Louisiana Church Records

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This entry was originally written by Beth A. Stahr, CGRS and Sharon Sholars Brown for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Louisiana Family History Research series.
History of Louisiana
Louisiana Vital Records
Census Records for Louisiana
Background Sources for Louisiana
Louisiana Maps
Louisiana Land Records
Louisiana Probate Records
Louisiana Court Records
Louisiana Tax Records
Louisiana Cemetery Records
Louisiana Church Records
Louisiana Military Records
Louisiana Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Louisiana Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Louisiana Immigration
Ethnic Groups of Louisiana
Louisiana Parish Resources
Map of Louisiana


As previously stated, the Roman Catholic Church was the only church in Louisiana until the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Historian James D. Hardy Jr. wrote that colonial Louisianians had to “be baptized, married and have their children baptized, and be buried as Catholics. A marriage performed anywhere but a Catholic Church was invalid, and the parties were living in sin. Their children were illegitimate...and their [marriage] contracts were unenforceable at law. Babies not given baptism were not people, and their births were unrecorded” (quoted in Winston DeVille, Gulf Coasts Colonials [Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1968], page 11).

New recording requirements of the Catholic Church in the early nineteenth century created a virtual goldmine of genealogical data. Not only did the priest list the name or names of the persons involved and their parents, but he now named both sets of grandparents, place of nativity of each, and, as always, the maiden names of the females. Many church records still exist from both the French and the Spanish eras. Those of genealogical value are parish church registers and the bishops’ records. Under the French, colonial Louisiana was part of the Diocese of Quebec. During the Spanish period the Diocese of Havana served Louisiana until 1793. At this time the Diocese of Louisiana and the Floridas was founded, with New Orleans as its see. For most of the colonial period the genealogist need not be concerned with the bishop’s records; but between 1793 and 1803 this changed, and very valuable information can be found for this decade. One of the main sets of records within the bishop’s files is the dispensations. These are mostly marital dispensations that ask for the church’s permission to marry even though some impediment existed, for example, if the couple were first or second cousins or if one of the intended was not of the Catholic faith. Many Catholic Church registers have been translated and abstracted. Researchers should note that the abstracts for the registers are not always complete or accurate. See particularly:

  • Archdiocese of New Orleans. Sacramental Records of the Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Vol. 1, 1718–1750. Vol. 2, 1751–1771. Vol. 3, 1772–1783. Vol. 4, 1784–1790. Vol. 5, 1791–1795. Vol. 6, 1796–1799. Vol. 7, 1800–1803. Vol. 8, 1804–1806. Vol. 9, 1807–1809. Vol. 10, 1810–1812. Vol. 11, 1813–1815. Vol. 12, 1816–1817. Vol. 13, 1818–1819. Vol. 14, 1820–1821. Vol. 15, 1822–1823. Vol. 16, 1824–1825. Vol. 17, 1828–1829. Vol. 18, 1826–1827. Vol. 19, 1830–1831. New Orleans: Archdiocese of New Orleans, 1987-2003. These books may be ordered online at www.archdiocese-no.org/archives/page5.htm.
  • Diocese of Baton Rouge. Catholic Church Records. Vol. 1a revised. Acadian Records, 1707–1749. Vol. 1b revised, 1722–1769. Vol. 2, 1770–1802. Vol. 3, 1804–1819. Vol. 4, 1820–1829. Vol. 5, 1830–1839. Vol. 6, 1840–1847, Vol. 7, 1848–1852. Vol. 8, 1853–1857. Vol. 9, 1858–1862. Vol. 10, 1863–1867. Vol. 11, 1868–1870. Vol 12, 1871–1873. Vol. 13, 1874–1876. Vol. 14, 1877–1879. Vol. 15, 1880–1882. Vol. 16, 1883 Census Tables for the French Colony of Louisiana, 1699–1732–1885. Vol. 17, 1886–1888. Vol. 18, 1889–1891. Vol. 19, 1892–1894. Vol. 20, 1895–1896. Baton Rouge: Diocese of Baton Rouge, 1978–2003. These books may be ordered online at www.diobr.org/departments/Archives/published_sacramental_records.htm.
  • Hébert, Donald. South Louisiana Records. Vol. 1, 1794–1840. Vol. 2, 1841–1850. Vol. 3, 1851–1860. Vol. 4, 1861–1870. Vol. 5, 1871–1875. Vol. 6, 1876–1880. Vol. 7, 1881–1885. Vol. 8, 1886–1890. Vol. 9, 1891–1895. Vol. 10, 1896–1899. Vol. 11, 1900–1903. Vol. 12, 1904–1920. Rayne, La.: Hébert Publications, 1978–85. These books may be ordered online at www.hebertpublications.com/default.htm.
  • Hébert, Donald. Southwest Louisiana Records. Vol. 1A, 1750–1800. Vol. 1B, 1801–1810. Vol. 2A, 1811–1818. Vol. 2B, 1819–1825. Vol. 2C, 1826–1830. Vol. 3, 1831–1840. Vol. 4, 1841–1847. Vol. 5, 1848–1854. Vol. 6, 1855–1860. Vol. 7, 1861–1865. Vol. 8, 1866–1868. Vol. 9, 1869–1870. Vol. 10, 1871–1872. Vol. 11, 1873–1874. Vol. 12, 1875–1876. Vol. 13, 1877–1878. Vol. 14, 1879–1880. Vol. 15, 1881–1882. Vol. 16, 1883–1884. Vol.17, 1885–1886. Vol. 18, 1887. Vol. 19, 1888. Vol. 20, 1889. Vol. 21, 1890. Vol. 22, 1891. Vol. 23, 1892. Vol. 24, 1893. Vol. 25, 1894. Vol. 26, 1895. Vol. 27, 1896. Vol. 28, 1897. Vol. 29, 1898. Vol. 30, 1899. Vol. 31, 1900. Vol. 32, 1901–1902. Vol. 33, 1903–1953. Vol. 34, 1901–1902. Vol. 35, 1903. Vol. 36, 1904. Vol. 37, 1905. Vol. 38, 1906. Vol. 39, 1907. Vol. 40, 1908. Vol. 41. 1909. Vol. 42, 1910. Vol. 43, 1911. Vol. 44, 1912. Vol. 45, 1913. Vol. 46, 1914. Vol. 47, 1915. Rayne, La.: Hébert Publications, 1976–2003. These books may be ordered online at www.hebertpublications.com/default.htm.
  • Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Natchitoches, 1729–1803. Abstracts of the Catholic Church Registers of the French and Spanish Post of St. Jean Baptiste des Natchitoches in Louisiana. Vol. 2. Cane River Creole Series. New Orleans: Polyanthos, 1977.
  • ———. Natchitoches, 1800–1826. Translated Abstracts of Register Number Five of the Catholic Church, Parish of St. François des Natchitoches in Louisiana. Vol. 4. Cane River Creole Series. New Orleans: Polyanthos, 1980.

Two important guides to Catholic Church records are:

  • Hébert, Donald. Guide to Church Records in Louisiana, 1720–1975. Rayne, La.: Hébert Publications, 1975.
  • Nolan, Charles E. A Southern Catholic Heritage. Vol. 1, 1704–1813. New Orleans: Archdiocese of New Orleans, 1976.
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