Louisiana Vital Records
This entry was originally written by Beth A. Stahr, CGRS and Sharon Sholars Brown for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
The civil recording of births, marriages, and deaths did not begin in earnest until the early twentieth century. Although laws were passed in the late nineteenth century requiring that vital events be recorded, there was little compliance until later. Prior to that time it was the responsibility of the churches to maintain this data.
The Roman Catholic Church dominated Louisiana until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. In fact, it was the only church in Louisiana until that time. The Catholic churches throughout the state kept registers of christenings, marriages, and burials, and were the recorders of Louisiana’s early vital records. For important published works relating to marriages, see Church Records below and the following:
- DeVille, Winston. The New Orleans French, 1720–1733: A Collection of Marriage Records Relating to the First Colonists of the Louisiana Province. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1973.
- Forsyth, Alice D. Louisiana Marriages, 1784–1806. New Orleans: Polyanthos, 1977.
- ———, and Ghislaine Pleasonton. Louisiana Marriage Contracts: 1725–1758. New Orleans: Polyanthos, 1980.
- Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Natchitoches Church Marriages, 1818–1850. Translated Abstracts from Registers of St. François des Natchitoches, Louisiana. Vol. 6. Cane River Creole Series. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: Mills Historical Press, 1985.
In the first part of the twentieth century many states, including Louisiana, began requiring civil registration of vital records. The earliest city in Louisiana to exact civil registrations was New Orleans in 1790; however, registrations were only randomly made until the twentieth century. It was not until 1914 that civil recording began statewide. As of 2003, the Louisiana State Archives holds Orleans Parish birth records over 100 years old, Orleans Parish marriage records over fifty years old, and statewide death records over fifty years old. Researchers may visit the State Archives in Baton Rouge or order records by mail for a fee (presently $5).
Some parish health departments have alphabetical birth and death indexes for their areas. These are not, however, complete listings of all births and deaths of that parish. Copies of these vital records can be ordered from Vital Records Registry, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Office of Public Health, P.O. Box 60630, New Orleans, LA 70160. There are a few births (1790) and deaths (ca. 1803) recorded prior to 1914, but the majority of the records start in that year. One must either show proof of kinship as a direct descendant or provide proper authorization to obtain a copy of any of these records. As of July 1999, birth certificates are also available through the Parish Clerks of Court.