Today, February 1, 2011, New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond announced that previously unpublished sacramental records dating from before Louisiana’s statehood are now being made available online.
“It is especially exciting that we are able to make this announcement today, as we begin the nation’s commemoration of Black History Month because many of these previously unpublished sacramental records are those belonging to slaves and free people of color,” said Archbishop Aymond. “These had never been published before because there was no way to search or index them and now, thanks to technology, we are able to make them available to the public.”
The records being released now are those from individuals baptized without surnames in the Catholic Church under French and Spanish colonial rule. Those records with surnames were indexed in the 1970s and are searchable. Now is the first time records for those without surnames are open to the public.
“We don’t have the resources at the archdiocese to operate a research center,” says archdiocesan archivist Lee Leumas, Ph.D., CA. “Through our website we are able to make a pdf image of the original documents containing the records available.”
New Orleans is home to some of the oldest records in the United States. The archdiocesan Office of Archives and Records is charged with not only maintaining those records but keeping that history alive and accessible to the public. By publishing these records online, many more families will be able to research family history and learn interesting facts about historical events happening around the lives of their ancestors.
“Our local Catholic Church has a long and diverse history,” said Archbishop Aymond. “It is our hope that this will towards healing division in our community and an acknowledgement of the sins of the past, especially slavery. Also, we hope this is a means to combat racism, which is a sin, and to help young people grow in a deeper understanding of their history.”
“Our records tell not only the stories of individuals and families, but offer interesting insights into New Orleans’ history,” says Leumas. “There are accounts from Pere Antoine of the great fire and how he saved the records and even accounts of children born to slave parents being freed at the time of their baptisms. There is an incredible amount of history in these volumes.”