African American Resource Center
New Orleans Public Library

African American Genealogical Research in New Orleans
Vital Records

Birth Certificates

In many small parishes in Louisiana, birth certificates were not given prior to 1914; however, birth records for persons born in Orleans Parish within the last 100 years can be obtained from the Office of Public Health, Vital Records Registry (Attachment 3). Records may be obtained in person or by writing the office.

For Orleans Parish birth records older than 100 years (as far back as 1790), one could either visit the Louisiana State Archives in Baton Rouge, check through their index and review a microfilm copy of the birth record, or write to them at the Louisiana State Archives requesting the information needed. In instances where birth records prior to 1914 are needed but not available, baptismal records can be used to supplement but not substitute information gotten from birth records.

Note: When writing archives or churches for vital or sacramental records you will need to provide the name of the individual for whom the record is needed, pertinent dates and location of event. Submit the appropriate fee along with a self-addressed stamped envelope.

At public archives and libraries, researchers can look through indices and through microfilm collections and take notes from the records if all they are interested in is the information from these sources. When time or travel to a certain location is not possible then either ordering a record or hiring a researcher from a particular area is your only solution. Some genealogists prefer to collect certificates, census copies, and other documents especially if they are going to publish their research. If you don't want to keep copies of documents or records you still must document the source of the information, especially if you need to retrieve it at a future date.

Information obtained from vital records should be used to document the information on your chart and to provide leads to other sources that will be useful in your search. For example, birth, marriage, and death records are useful in finding out the maiden names of females and places of birth, marriage or death of ancestors.

Marriage Records

Marriage Certificates can be obtained by writing the parish where the marriage occurred. Include in your request the names of the married couple and the date of marriage. The Louisiana Division of the New Orleans Public Library has microfilm copies of marriage licenses and certificates, for Orleans Parish 1846-1915, and an index only for 1916-1984, as well as several other parishes. Marriage certificates of couples married in Orleans Parish within the past 50 years can be obtained from the Office of Public Health, Vital Records Registry (Attachments 4 and 4a). Records may be obtained in person or by writing the office. If the marriage occurred more than 50 years ago, you must contact the Office of the Secretary of State. Marriage records of African Americans prior to 1864 are of free people only. The Freedmenís Bureau records have some marriage records of former slaves, who were married before emancipation. (See section entitled Freedmenís Bureau and Related Records.)

Death Records

The State Archives in Baton Rouge has an index to microfilm copies of death certificates that represent deaths that occurred in the State of Louisiana from 1914-1946. The index is arranged by surname and refers to the parish where the death occurred by a numerical code. More recent death records for the state of Louisiana can be ordered from the Office of Public Health in New Orleans (Attachment 3).

The Louisiana Division of the New Orleans Public Library has Orleans Parish death records from 1804-1915 on microfilm along with an index. Researchers can browse the Obituary Index of the Louisiana Division at obits.gno.lib.la.us/nopl/obitindex.htm.

An extensive newspaper obituary file from 1804-1972 with some gaps is also available in the Louisiana Division. Prior to 1864, obituaries and death certificates are of whites and free people of color only. Again, if your slave ancestors were Catholic or owned by Catholics, the Catholic Church in the area where your ancestors lived might have last rites, funeral, and burial records on them.


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