This issues Did You Know? is a hodgepodge of information for the genealogist working on Louisiana ancestors.
The Settlement of Louisiana
When Europeans first traveled through the area that would later become Louisiana, Native Americans who had lived in the area for approximately 10,000 years populated it. The French explorer, La Salle, was the first to explore the Mississippi River and tributaries in the Louisiana region. He claimed it for the King of France. What was later called the Louisiana Territory extended through much of what is now the Midwest and western U.S., including Missouri.Attempts at colonization didnt begin until the early 1700s. Natchitoches, Mobile, and New Orleans were founded. In the 1720s, German immigrants began arriving as part of a workforce needed to promote settlement in the colony. Colonization was difficult, and, in 1762, France ceded the territory to Spain. The first Spanish attempt at governance was a dismal failure, leading to a revolt that lasted for nearly a year. In 1769, Spain sent an army and a second governing authority. Conditions improved. It was during Spanish rule that the Acadians left British Canada to settle in Louisiana, which brings us to the difference between Creoles and Cajuns. The French-Canadian Acadians were known as Cajuns; Creoles were people born in Louisiana of French or Spanish parents. Cajun culture has had a strong influence on Louisiana and is a vital part of the state today. In addition to the German and Acadian immigrants, there was also a group of Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Canary Islands who settled in close-knit communities in the southeastern part of the state and have maintained some cultural associations with their ancestors.
During the years of Spanish governance, population rose and trade increased. After some conflicts with the newly created United States, Americans were allowed access to the Mississippi River for trade all the way to New Orleans. This increased settlement in the Louisiana Territory and the colony prospered. However, a 1792 war between France and Spain brought this period to an end. In 1800, Spain receded the territory to France.
Shortly thereafter, in 1803, the Louisiana Purchase brought the territory into United States control and nearly doubled the size of the United States.
Race has always been an issue in Louisiana. The first slaves were imported in 1712, and the states economy relied on slave labor until the end of the Civil War. The Code Noir, or Black Code, was instituted in 1724, and regulated slavery during the French period. The code included humanitarian provisions that didnt exist under American slave laws that were passed after the U.S. took control of the territory in 1803. Louisianas rice and sugar cane plantations were greatly feared by slaves in other states. A slave rebellion in 1811 was one of the largest uprisings in U.S. history. After the Civil War, there was little change for the former slaves. Although blacks were a large percentage of the population, and outnumbered whites in many parishes, white political power prevented blacks from gaining equal opportunities until the mid-20th century. Many of the black exodus who settled Kansas in the 1880s were from Louisiana.
It is important to remember that Louisiana has parishes rather than counties. It is unique in the U.S. in this respect. The parishes serve the same purpose and function that counties do; they are, however, a visible reminder of Louisianas past as a colony of a Catholic country.
Civil War Materials in the Louisiana State Archives
Louisiana played an important role in the Civil War. In addition to its strategic importance at the mouth of the Mississippi River, the state supplied white and black troops to both the Union and Confederate causes. The Louisiana State Archives (LSA) collection includes a large amount of material pertaining to Confederate soldiers from Louisiana. Sources available there include, but are not limited to, the following items:
LSA will perform limited searches of indexed materials for out-of-state patrons. Please include only one request per inquiry and please wait for a response before sending in a second request.
To contact LSA:
The Center for Louisiana Studies
The Center for Louisiana Studies, located in Dupre Library at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, was established in 1973. Its purpose is to provide scholars, students, and the public with a better understanding of Louisianas history and culture.
The Center for Louisiana Studies
The Centers collections, publications, and research projects:
An extensive list of publications available from the Center is available at www.louisiana.edu/Academic/LiberalArts/CLS/pricelis.html. They will also send a copy of their catalog upon request.
See address above.
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