Genealogical Usefulness of Civil Court Records

Included among the court records are also Emancipations of Minors, in which a minor petitions to be declared legally "of age." Such records give the birth date, the name of parent(s) and their death dates.

Slave Emancipations give the name of the slave being freed, the slave owner's name, the place of birth and age of the slave, and often the names of minor children who might be freed along with parents. In many cases, slaves are being freed by members of their own family, who may have purchased them from a previous owner for the purpose of freeing them. Emancipation petitions can be found in the Parish Court, and an Index to these emancipations is available in NUTRIAS.

Property Suits are another, perhaps unexpected, source of family information. In many situations, women needed permission to dispose of property, and petitions filed to obtain such permission can include the husband's name as well as the party's marital status--widowed, separated, divorced, etc.

The Louisiana Division has microfilm of Naturalization Records--Declarations of Intent (sometimes called "First Papers"), Oaths of Applicants/Witnesses, and Certificates of Naturalization for the civil, criminal and federal courts in New Orleans (naturalizations could take place in any court) and indexing for these records. Some civil court naturalizations are also included in the minute books from the individual courts (also microfilmed). It's important to remember, though, that there was no legal requirement that individuals be naturalized prior to 1906; unless he wanted to vote or hold office, an immigrant could live out his life in the U.S. without ever acquiring citizenship. We say "he" and "him" because women were not naturalized through court action but acquired citizenship "by right of" their husbands or fathers. Those who entered the country as minors were not required to make a declaration of intention no matter when they decided to seek citizenship.

We've already noted the genealogical usefullness of succession and divorce records, but we should also note that in addition to the kinds of documents you would expect to find in such records, you might also find copies of birth, death, or marriage certificates. (See the next page.)