by Cherryl Forbes Montgomery


If you are researching Southwest Louisiana and your family is predominantly Roman Catholic or Acadian but not limited to that religion, Father Donald Hebert has authored a 41 volume set of books called Southwest Louisiana Records from the southwest Louisiana parishes of Acadia, Allen Beauregard, Cameron, Calcasieu, Evangeline, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, St Landry, St Martin, St Mary and Vermillion. This set includes Catholic and Protestant churches and civil courthouse records of genealogical and historical value. This series of books are ongoing with no definite end as yet. It covers the time frame of 1756 to 1909. Volumes 1, and 2 were redone to include more information in the births and marriages, such as witnesses, grandparents and godparents and are now volumes 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, and 2c. Fr. Hebert not only included church records but also civil courthouse records of marriages and sucessions. Volume 33 has a section of slaves and free people of color records which gives the slave owner's name if known. The rear of volume 3 has a section dedicated to the free people of color in St Landry Parish.

It is helpful when looking for African American records to look up records in as many different spellings as possible, as early colonial priest were either French or Spanish and both would spell the same name differently. Also, try looking for your ancestor by just the first name. Sometimes the priest didn't care if a person of African descent had a surname or not.

There is a naming convention used among LA Cajuns and Creoles many people researching Southwest Louisiana are not aware of. Sometimes, more often than not, the first name of the father or mother is used as the children's surname whether that parent was black or white or married or not. In the case of the father being white, it was a way to distinguish the black family from his legitimate white family. Case in point is a St. Landry Parish Italian soldier hired by the French army to help settle the area named Donato Bello, Captain of the colonial Militia. His legitimate white family were Bellos and his black family he had with Marie Jeanne Meuillon were Donatos. Once I figured out the naming conventions practiced by French and Creoles of Southwest Louisiana, it made researching my slave and free people of color family lines easier.

Also scan each volume page by page for anything that may catch your eye. I know that sounds like a lot of work, but I have found lots of information like that, especially in a case where a family started using a different surname or the family was using the given name of one of the parents as their surname.

When using Southwest Lousiana Records, volumes 32-35 has several sections grouped by year. It's easy to miss entries in those books. Also, look in the rear of each volume as Fr. Hebert puts his additions and corrections there.

Any genealogy library worth its salt will have a set. If not, its worthwhile to interlibrary loan them a couple of books at the time. It's well worth the cost. I am not sure of the availability of the books at the LDS Family History Libraries. Or you can buy the books directly from him at Hebert Publications, P O Box 147, Rayne, LA 70578, Phone: 318-873-6574. Ask to be placed on his mailing list. Southwest Louisiana Records books are $35 per volume with a few exceptions. He also has a web site under construction at You can email him with questions concerning his books at

Fr. Hebert also has a 12 volume sister set of books called South Louisiana Records which covers the time frame of 1794 to 1920. This collection of abstracts of church and civil documents from Catholic and Protestant churches and courthouse records from Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. Volume 12 includes a supplementary material such as additional entries, corrections and church inventories. This is a completed set. No additional volumes are anticipated.

The New Orleans Archdiocese has published the New Orleans area church records which strictly has church records, no civil records included here. The Archdiocese of New Orleans announced the publication of its latest volume Sacramental Records of the Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which now covers the colonial periods to 1817. It is edited by Charles E. Nolan.

Detailed index to baptisms, marriages and funerals recorded at St. Louis Church in New Orleans, St, John the Baptist Church on the German Coast [Edgard], St. Bernard Church in St. Bernard Parish, and St. Mary Church on Charters St. in New Orleans. The records include parents, baptismal sponsors, and marriage witnesses. All volumes include records of slaves and Free Persons of Color along with increasing numbers of North Americans, Irish, and other English-speakers. The address for mail orders are; Archdiocesan Historical Archives, 1100 Charters St., New Orleans, LA 70116-2596

The Baton Rouge Diocese also has published it's sacramental records called the The Baton Rouge Diocese Sacramental Records. The Diocese of Baton Catholic Church records series of books, are abstracts of the sacramental registers of the various churches in the Diocese of Baton Rouge. The Diocese covers the civil parishes of Pointe Coupee, St James, Ascension, Iberville, Assumption, Livingston, Tangipahoa and Baton Rouge and maybe a couple more. The series of books covers 17 volumes, starting with the Acadian records of Grand Pre dating to 1707 (they were held by the St Gabriel Church) through Diocese records to 1888. Volumes 2 through 18 are available at a cost of $30 per volume plus shipping. Volume one is out of print. Contact the Diocese of Baton Rouge Department of the Archives, P O Box 2028, Baton Rouge LA 70821-2028, Phone: 504-387-0561, ext 320 for mail orders.

Happy hunting!

Copyrighted © 1999. Not to be reproduced in a publication without the expressed permission of the author who gives permission to share with other genealogists for personal references only.