Louisiana Division/City Archives
New Orleans Public Library

Sources for Researching the History of Your House (Or Other Building) in New Orleans

Civil Court Records/Sheriff's Sales

Court Cases

City Archives holds on deposit all extant records of the Orleans Parish civil courts, 1804-1926. These materials have a variety of uses for the building researcher. Often in tracing the chain-of- title you will find reference to a transfer involving a court proceeding. In some cases the chain may actually be broken by a succession or sheriff's sale. It is then necessary to go to the court record in order to regain the proper track. If the COB reference is to a case in an Orleans Parish civil court filed prior to 1927, the record should be available in the City Archives (later records are still in the custody of the Clerk of Civil District Court). The information in the record will, in most cases, provide a fresh COB number or other reference to enable you to get back into the search.

Court documents can be very useful even when the chain-of-title is not broken. In a succession, for example, there may be an inventory of the deceased's possessions, including a room-by-room listing of the furnishings of his house and/or the contents of his business establishment. From such a record you can gain invaluable insight into the original use of the structure. Most successions, wills & estate inventories, 1804-1926, are available on microfilm.

There is also the possibility that you might come across a court case involving some dispute that arose out of the construction (or alteration) of your building. One of the most interesting such cases is the succession of John Tiner. This record provides, among other things, incredible detail on the construction and later repairs to structures built on behalf of Tiner's minor children. Included are bills for labor and materials and testimony by builders and architects, Henry Howard among them, as to the value of the subject projects. This record would almost certainly be encountered by anyone doing a serious research project on one of the "Tiner houses. Other interesting cases might be identified by searching the docket indexes for the names of the owner of the property, since he might have been suing (or being sued by) his architect or contractor. Similarly, cases might be found by searching the indexes for the names of known builders or architects.

A detailed explanation of the Orleans Parish civil court system and the City Archives' holdings can be found online at neworleanspubliclibrary.org/guides/genguide/appendixd.htm.

Indexing to Successions

Indexing to successions from 1805-1903 is available in four published volumes compiled by Civil District Court. The first two of these volumes, covering the period 1804-1880, have been transcribed and are available online:

General Index of all Successions, 1805-1846 (Court of Probates)

General Index of all Successions, 1846-1880 (Second District Court)

The third and fourth volumes have not been transcribed for the web, but are available in the Louisiana Division:

General index of all successions opened in the Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans, Louisiana, from its organization, August 1, 1880 to August 31, 1984. (929.3 O71 1880-1894)

General index of all successions, emancipations, interdictions, and partition proceedings opened in the Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans, Louisiana, from August 1894 to January, 1902. (929.3 O71 v. 4)
Note: A supplement to this volume, compiled by Clarence J. Cocke, is bound at the end of volume 4 and extends the coverage through October 31, 1903.)

Beginning with November, 1903, indexing to successions in Civil District Court is available only on microfilm:

Louisiana. Civil District Court (Orleans Parish). Index to Docket 1, 1880-1926 (48 vols.)
(VT350ai 1880-1926 mf)

Indexing for Other Lawsuits

Indexing to pre-1846 civil courts is available online at neworleanspubliclibrary.org/inv/courts.htm. After 1846, indexing (by plaintiff and defendant) is available on microfilm for most civil courts. Consult with the Louisiana Division reference staff for access.

Deed Books

Deed books are available for most Orleans Parish civil courts, 1823-1929. These volumes record the transfer of property ordered by the court to be sold at Sheriff's sale, normally for payment of debt. These volumes can be especially useful in bridging gaps in your chain of title. Deed books are extant for the following courts:

City Court, 1828-1849 (VH690 mf)
Court of Probates, 1832-1828 (VCH690 mf)
Parish Court, 1835-1849 (VCP690 mf)
First Judicial District Court, 1838-1846 (VMA690 mf)
Commercial Court, 1842-1845 (VCC690 mf)
Second District Court, 1844-1880 (VSB690 mf)
Third District Court, 1846-1880 (VSC690 mf)
Fourt District Court, 1846-1880 (VSD690 mf)
Fifth District Court, 1846-1880 (VSE 690 mf)
Sixth District Court, 1853-1880 (VSF690 mf)
Seventh District Court, 1868-1872 (VSG690 mf)
Second Judicial District Court, 1876-1880 (VMB690 mf)
Civil District Court, 1880-1929 (VT690 mf)

Sheriff's Sales

Although not actually part of the court records, these records relate directly to decisions rendered by the civil courts.

Orleans Parish (La.) Sheriff's Office. Sales books, 1846-1863 (31 v.)
Beginning 1845, it was the duty of the Civil Sheriff in Orleans Parish (and the sheriffs in other parishes) to execute all judgments and orders of the parish courts. In 1847, the Sheriffs' duties relative to judicial sales were more clearly defined, and the Sheriff was charged with carrying out all court-ordered sales, except for succession proceedings, in which the representative of the succession was permitted to choose whether the sale would be conducted by the Sheriff or by an auctioneer.

Each volume of the sales books includes records of the sales of both movable and immovable properties as ordered by the civil courts of the Parish. For sales of movables there is usually a detailed inventory of the items being sold, along with the amount paid for each item, and the name of the purchaser. Among the records are sales of the contents of private residences and of businesses such as dry goods stores, coffee houses, and book stores, all with item-by-item or lot-by-lot inventories. There are also several records of hotel sales, including at least one for the St. Charles Hotel, again with room-by-room listings of furnishings and inventories of the contents of the public rooms. Each volume is indexed by the titles of the suits which led to the court-ordered sale.

A detailed inventory of the volumes (all of which are microfilmed) is available online at neworleanspubliclibrary.org/inv/neh/nehva.htm#va7.
(VF 800 1846-1863)

Orleans Parish (La.) Sheriff's Office. Account sales, 1838-1840 (1 vol.)
This early volume shows the date, name of suit prompting the sale, name of court in which the suit was heard, description of the property being sold (land, slaves, and moveable properties are included), name of purchaser, and amount and terms of sale.
(VF801 1838-1840)

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