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Orleans Parish Marriages | New Orleans Board of Health Records | City Courts | Other Orleans Parish Courts

Orleans Parish Marriages

The City Archives holds licenses and certificates from Justices of the Peace, the Board of Health, judges of the City Court, and other civil court judges.

For details on the Division’s holdings in marriage records from parishes outside of Orleans, see the Civil Records (Parishes Other than Orleans) section of this guide.

Justice of the Peace Marriage Records

New Orleans (La.) Justices of the Peace. Marriage Records, 1846-1880.     Finding Aid

From 1846 to 1870, the Justices of the Peace were the exclusive source for civil marriage licenses in Orleans Parish, which was divided into 6 districts, each of which elected a justice. Justices continued to function until 1880, when the judges of the newly established City Court assumed responsibility for issuance of civil marriage licenses. The legislation authorizing this process also allowed Justices of the Peace to perform marriage ceremonies and instructed them to keep appropriate records.

The records, in 171 volumes, are for the most part printed forms filled in by the Justices of the Peace, consisting of marriage licenses and/or marriage certificates. Since there was no legislation during this time period requiring that copies of marriage certificates be returned to the civil authorities, the marriage certificates in this series are only for marriages performed by the Justices of the Peace themselves. (With the exception of a few volumes of certificates returned to Justices of the Peace as proof of marriage, certificates for ceremonies performed by priests, ministers or other celebrants are available only in church records or, after 1870, in the records of the Board of Health.) A handful of volumes contain both marriage licenses and certificates, and a few contain receipts for licenses rather than copies of the actual licenses.

  A detailed inventory of these records and a guide to the boundaries of Justice of the Peace districts can be found online at neworleanspubliclibrary.org/inv/neh/nehva.htm#va6.

Marriage Licenses, 1846-1880.
The Licenses, generally, are printed forms in three parts: first, a statement of two witnesses swearing that the parties applying for the license are over the age of twenty-one, signed by the justice of the peace granting the license; second, a bond posted by the groom and attested to by one witness as security that no legal impediment to the marriage existed when the license was granted (should no such impediment appear within two years, the obligation was voided); third, a statement giving consent for a minor to be married, including the minor's age and the signature of the family member consenting to the marriage and of the justice of the peace. In the case of minors, age is recorded. Sometimes, the name of the minister or magistrate licensed to perform the ceremony is also recorded. The forms, of course, are dated. mf VEA-VEI678

Marriage Certificates, 1846-1880.
The Marriage Certificates are for marriages performed by the Justices of the Peace themselves. Although the actual wording of the certificates (usually printed forms) varies over time, all certificates give the following information: date of marriage and names of bride, groom, three witnesses, and the justice of the peace performing the ceremony. Records from the antebellum period, certificates and licenses alike, include some free black persons, and a few slaves. Post-1864 records include all segments of the population. mf VEA-VEI658

Index to Justice of the Peace Marriage Records, 1846-1880.
A card index to the records, arranged by name of bride and groom, is located in the Louisiana Division. Since the page numbers on the cards do not appear in the microfilmed records, it is essential to note the call number (e.g., VEB678) and date shown on an individual card.

  The Justice of the Peace Index is currently being added to our website at neworleanspubliclibrary.org/inv/jpmarrindex/jpmarrindex.htm

Note: The index has also been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah.


Marriage Records from the New Orleans Board of Health

In 1870, the Recorder of Births and Deaths for Orleans Parish became the Recorder of Births, Marriages and Deaths and was given concurrent power with other officers designated to issue marriage licenses; all licenses were to be returned to the Recorder's office, and all marriages were to be registered there. In 1877, the Recorder of Births, Marriages and Deaths was placed under the aegis of the Board of Health, which assumed responsibility for registering all marriages (and other vital statistics). By 1882, licenses in Orleans and Jefferson were granted only by the Recorder of Births, Marriages and Deaths or the judges of the City Courts. In 1974, responsibility for registering marriages in Orleans Parish was assumed by the Louisiana Department of Health and Human Resources (now Department of Health and Hospitals).

Researching the microfilmed marriage records of Orleans Parish is a three-step process. Researchers must first check the Index which will provide a reference to a volume and page number in the Register. The Register will give the volume and page number on which the actual license and/or certificate appears.

Index to Register of Marriages as Kept by the Recorder of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1831-1994.
This index gives the names of the contracting parties, their age, sex, the date of marriage, and a volume/page reference to the Register. Some marriages celebrated before 1870 are included, but these marriages were recorded retroactively, after 1870. The groom's index precedes the bride's index. The 1936-1946 indexes are handwritten and give only the name and the certificate (or page) number. Beginning in 1970, the index originates with the state health agency rather than the New Orleans Health Department; at this point, the index covers marriages statewide and can be searched only by the groom's name. mf FF652 1831-1994

  This index (to 1925) is available online at www.ancestry.com (subscription only) and at Ancestry Library Edition, accessible at all NOPL facilities.

  See also the Louisiana State Archives' index to Louisiana Vital Records.

  And see also a transcription of the index at the Orleans Parish USGenWeb site.

  Note: Although the index continues to 1994, the Orleans Parish marriage records in the Louisiana Division extend only through 1916. Records after that date must be obtained from the Vital Records Registry (if they are less than 50 years old) or the State Archives (if they are more than 50 years old).

Registers of Marriage Kept by the Recorder of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1870-1916.
The Register gives the date of registration; names of the person performing the marriage ceremony; date of marriage; name, age, nativity, and parents of the contracting parties; names of witnesses; date the license was issued and by whom; volume and page where the license and/or certificate is filed. Entries for earlier marriages sometimes include a statement that the marriage license or certificate has been lost. mf FF653 1870-1916.

Marriage Licenses and Certificates Returned to the Recorder of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1870-1915.
The records take different forms but, for the most part, include the date of marriage, names of contracting parties, their place of birth, parents' names, and the names of witnesses. Unlike the Register entries, the records in this series generally include the original signatures of the parties involved, which may be used to answer questions about the correct spelling of names (sometimes recorded incorrectly by the Recorder in the Register). mf FF654 1870-1915

Note: The microfilm starts with volume 2; apparently, there was once a volume of records predating 1870; that volume was missing when the records were filmed.

Marriage Licenses, 1870-1873.
These volumes contain a collection of miscellaneous items including church certificates, court licenses, permissions for underage persons to marry, etc. mf FH678 1870-1873


Marriage Records from the City Courts

In 1880 a system of City Courts was substituted for the existing Justices of the Peace arrangement. The First City Court served the area above Canal St., the Second City Court served the section below Canal St., and the Third City Court served Algiers. The Fourth City Court had concurrent jurisdiction with the First and Second City Courts. Like the Justices of the Peace before them, the judges of the City Courts were authorized to issue marriage licenses and to perform marriage ceremonies.

The Constitution of 1898 rearranged this system by doing away with the Third and Fourth City Courts and by giving the First City Court (with three judges) jurisdiction for all of the east bank of New Orleans while placing Algiers under the Second City Court. The sitting judges of the Third and Fourth City Courts were allowed to keep their seats until the end of their terms of office in May, 1900.

The marriage licenses and certificates kept by the City Court judges are similar to those maintained previously by the Justices of the Peace. Certificates, which are only for ceremonies performed by the judge, vary in appearance, but all include names and signatures of bride and groom, signatures of the judge and witnesses, and the date of the ceremony. Some have information from the marriage license issued by the Board of Health entered on the reverse. In such cases the age, place of birth, and names of parents of the bride and groom are noted. Licenses include the names and signatures of the principal (groom) and his surety, signatures of witnesses and the judge, date of the license, and the name of the minister or other party licensed to perform the ceremony (this information is not always included). Beginning in 1889 the First City Court began to include place of birth and name of parents on its licenses (age of bride and groom was added later). Many, but not all, of the license and certificate volumes include indexes.

The Archives holds the following City Court marriage records:

First City Court – Division A
Licenses, 1880-1921 mf VHA678
Certificates, 1880-1928 mf VHA658

First City Court – Division B
Licenses, 1900-1923 mf VHA678
Certificates, 1900-1934 mf VHA658

Second City Court
Licenses, 1882-1916 mf VHB678
Certificates, 1882-1916 mf VHB658

Third City Court
Licenses, 1895-1901 mf VHC678
Certificates, 1895-1901 mf VHC658

Fourth City Court
Licenses, 1881-1900 mf VHD678
Certificates, 1881-1904 mf VHD658


Marriage Records in Other Orleans Parish Courts

Although most civil marriage records in the City Archives were issued by the Justices of the Peace, the Judges of the City Court, or the Board of Health, there are several volumes that originated from the offices of one of the civil court judges. They are as follows:

Louisiana. City Court (Orleans Parish). Marriage Licenses, 1807-1808
A record of 106 marriage licenses filed with the City Court during this early period. The names of each bride and groom are listed along with the date of filing for each license. These are the only pre-1846 civil marriage records for New Orleans in the City Archives. Filed as item #4 under call number mf VSG300 1872.

Louisiana. Second District Court (Orleans Parish). Marriage Certificates, 1879-1880       Finding Aid
Judges in Louisiana have been authorized to celebrate marriages since 1820; the judges of the Second District Court in New Orleans were no exception. Only one volume of marriage records has survived from the Second District Court.

  An inventory and transcription of the Second District Court marriage certificates is available online at neworleanspubliclibrary.org/inv/2dcmarriages.htm

Louisiana. Civil District Court (Orleans Parish). Marriage Certificates, 1881-1920
Marriages performed by the judges of Civil District Court [the first volume records marriages performed by the judge of Division A only]. Only a handful of certifcates exist after 1896. The pre-1896 records include data on the age, place of birth, and parents of the married couple; after 1896 only the names are listed. mf VSB650m