional support of the administration and staff of the Library itself. We are particularly grateful to our fellow staff members in the Louisiana Division, all of whom have contributed their expertise to this guide, in one way or another. Above all, this guide owes its very existence to Collin B. Hamer, Jr., who showed us the way.
Wayne Everard, Archivist