Louisiana Division
New Orleans Public Library

Hints for using the 1860-1920 Louisiana Census Microfilms and Indexes
(with Special Emphasis on New Orleans)

The published Accelerated Indexing Systems (AIS) indexes to the 1850-1870 Louisiana censuses stop short of identifying the specific roll of microfilm to use for finding an individual in Orleans Parish, the only Louisiana parish taking up more than a single film roll in the federal population census series. This guide is a preliminary effort to make the researcher's task a bit easier. For hints on using the 1850 Louisiana census microfilms and indexes see 1850 hints

The (AIS) index gives very little help, only a page number for Orleans Parish residents. You can cut the number of rolls to search at least in half just by observing the page number contents as shown on the film box. No need to look at the box with pp. 287-645 ii your ancestor is on page 134. A bit more judgment can narrow the search down even further in many cases. If you are looking for a French family, then you should begin looking at the films (with the "right" page numbers) for wards 4-9, the "French" part of the city. If its an Anglo-Saxon name (or an Irish one) then the films for wards 1-3 and 10-11 would be more in order. As time went on, of course, the separation of nationalities became less important in most cases, but Italian names might best be sought in the French Quarter wards during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The AIS index shows the ward number along with the page number for wards 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9 in Orleans Parish. This means that those Orleans Parish page references not identified in the index by ward must fall into one of the remaining wards, that is, 3, 5, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, or 15 (Algiers) [wards 16 & 17, in Carrollton were not yet part of the city: they remained in Jefferson Parish until 1874]. From the page and ward designations on the 1870 film boxes it would appear that AIS page references that do not include ward locations will be found as follows:
  • pp. 1-228 5th ward
  • pp. 153-588 IOth or Ilth ward
  • pp. 403-728 3rd ward
  • pp. 589-826 12th, 13th, 14th, or 15th ward (Algiers).

While a bit of overlap remains, use of this guide will help to narrow down an 1870 census search considerably. Be aware, as well, that page numbers given in the AIS book refer to the stamped or printed block numbers appearing on alternating pages, not to any of the handwritten page numbers that appear as well.

This is the first one where the Soundex index is used. But there is an important limitation to the Soundex for the 1880 census: it only includes families that included children 10 years old or younger within the household (there are also cards for each child 10 years old or under whose surname is different from that of the head of household). All families are included in the census itself, only those with children of the proper age group, however, were included in the index. But addresses are shown for the first time on the 1880 census rolls. If you have an address (from the 1880 city directory or elsewhere), then, once you have determined the ward for that address, you can go to the film for that ward and search by address. The street names generally are written in across the left-hand margin of each sheet, and the house numbers are given in the first column at the left. Census marshals seen to have started at the river and worked their way out towards the "woods," so this is another guide that can be used in locating a given street address. Be aware, though, that the addresses shown in 1880 are the old addresses; current street numbers did not come into use until 1893/1894.

We all know that most of the 1890 census was destroyed or badly damaged by a 1921 fire in Washington. We have the 1890 census for Ascension Parish only, both on film and in a published version, with index. We also have films (and the AIS index) for the "Special" 1890 census schedule for Louisiana, which enumerated Union army veterans and their families.

The Soundex now covers all heads of households, regardless of the presence of children in the household. There are also cards for all persons whose surnames are different from the head of household with whom they resided. Research by address is made a bit easier by the availability of descriptions of the geographic boundaries of each enumeration district. These descriptions appear on mf roll T1210-4. This guide makes it possible to zero in on the correct enumeration district that includes a given street address; it is then a fairly simple matter to find that address.

In addition to the Soundex index, there is also a Miracode index (which uses the same Soundex codes) for Orleans and Caddo Parishes.

Once again there is a single Soundex index for the entire state.

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