Louisiana Division | City Archives
New Orleans Public Library

AFRICAN-AMERICAN GENEALOGY SOURCES
in the Louisiana Division of the New Orleans Public Library

Most of the sources listed below are relevant only to New Orleans. The obituary index, for example, is limited to newspapers published in the Crescent City. We have indicated availability of similar sources for other parishes on the list where appropriate. The information contained in records from other parishes, however, may differ from that found in the New Orleans sources. These sources are listed in order of their general ease of use and value for research in African-American family history. For more detailed descriptions of the pre-1862 records listed below, see the Division's two volume Guide to the early records (1760-1861) in the New Orleans City Archives Collection.


Obituary Index, 1804-1972 - more obituaries for black people appear in the daily newspapers since World War II than in earlier years. Prominent figures in the black community are more likely to appear in the pre-War era. Members of benevolent or burial societies might also be better represented. NOTE: the Louisiana Weekly is not included in the obituary index; while it includes various articles, cards of thanks, "in memoriams," and other sources of information on deaths of black people, it has not incorporated a separate death notice column such as that employed by the Times-Picayune.

Federal Census Records, 1810-1920 - includes all parishes in the state; also available for most other southern states. The records for the years 1810-1860 include same data on free black households as on white; slave schedules list slaves under the names of their masters, but only by age & sex (i.e., no slave names are shown). After 1860, of course, all residents are recorded.

Family Search - an automated, CD-ROM based resource offering a wide variety of genealogical information from such sources as the Social Security Death Index, the LDS International Genealogical Index, and the LDS Ancestral File. Also included are indexes to U.S. census records and to U.S. marriage records.

City Directories, 1805-1992 - antebellum books show free blacks (in at least some editions), post-bellum list everyone, though usually without racial designations.

Death Certificates, 1804-1915 [FF650] - during antebellum period, deaths of free blacks are recorded (though in separate books for earliest years). After 1864, "all" deaths are recorded. Also available are microfilm indexes of New Orleans deaths, 1957-1970, and Louisiana deaths, 1971-1976 [FF420].

Marriage Records, 1846-1915 - includes records from the Justices of the Peace [VE series], Board of Health [FF651-653], and City Courts [VH series]. The antebellum records include some free black persons, and maybe even a slave or two. Post-1864 records again will include all segments of the population. The Division now has the indexes only for New Orleans marriages for the period 1916-1990 in the FF651 series. Records for other parishes are in the GS series.

Cemetery Records, 1835-1968 - city cemeteries [LM series], especially Holt, will include records of interment of black persons, some including slaves; also Catholic cemeteries, Greenwood, Chalmette, Odd Fellows, St. John, & Cypress Grove [GS36 and LN series]. We also have the DAR index to the Girod Street Cemetery records [DAR-16]. Note that while some cemeteries had separate sections for the burial of blacks, the records are usually all-inclusive.

Free People of Color Registers, 1840-1864 [AA430] - brief entries for free blacks allowed to remain in the state. Shows name, age, sex, color, occupation, and evidence of freedom.

Emancipation Records, 1827-1851 - records from the Orleans Parish Police Jury [VJA320], the Parish Court [VCP] and the City Council [AB350; some also appear in individual volumes in the AB300 series], Mayor's Office [AA205]. These give names of slaves and masters and, sometimes, other identifying information. In some cases, mothers were emancipated along with their children. An index to the Parish Court emancipation petitions is available.

Registers of Signatures of Depositors in Branches of the Freedmen's Savings and Trust Co., 1865- 1874 [M816], the 27 rolls of film in this series include for Louisiana and several other states, the following information for each depositor: account number, name, age, complexion, place of birth, place raised, name of former master/mistress, residence, occupation, names of parents/spouse/children/siblings, remarks, and signatures. Also available is the 5 roll index to the Registers [M817].

Freedmen's Bureau Records [M1026 and M1027] - National Archives films of Louisiana records. The M1027 series includes registers of Freedmen's applications for land, giving individual names and information on family members. These registers are on roll 34 of the series. Also on that roll are records relating to the victims of various "murders and outrages" committed in the state. Rolls 34, 35, and 36 of this series contain records of personnel employed by the Bureau in Louisiana. Rolls 3 and 4 of the M1026 series include educational reports containing the names of some teachers in the Freedmen's schools.

Coroner's Records, 1844-1969 [TH series] - all races included in records of inquests & views, autopsies, and other death registers.

Civil Court Records, 1805-1927 [various call numbers, all in the VC, VM, VS, and VT series] - succession records for white and free black property owners give date of death, reference to at least some heirs, and sometimes much more information. Some successions, for example, provide considerable detail on the expenses made on behalf of the deceased's estate, including in at least some cases data on moneys spent for the care of individual slaves. Estate inventories include lists of slaves held by the deceased. Other records of interest would be suits brought by free black persons being sold as slaves, suits brought by purchasers of slaves over "defects" in the slaves, suits brought by masters for non-payment of wages to hired-out slaves, suits over debts with the resultant court-ordered sale of slaves, suits involving the illegal importation of slaves into the state, etc. Post-bellum records will include all races, though racial designation will not be shown.

Civil Court Records from Other Parishes, 1700s-1900 [GS series] - will include successions, marriages, and conveyance (deed) records. The latter include sales of slaves as well as sales of land.

Criminal Court Records, 1830-1931 [VL and VQ series; NOT ON FILM]- early records will include instances of blacks "insulting white persons," harboring slaves, inciting to riot, etc., but not cases involving crimes committed by slaves. After 1864, though, all criminal prosecutions, for all races, are included. Generally these give little useful personal information about the accused, other than his address. Addresses of witnesses are also usually given. Several of the criminal cases handled by the Mayor during the period 1823-1832 [AA370] deal with free persons of color who were in the city in violation of various legislative acts or city ordinances.

Arrest Records, 1816-1957 - records of the Commissaries of Police [TK], City Guard [TB], Dept. of Police [TB], and NOPD [TP]. Includes arrests for all persons, but most, if not all, indicate racial group. Information given will vary over time, and may include: age, name of slavemaster, occupation, possessions on person at time of arrest, place of origin, etc. The arrest cards (1914-1954) index, at least partially, the records for that era. Of special interest, though limited in coverage, is a single volume of certifications of arrests for runaway slaves, 1852 [TB650s].

Police Jail Records, 1820-1851 [TX series] - names of slaves and masters, some indication of "offense," some records of slaves working on the chain gang, and of free black persons imprisoned as slaves. Additional chain gang documentation is available in the records of the First Municipality Surveyor's Office [KG series].

Heartman Manuscripts on Slavery, 11724-1897 [XU-1] - the original Heartman collection is at Xavier University; we have a microfilm copy. The collection includes materials from all over the U.S., but most are from Louisiana, and nearly half from New Orleans. Many of the documents in the collection are similar to the arrest and Police Jail records noted above. The collection is described in Xavier's Guide to the Heartman Manuscripts on Slavery [306.362 G946]. This Guide includes index entries for the surnames included in the individual document descriptions.

Passports, 1818-1831 [AA420] - issued by the Mayor to free blacks wishing to leave the city and later be permitted to return. Some include passports for slaves accompanying their masters.

Indenture Records, 1809-1843 [AA660-AA661] - records of apprenticeship agreements, many involving black people, including refugees from Saint Domingue. An index is available to the names represented in these records.

Voter Registration Records, 1891-1978 - prior to disfranchisement of black voters in 1898, a good number of blacks were registered and do appear in our precinct registers. After 1898, though, these records include few black people until after passage of the Voter Rights legislation in the late 1960s. There were some blacks who were able to get on the registration rolls prior to that time, and we have records of those blacks who were able to register under terms of the Grandfather Clause, because they had white fathers or grandfathers who had been registered voters prior to 1868. Registration records for other parishes, for the year 1898 only, are on microfilm in the SARS-9 series.

Tax Registers, 1852-1861 [CC420, indexed by CC419] - lists all property owners, white and free black, shows number of and location of slaveholdings, as well as landholdings, belonging to each individual. Pre-1852 records are also available, though they are not as complete, and are unindexed.

Tax Assessment Records, 1857-1861 [CJ431-CJ434] - list number of slaves held at a given location. They show land and slaveholdings of white and free black citizens. We also have several earlier volumes [CJ430]; the ones for 1837 & 1838 give the names of individual slaves held by slave owners

Freedom Papers of New Orleans, 1854-1858 [LN55] - miscellaneous documents proving free status of blacks residing in or visiting the city.

Lists of Slaves Imported for Sale in the City of New Orleans, 1831 [AA253] - ship manifests showing names of slaves and place of origin.

Record Book of Licenses Issued to Peddlers, 1823-1826, and of Deserters from Ships in the Ports of New Orleans, 1823-1826; 1822-1831 [AA420] - some of the license entries indicate that a named slave was to do the actual peddling for the free person holding the license. There are also some free black persons included among the deserters.

Hospital Records, 1818-1929 - includes records from Charity Hospital and Touro Infirmary [GS36 series]; Smallpox [FNS series]; and Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat [FNC200]. Some slaves are included in the antebellum admissions to Charity; the identity of free blacks during that period, and of all blacks in the later period, may depend on the ward to which they were admitted. Slaves are also included in the Touro records and the Smallpox Hospital records identify black patients as well. The annual reports of the EENT Hospital identify some patients by initials, age, race, and sex.

School Yearbooks and Teacher Directories - identification of black schools, teachers, and students for the years available (i.e., 20th century).

Other Published Directories - Woods directories, 1922 Colored directory, Who's who in colored Louisiana, Delta Shadows; these sources give lists of black businesses and/or biographies of prominent black citizens. Advertisements and some photographs are also included.

Military Records [LN56] - muster rolls, 1865-1866, for the 10th Regiment, U.S. Colored Artillery (Heavy) in New Orleans

Scrapbook of Clippings Advertising Auctions, 1855-1868 [917.631 N52] - includes slave auctions.

Robert Tallant Papers [LN75] - includes summaries of interviews with former slaves and other black New Orleanians. Some of the names represented in these papers are included in the index to Hubert Humphreys, Louisiana oral history collections [016.9763 H92L].


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