Friday, July 23, 2010

Follow Friday: "Southwest Louisiana Records" online tools

Note: "Follow Friday" is a theme used by some geneabloggers to recommend other bloggers, websites or genealogy resources of interest.

Marriage records of my great-grandparents Constant Légère and Marie Octavie McBride (top) and birth record of my grandma Elia Légère (bottom) from Southwest Louisiana Records, v. 20, p. 250.  Parents and sources are in parentheses.  And oh. my. ... Grandma was born um, seven months after her parents married?!!  Hmm... blogger beware, you never know what you're going to notice while writing about genealogy!

If you've done any genealogy research on Louisiana Cajuns, even if only via the Internet, you have undoubtedly come across Rev. Donald J. Hébert's Southwest Louisiana Records (SWLR) volumes.  You know, those "Laf. Ch." or "Opel. Ct. Hse." abbreviations seen in many sources on online family trees?

(You DO know you shouldn't trust trees without sources, don't you?  And that even with well-sourced trees, you should "trust but verify"? As they say in journalism school, "If your mama says she loves you, check it out.")

Well, whether you have seen SWLR referenced online or used the volumes or CD yourself, you may find yourself stuck on some of the abbreviations later--especially if you didn't copy the abbreviations list in the front of the volume.  (Doh!) No worries, just check out this wonderful abbreviations list from Stanley LeBlanc at his website The Cajuns.  (Thanks, Stanley!)

Marriage recorded in St. Landry Parish Courthouse, Opelousas, La., for my third-great-grandparents, Paul Légère and Marcellite Lebert, from Southwest Louisiana Records, v. 2, p. 954.

Now maybe you're a beginner and need a little more help deciphering the format of Hébert's entries.  Or maybe you've used the volumes a bit, but you want to explore some of the extras.  Can't remember which volume contained a large amount of corrections, or slave records, or a St. Landry Courthouse marriage register copy, or perhaps cattle brands?  Houston's Clayton Library website has an article on using SWLR, its extra features, and the differing editions.  Though slightly out of date, the article is very informative.  (There are now 47 volumes covering records through 1915, and the CD covers vols. 1-31.)

Once you find the correct volume, try WorldCat to see if a local library has the volume you need, or if you feel like splurging, visit Claitor's Publishing to purchase a volume of SWLR or other Hébert titles.  Bonne chasse!


  1. My Reed family lived in Fort Legere in the 1770s. Not exact but close enough to make me want to look at our lineages closer.

  2. Where is that? Haven't heard of it.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Paul Legere who married Marcellite Lebert is also called "Hypolite Paul" in the records. Paul may actually have been a nickname for "Hypolite."

  5. Do you know if it is possible to get a hold of copies of any of the records in Hebert's book? Also, in regards to marriages, if I find 2 marriage dates that differ, one in the court house records and one in the church records, the court house record is the date the license was received and the date in the church record is the actual date of marriage, right?

  6. Yes, church or courthouse addresses can be found in the front of Hebert's volumes, at the abbreviations link on Stanley LeBlanc's website (above) or you can search the Internet for church or diocese websites for contact info. Their response time/policies/fees (if any) may vary, but you can get info transcribed from their records, and I would expect that most polite, short requests (a couple of records at a time) would be answered.

    I would check parish or diocese websites to see if there are policies posted online before making a request. Remember that genealogy isn't their main job & be patient with response time. I also would not expect to be able to obtain any records on living people. If fees do not apply, or there is no policy info readily available online or by phone, I would consider a small donation to the church in return for their time--that may help ensure a response.

    On the other hand, on one La. visit, I called the St. John Cemetery office in Lafayette to inquire about 2-3 relatives' possibly-existing graves I wanted to visit, and got helpful info by phone on that occasion. If a parish has a cemetery office, they probably have staff or volunteers to deal with burial-related questions, whereas baptismal/marriage records may have to be looked up by a priest.

    A limited amount of both church & courthouse original records _may_ be available on microfilm via (check the library catalog). Online, search "X Parish Clerk of Court" for parish courthouse websites with contact info and/or info on fees for copies of marriage documents, probates ("successions" in La.) or land records (deeds are called "conveyances" in La.). Some indexes are online at Clerk of Court websites or at and other online sites.

    Generally, you are correct in assuming that the courthouse date for a marriage is for the license & the church date is the date of a church marriage ceremony. Some people (perhaps a non-Catholic spouse or a divorced person) may have courthouse marriages and no church marriage. In very early years, a couple may have had a common-law or lay-performed marriage that was validated later by a priest visiting on a traveling circuit.

    Thanks for the question. This is something I need to do more of for my own ancestors and I will post a few examples of records I own and look into more web resources I can post to help w/this. Meanwhile, hope this helps. --Liz

  7. Liz - thanks for all of your help and advice!