New surnames for baptized natives

New surnames for baptized natives

During the colonial era, Christian missionaries on remote frontiers around the world chose new Christian names for the natives they baptized.

Apparently the monks who missionized Kamchatka also assigned surnames. A librarian told me that S. I. Vahrin's Secrets of the Kamchatka Names says many Volkovs still lived in areas where Filip Volkov had baptized in the mid-1700s. Volkov is a very common Russian surname, but the librarian made the association with the monk unambiguous. Filip, unable to pass on his name through church-sanctioned parenthood, was able to name thousands of people after himself nonetheless.

In Russia or elsewhere, was it normal to get a surname at baptism? Did any rules guide selection of the surnames? What sorts of surnames were used other than the officiator's own?

In Russia or elsewhere, was it normal to get a surname at baptism?

Not neccessarily.

Did any rules guide selection of the surnames? What sorts of surnames were used other than the officiator's own?

For example, in the territory of modern-day Republic of Latvia, surnames arrived gradually and in different ways:

[Note, as I am no historian I may mix up some of the terms such as "peasant", "farmer", "free tenant", especially since in Latvian they are sometimes also used in place of each other with the single name "zemnieks"(farmer). Please indicate corrections, where appropriate.] The following is translation from Latvian:

The first surnames appeared with German entry into Livonia. Initially only German baronial families had them, but later on also city-dwellers and free farmers (free peasants?). Serfs didn't have surnames. Usually serfs were identified by the name of their house, traits of character or occupation, and within borders of a single manor that was enough.

At the time of emancipation of serfs (after 1819), farmers could move freely between manors, and the problem of personal identification and entries in manor documents was raised. Therefore farmers were ordered to adopt surnames. The first "surnamings" took place in Vidzeme (part of Latvia) from 1822-1826.

The surname could be adopted only by the elder of the family (dzimta, in these terms a bit broader term than nuclear family of today), and the same surname had to be used by his sons and grandsons. If any of the sons had started an independent life, he could take his own surname. Brothers could take each their own surnames also if the father (the eldest of the family) was dead.

So as you can see, no direct linking to baptism -- territory of Latvia was Christianized centuries(12th-14th century) before surnames were adopted.

Choice of surname

The peasant had to choose surname by himself, and it was forbidden for it to be inappropriate to his class: he couldn't take a surname of German gentry, their family or surname of a famous person/family. It was advised to choose Latvian surnames.

The main types of surnames were based on:

Place names: name of house or closest place

Countryside and nature: Eg. Putniņš (Birdie), Žagata (Magpie), Ozoliņš(Oak-ie), Krūmiņš (Bush-ie) [-ie being my attempted translation of the denuminative form of -iņš)

Foreign names or father's name: Jēkabsons, Pētersons, Neilands, Lembergs…

Profession and occupation: Kalējs (Smith), Mūrnieks (Mason)

Double surnames: Dauge-Daugava, Rieksta-Riekstiņa

Human characteristics: Strups (Short), Resnis (Fat), Zilgalvis (Blue-head)

Human names: Valters (Walter), Miķelis (Michael)

Nationalities: Krievs (Russian), Lībis, Letis (Lett = Latvian)

Orthodox church members and Russians used also the patronymic.

Source: Blog of Latvian State History Archive, which in turn refers to a journal publication:
Andrejs Plakans, Charles Wetherell: Patrilinear geneology, surnames and family identity: Baltic governorate of the Russian Empire in 19th century, published in "Latvian Archives", 2003, #3. (Latvian)

PS. Note also, that the adoption of surnames happened under the rule of Russian Empire, so it is likely that everywhere in the Russian Empire serfs were given surnames at the time of emancipation. HOWEVER, it appears that not everywhere in Russia the emancipation happened at the same time.

Marranos, Conversos, Anusim, & New Christians

The terms &ldquoMarrano&rdquo and &ldquoconverso&rdquo were applied in Spain and Portugal to the descendants of baptized Jews suspected of secret adherence to Judaism. Converso, from the Latin conversus, meant literally the converted. Various origins for the term &ldquomarrano&rdquo have been suggested, which include the Hebrew marit ayin (&ldquothe appearance of the eye&rdquo), referring to the fact that the Marranos were ostensibly Christian but actually Jews mohoram attah (&ldquoyou are excommunicated&rdquo) the Aramaic-Hebrew Mar Anus (&ldquoforced convert&rdquo) the Hebrew mumar (&ldquoapostate&rdquo) with the Spanish ending ano the Arabic mura&rsquoin (&ldquohypocrite&rdquo) and the second word of the ecclesiastical imprecation anathema maranatha. All such derivations, however, are unlikely. The most probable is from the Spanish word meaning swine or pig, derived from the Latin verres &ldquowild boar.&rdquo The term probably did not originally refer to the Jews&rsquo reluctance to eat pork, as some scholars hold from its earliest use, it was intended to impart the sense of loathing conveyed by the word. Although romanticized and regarded by later Jewry as a badge of honor, the term was not as widely used, especially in official circles, as is often believed. In Latin America, as a rule, it is not found in official documents, and there is little evidence of its unofficial use in most places. It is not clear if the &ldquoOld Christians&rdquo only, or the secretly practicing Jews, also called themselves &ldquomarrano.&rdquo

&ldquoMarranos&rdquo started appearing with the first riots in the Juderias of Spain. Many were forced to convert to Christianity to save their lives. The laws in 14th and 15th century Spain became increasingly oppressive toward practicing Jews, and conversion was provided as an alternative to death. Large numbers of middle-class Jews outwardly adopting Christianity to avoid the laws, while secretly practicing Judaism.

Today, the word Marrano is considered offensive by descendants who prefer the term anousim.

&ldquoNew Christians&rdquo

&ldquoNew Christians&rdquo is a term applied specifically to three groups of Jewish converts to Christianity and their descendants in the Iberian Peninsula. The first group converted in the wake of the massacres in Spain in 1391 and the proselytizing fervor of the subsequent decades. The second, also in Spain, were baptized following the decree of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492 expelling all Jews who refused to accept Christianity. The third group, in Portugal, was converted by force and royal fiat in 1497. Like the word Conversos, but unlike Marranos, the term New Christian carried no intrinsic pejorative connotation, but with the increasing power of the Inquisition and the growth of the concept of &ldquolimpieza de sangre,&rdquo cleansing the blood, the name signaled the disabilities inevitably heaped on those who bore it.

The New Christians who continued secretly to observe the precepts of Judaism as much as possible after their conversion were not regarded as voluntary apostates. The basis of this decision was the statement by Maimonides that although one should allow oneself to be put to death rather than abandon one&rsquos faith in times of persecution, &ldquonevertheless, if he transgressed and did not choose the death of a martyr, even though he has annulled the positive precept of sanctifying the Name and transgressed the injunction not to desecrate the Name, since he transgressed under duress and could not escape, he is exempted from punishment.&rdquo In accordance with this ruling, other rabbis ruled that those New Christians who remained in their countries because they were unable to escape and flee, if they conducted themselves in accordance with the precepts of Judaism, even if only privately, were full Jews their shehitah could be relied upon, their testimony in law cases accepted, and their wine was considered kosher.

Some authorities ruled, however, that if the Marranos of a certain locality succeeded in fleeing to a country where they could return to Judaism, while others remained there to retain their material possessions, the latter were no longer presumed to have the privilege of being regarded as valid witnesses or even Jews. Other rabbis expressed more lenient views, and held that no one was to be deprived of their rights as a Jew as long as they were not seen to transgress the precepts of Judaism when there was no longer danger involved. Talmudic scholar Moses Isserles, too, ruled that even those Marranos who could flee but delay because of material considerations and transgress Judaism publicly out of compulsion while remaining observant privately, still are reliable Jews. The Marranos who had lived among gentiles for more than a century usually assimilated and intermarried, with the result that their children were presumed to be non-Jewish unless it could be proven that their mothers were Jewish.

The scholars of Safed headed by Jacob Berab imposed flagellation upon Marranos who returned to Judaism as a punishment for transgressing the prohibitions that rendered them liable to herem, excommunication, in their previous condition. Yet, since flagellation can be imposed only by ordained dayyanim (judges). Jacob Berab and his colleagues wanted to enforce punishment when ordination was renewed (see semikhah). A Marrano who escaped from his native land, but was not circumcised through neglect, was prevented from participating in the services in the synagogue until he was circumcised.


&ldquoAnusim&rdquo (Hebrew: אֲנוּסִים&lrm, pronounced [anuˈsim] singular male, anús, Hebrew: אָנוּס&lrm pronounced [aˈnus] singular female, anusáh, אֲנוּסָה&lrm pronounced [anuˈsa]) is a legal category of Jews in halakha who were forced to abandon Judaism against their will, typically while forcibly converted to another religion. The term &ldquoanusim&rdquo is most properly translated as the &ldquocoerced [ones]&rdquo or the &ldquoforced [ones].&rdquo

The word anusim became more frequently used after the forced conversion to Christianity of Ashkenazi Jews in Germany at the end of the 11th century. Several centuries later, following the mass forced conversion of Sephardi Jews of the 15th and 16th centuries, the word became widely used by Spanish rabbis and their successors.

Movement From Spain

New Christians began to leave Spain in the wake of the mass conversions of 1391, and Portugal after the forced conversions in 1497. The tide of emigration ebbed and flowed, but heightened during the Inquisition in Spain in 1481, and Portugal in 1536 and after 1630. To slow the continuing exodus, as early as the last decade of the 15th century, the authorities in both countries issued decrees prohibiting the emigration of New Christians. Even the so-called irrevocable permission to emigrate which the New Christians purchased from Philip III in 1601, during the union of Spain and Portugal, was short-lived, and rescinded in 1610. These decrees were frequently evaded, however, and Marranos regularly left the Peninsula clandestinely, or secured permission to take business trips abroad from which they never returned. There were even cases of Marranos leaving for the ostensible purpose of making a pilgrimage to Rome. Once the authorities became aware of such strategies, they tried to intercept Marranos as they moved through Europe to places where they could practice Judaism openly, and men like Jean de la Foix in Lombardy acquired notoriety for his inhuman treatment of those who fell into his hands. There were instances where the highest authorities in the Peninsula closed their eyes to New Christian emigration, however, particularly when it involved their settling in Latin America, where their skills and enterprise were desperately needed. Furtively and openly, in trickles and in torrents, thousands of New Christians left the Iberian Peninsula during the nearly three and a half centuries of the Inquisition&rsquos power.

In Majorca, Spain, the community was converted in the 1430&rsquos and called Chuetas, from &ldquopork lard&rdquo since they regularly kept pork lard boiling in cauldrons on their porches. They still called themselves &ldquoIsraelitas&rdquo in private, and families typically gave their first-born son to the Catholic priesthood as a means of gaining protection from Church persecution. As a result, many of the priests from across the Baleiric Islands are from Marrano families.

During the Inquisition&rsquos extended sway over the Peninsula, the emigrating Marranos could flee to four different kinds of countries: Muslim lands, Protestant territories as they came into being, Catholic countries outside the jurisdiction of Spain and Portugal, and Catholic countries within the peninsular orbit.

Muslim countries were the most natural places of refuge for Marranos seeking to live openly as Jews, for they were the archenemies of the Christians, with Spain and Portugal being particularly hated. Morocco had already become a haven of refuge for both Jews and Conversos at the end of the 14th century, but many more Jews and Marranos were attracted to the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 15th century and during the 16th. Sultan Bayazid II (Bajazet II 1481&ndash1512) mocked King Ferdinand for impoverishing Spain and enriching the Ottoman Empire through his expulsion of the Jews. In the 16th century, numerous cities in the Ottoman Empire had Jewish settlements, among them Cairo, Jerusalem, Safed, Damascus, Constantinople with some 50,000 Jews, and Salonika where the population of the Marranos exceeded that of the other Jews and the non-Jews as well.

Protestant Lands

Next to the Muslim countries, the Protestant lands offered the best prospects for Marranos, for here too the Catholics were detested, and the Inquisition was a hated institution because it was no more tolerant of Protestants than Jews. In places like England and Germany, Marranos began their existence as titular Catholics and secret Jews before the Reformation. They continued in this double life long after those areas had broken with Rome, since the Protestant authorities were not eager to grant official acknowledgment to the Jews.

In Hamburg, destined to become one of the wealthiest and most productive Marrano centers, the settlement of Jews was not officially authorized until 1612 and Jewish public worship not until 1650. In England, where Jews had been expelled in 1290, the Marranos who originally settled in London and Bristol were never officially acknowledged as Jews, the question was simply ignored, and Marranos could live undisturbed as practicing Jews. This connivance, or de facto resettlement through official silence, proved salutary for the Jews, since the failure to grant official permission for their presence made it impossible to impose disabilities on them. From the middle of the 17th century at least, the Marranos were treated like all other nonconformist citizens. In 1664, the crown granted Jews an official charter of protection, thus further facilitating the development of the Marrano community. The ex-Marranos and their descendants continued to be the dominant element in British Jewry until the 19th century.

In Amsterdam, the Marranos did not arrive until around 1590, some 11 years after the Union of Utrecht (1579) and the birth of the United Provinces of the Netherlands as a Protestant state. Here, too, they had to wait until 1615 before Jewish settlement was officially authorized, but the Marranos in Amsterdam differed from those in other Protestant countries in that they openly practiced Judaism almost from the moment of their arrival. Thanks to the Marranos, Amsterdam became one of the greatest Jewish centers in the world in the 17th century it had some of the finest academies and produced some of the greatest Jewish thinkers. During this time, Amsterdam even became known as &ldquothe Dutch Jerusalem.&rdquo The city was also a haven for oppressed Jews from places other than Spain and Portugal, including France in 1615 and Eastern Europe after the Chmielnicki massacres in 1648.

Marranos from Holland were among the first settlers in Surinam and Curacao, where a substantial Sephardi community came into being after 1650. Other former Marranos were also found in Barbados and in other parts of the West Indies, including Martinique and the Leeward Islands.

The Catholic lands outside the control of Spain and Portugal did not offer as secure a haven as the Ottoman Empire or the Protestant countries, but they had the advantage of being outside the orbit of the peninsular Inquisitions. At the same time, these areas were not without their inherent dangers, in the form of envy or rooted prejudice on the part of the local population, pressures from the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions upon the local authorities, and even the possibility of persecution galvanized by local initiative, and, in the case of the Papal States, an indigenous Inquisition. As a result, the existence of many of these Marrano communities, even if unclouded and prosperous for a time, was seldom free from molestation.

Jews And Popes

In the Papal States, the Marranos&rsquo presence was noticeable in Rome and, even more so, the seaport of Ancona, where they thrived under benevolent popes Clement VII (1523&ndash34), Paul III (1534&ndash49), and Julius III (1550&ndash55). They even received a guarantee that if accused of apostasy they would be subject only to papal authority. But Paul IV (1555&ndash59), the voice of the Counter-Reformation, dealt them an irreparable blow when he withdrew all protection previously given the Marranos and initiated a fierce persecution against them. As a result of the anti-Marrano campaign, 25 Jews were burned alive in the spring of 1556, 26 others were condemned to the galleys, and 30 more who had been arrested were liberated only after they had paid a substantial bribe. Thanks to the intervention of the Marrano patroness, Gracia Mendes Nasi, the sultan at Constantinople secured the release of all Marranos who were his subjects. Plans were laid to boycott Ancona and transfer all the Marranos&rsquo former business to neighboring Pesaro, in the friendlier territory of the duke of Urbino, but the project failed, and the duke expelled the Marranos from his territory.

A document of 1550 indicates that there were some Marranos among the Spanish and Portuguese merchants in Florence who traded on a large scale with Spain and her colonies. In Ferrara, under the house of Este, the Marranos formed a large and thriving community by the middle of the 16th century, one of the most notable in their entire Diaspora. The dukes protected them until 1581, when Duke Alfonso II, bowing to ecclesiastical pressure, allowed many of them to be arrested. Three were eventually sent to Rome to be burned at the stake in February 1583. Marranos settled in Venice in the 15th and early 16th centuries but were subjected to decrees of expulsion in 1497 and again in 1550. Thereafter the city policy began to change. Venice not only welcomed Marranos but kept the Inquisition at bay. Theologians like Paolo Sarpi even claimed that the Jews were outside the jurisdiction of the Inquisition because they had been baptized by force.

Equally fortunate was the situation in the grand duchy of Tuscany. To woo the Marranos to Pisa and Leghorn, Ferdinand II issued a charter in 1593 granting them protection against harassment in matters of faith. As it was in decline at the time, Pisa did not attract many Marranos, but Leghorn did: the community there thrived and by the end of the 18th century its population approached 5,000. Emmanuel Philbert granted special privileges to induce Jews to settle in the duchy of Savoy, intending mainly to settle Marranos from Spain and Portugal in Nice to develop the city into a central trading port with the East. The privilege enraged Philip II of Spain, who considered the whole plan as seriously damaging Spain&rsquos interests in the Mediterranean as well as an incitement to Marranos to return to Judaism. The pressure of Spain led to the rescinding of the privilege and, on Nov. 22, 1573, the duke ordered a group of Marranos who had returned to Judaism to leave his territory within six months. This decree was probably not put into effect until 1581 when Charles Emmanuel I ordered the expulsion of all Portuguese Jews from the duchy.

In France the Marranos had to maintain some semblance of Catholicism for more than two centuries, but they were seldom molested in their secret practice of Judaism. Though they were called &ldquoNew Christians&rdquo or &ldquoPortuguese merchants,&rdquo their Jewishness was an open secret. In the large settlements they lived in their own quarters, had their own burial grounds, developed their own schools and communal institutions, and even trained their own rabbis after first importing them from abroad. They gradually reduced their Catholic practices and eventually abandoned Church marriage and baptism. In 1730, they were officially recognized as Jews. Their more formal communities were situated at Bordeaux and Bayonne and there were numerous lesser settlements in such places as Toulouse, Lyons, Montpellier, La Rochelle, Nantes, and Rouen. Bayonne was the center of a cluster of communities, including Biarritz, Bidache, Peyrehorade, and Saint-Jean-de-Luz. In this last town, the Marranos had the misfortune of being expelled in 1619, and then, after a partial return, seeing the town captured by the Spaniards in 1636.

In the far-flung Spanish and Portuguese possessions, in the Aragonese territories of Sicily, Sardinia and Naples, in Hapsburg territories such as Flanders, or the colonial territories in the Far East and the Americas, the situation of the Marranos was always precarious. They lived continually under the shadow of the Inquisition even where a tribunal of the Holy Office was not in operation, episcopal Inquisitions and occasional inquisitional &ldquovisitors&rdquo were sent from the home countries to galvanize the search for heretics. Sicily and Sardinia, with Inquisitions introduced in 1487 and 1493 respectively, had no Jews living in them by the middle of the 16th century. There was opposition to introducing the Spanish Inquisition into Naples, but the papal Inquisition took over and managed to destroy most of the Marrano community by the middle of the 17th century.

The situation of the Marranos was no less precarious in Antwerp, where they began to arrive early in the 16th century, often before moving to the Ottoman Empire. In 1526, New Christians&rsquo stay in the city was restricted to a 30-day period and, though settlement was fully authorized 11 years later, Judaism was strictly prohibited. With the decline of Antwerp, the center of Marrano life shifted to Amsterdam.

The Colonies

In their colonies the Portuguese set up an Inquisition at Goa and the Spaniards established one in the Philippines. Episcopal Inquisitions were always present in Latin America: Brazil never had a formal tribunal, but tribunals were established in the Spanish colonies at Lima, Peru in 1570, Mexico City, Mexico in 1571, and Cartagena in 1610. Latin America attracted considerable numbers of New Christians. The advantage of these territories was that they offered the New Christians a familiar culture and the possibility of direct &mdash even if infrequent &mdash contact with the mother countries. For New Christians wishing to live fully as Catholics, the distances from the Peninsula and the sparseness of the population of most of the territories aided in the obliteration of the record of their Jewish origins. These factors also helped permit the Marranos to practice Judaism.

Religious tolerance was important in determining the direction of the flight of many of the Marranos, but also of great importance were the economic and social opportunities available in the various lands open to them at the time of their escape. These opportunities often made it more desirable for Marranos to continue living as secret Jews in Catholic lands, even those under Spanish and Portuguese domination, than to seek a refuge where they could practice Judaism openly. Conversely, in each of the territories where the Marranos appeared, they could enter and remain because they served definite economic, social, and political ends. In almost every one of their new homes they quickly rose to prominence in international and domestic trade, banking and finance. They helped to establish great national banks and were prominent on the stock exchanges.

Marranos played an important role in large trading companies, such as the Dutch East Indies and West Indies Companies. They worked in the traffic of such commodities as coral, sugar, tobacco, and precious stones. The Marranos&rsquo common background and culture, their presence in the leading commercial centers, and often their ties of kinship, enabled them to establish an efficient and closely knit international trading organization. Great banking and trading families, such as that founded by Francisco Mendes at Lisbon, had branches throughout Europe. Marranos established manufacturing plants for soap, drugs, and other items, and made signal contributions in minting, handicrafts, armaments, and shipbuilding. The Marranos&rsquo international connections served to stimulate communications between nations and their separate competitive development. In this way the activities of the New Christians fostered the stability of their countries of settlement and facilitated their transition from a medieval to a modern economy.

Jewish Professionals

The Marranos also attained prominence in the professional life of the lands of their dispersion. From their midst came great diplomats like JoCo Miguez, the duke of Naxos (Joseph Nasi), and his mother-in-law, Gracia Mendes Nasi (Beatriz de Luna), who also distinguished herself as a great philanthropist and patron of the Jewish arts, as well as the equally colorful Diego Texeira de Sampaio (Abraham Senior Texeira). The Marranos produced scientists such as Immanuel Bocarro Frances, distinguished physicians like Amatus Lusitanus (Juan Rodrigo), Elijah Montalto (Felipo Rodrigues), and Antonio Ribeiro Sanchez, and a host of other distinguished names in secular literature, theater, and music.

Reciprocally, many of the states and nations in their diaspora gave the Marranos an opportunity to develop their own institutions and culture the printing press became an important instrument in the development of this culture. Ferrara&rsquos press, which published a famous translation of the Bible into Spanish, and Samuel Usque&rsquos Consolaam as tribulaoens de Israel in Portuguese, in addition to liturgical and other works, was the center of Marrano culture in the middle of the 16th century. By the end of the 16th century, Venice had the leading press. Other cities, too, like Leghorn, Hamburg, and London, had important presses, and printing in numerous smaller places helped to further spread Jewish culture.

A number of Marrano writers became well-known including apologists such as Immanuel Aboab, Saul Levi Morteira, Lorenzo Escudero (Abraham Ger or Abraham Israel Peregrino), Isaac Cardozo, Isaac Orobio de Castro, and David Nieto poets such as David Abenatar Melo, Daniel Lopez Laguna, Solomon Usque, JoCo (Moses) Pinto Delgado, and Daniel Levi (Miguel) de Barrios playwrights such as Antonio Enriquez Gomez and Antonio Jose da Silva and versatile writers such as the prolific Joseph Penso de la Vega, writer of plays, short stories, and one of the earliest and most comprehensive treatises on the stock exchange.

Many Marranos also attained fame outside the Jewish fold. The aristocracy of many societies in Europe and the Americas was enriched by these people and their descendants. Frequently, as was the case with Benjamin Disraeli, they attained the highest diplomatic, military, and administrative positions.

In Portugal, the Marquis de Pombal officially abolished all legal distinctions between Old and New Christians in May 1773. Comparable measures were not enacted in Spain until 1860, by which time much of the distinction had been eroded by assimilation and inquisitorial repression. Pockets of social discrimination against New Christians continued, for example, against the &ldquochuetas&rdquo of the Balearic Isles.

A Marrano community was discovered by Samuel Schwartz in Portugal in 1917, and from time to time there emerge individuals or even groups who do not identify as Jews, but who have retained some of the practices and customs of the Marranos while unaware of their Jewish ancestry. The most active Marranos are in the mountainous border areas of the Iberian peninsula between Spain and Portugal, in towns such as Belmonte. Jewish outreach in these areas is achieving success in bringing them forward and restoring full Judaic practice, but many still fear burning or other persecution if they go public with their practices.

&ldquoCrypto-Jew&rdquo or Anussim has now become the more politically correct terms, as opposed to Marrano, and refers to all Jews forced to adopt a certain religion and political philosophy while maintaining Jewish practices in secret. In modern times, outwardly Muslim Crypto-Jews are known to be in Iran, and Turkey. Some Hispanics and Latinos, such as Rita Moreno and Fidel Castro, have acknowledged their Marrano ancestry.

Albuquerque Genealogy (in Bernalillo County, NM)

NOTE: Additional records that apply to Albuquerque are also found through the Bernalillo County and New Mexico pages.

Albuquerque Birth Records

Albuquerque Cemetery Records

Benino Cemetery Billion Graves

Carnuel Cemetery Billion Graves

Congregation Albert Cemetery Billion Graves

El Campo Santo - Evangelico Cemetery Billion Graves

El Campo Santo - San Jose de Armijo Cemetery Billion Graves

El Campo Santo - Santa Clara Cemetery Billion Graves

Fairview Memorial Park Cemetery Billion Graves

Gate of Heaven Cemetery Billion Graves

Los Padillas Cemetery Billion Graves

Mountain View Cemetery (Martinez Family Cemetery) Billion Graves

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Billion Graves

Pajarito Cemetery Billion Graves

San Carlos Cemetery Billion Graves

San Jose Cemetery Billion Graves

Sandia Memory Gardens Billion Graves

Santo Nino Cemetery Billion Graves

Sunset Memorial Park Billion Graves

Albuquerque Census Records

Federal Census of 1940, Albuquerque, New Mexico LDS Genealogy

United States Federal Census, 1790-1940 Family Search

Albuquerque Church Records

Albuquerque City Directories

The alumni directory of the University of New Mexico, including a list of the members of the board of regents, the officers of administration, and the faculties of the University, 1892-1918 Genealogy Gophers

Albuquerque Death Records

Albuquerque Histories and Genealogies

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Albuquerque 1891 Sanborn Map Historic Map Works

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Albuquerque 1902 Sanborn Map Historic Map Works

Albuquerque 1908 Sanborn Map Historic Map Works

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico, April 1898 Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico, August 1893 Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico, January 1891 Library of Congress

Albuquerque Marriage Records

Marriages in Bernalillo County (01 Jan 1850 - 22 Aug 1933 ) Western States Marriage Index

Albuquerque Minority Records

Albuquerque Miscellaneous Records

Albuquerque Newspapers and Obituaries

Albuquerque Citizen 02/10/1887 to 07/11/1922 Genealogy Bank

Albuquerque Citizen 1898-1909

Albuquerque Citizen, 1891-1906 New Mexico Historical Newspapers

Albuquerque Daily Journal 1882-1883 Newspaper Archive at FindMyPast

Albuquerque Evening Democrat 1884-1886

Albuquerque Evening Herald, 1914-1922 New Mexico Historical Newspapers

Albuquerque Journal 01/06/1995 to Current Genealogy Bank

Albuquerque Journal 08/20/1901 to 12/31/1922 Genealogy Bank

Albuquerque Journal 1882-1884, 1903, 1907, 1911, 1925-1948, 1952-1977 Newspaper Archive at FindMyPast

Albuquerque Journal 1882-2020

Albuquerque Journal: Blogs 09/04/2007 to Current Genealogy Bank

Albuquerque Morning Democrat 09/20/1882 to 12/31/1898 Genealogy Bank

Albuquerque Morning Democrat 1886-1886

Albuquerque Morning Democrat and Albuquerque Morning Journal 1889-1889

Albuquerque Morning Journal 09/01/1882 to 12/31/1922 Genealogy Bank

Albuquerque Morning Journal 09/01/1882 to 12/31/1922 Genealogy Bank

Albuquerque Morning Journal 09/01/1882 to 12/31/1922 Genealogy Bank

Albuquerque Morning Journal 1882-1884, 1903-1926, 1948-1949 Newspaper Archive at FindMyPast

Albuquerque Morning Journal 1903-1921

Albuquerque Morning Journal 1908-1921 New Mexico Historical Newspapers

Albuquerque Tribune 01/01/1997 to 02/14/2008 Genealogy Bank

Albuquerque Tribune 1951-1952, 1954-1977 Newspaper Archive at FindMyPast

Albuquerque Tribune 1968-1968

Albuquerque Weekly Citizen 1891-1906

Albuquerque Weekly Journal 1882-1884 Newspaper Archive at FindMyPast

Albuquerque Weekly Press 01/20/1863 to 03/09/1867 Genealogy Bank

Albuquerque citizen. (Albuquerque, N.M.) (from July 26, 1907 to Aug. 31, 1909) Chronicling America

Albuquerque daily citizen. (Albuquerque, N.M.) (from Jan. 1, 1898 to June 30, 1903) Chronicling America

Albuquerque evening citizen. (Albuquerque, N.M.) (from July 1, 1905 to July 25, 1907) Chronicling America

Albuquerque evening herald. (Albuquerque, New Mexico) (from March 7, 1911 to Jan. 26, 1914) Chronicling America

Albuquerque morning journal. (Albuquerque, N.M.) (from Oct. 1, 1905 to Dec. 31, 1922) Chronicling America

Albuquerque weekly citizen 01/10/1891 to 12/29/1906 Genealogy Bank

Albuquerque weekly citizen. (Albuquerque, N.M.) (from Jan. 10, 1891 to Dec. 29, 1906) Chronicling America

Bandera Americana 08/10/1901 to 05/13/1909 Genealogy Bank

Defensor del Pueblo 06/27/1891 to 05/28/1892 Genealogy Bank

Evening Herald 1911-1922

Indito 11/24/1900 to 04/04/1901 Genealogy Bank

Industrial Advertiser And Weekly News 1905 Newspaper Archive at FindMyPast

La Bandera Americana, 1901-1905 New Mexico Historical Newspapers

La Tuerca 1926 Newspaper Archive at FindMyPast

Morning Journal 11/09/1884 to 12/03/1886 Genealogy Bank

News 01/23/1886 to 12/06/1886 Genealogy Bank

Nuevo Mundo 05/01/1897 to 09/20/1900 Genealogy Bank

Opinion Publica 07/02/1892 to 03/02/1907 Genealogy Bank

The evening herald. (Albuquerque, New Mexico) (from Jan. 27, 1914 to July 11, 1922) Chronicling America

Valley Weekly Express 1956 Newspaper Archive at FindMyPast

Offline Newspapers for Albuquerque

According to the US Newspaper Directory, the following newspapers were printed, so there may be paper or microfilm copies available. For more information on how to locate offline newspapers, see our article on Locating Offline Newspapers.

Adobeland. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1891-1890s

Albuquerque Business Times. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1994-Current

Albuquerque Citizen. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1907-1909

Albuquerque Daily Citizen. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1895-1903

Albuquerque Daily Democrat. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1883-1884

Albuquerque Daily Journal. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1880-1882

Albuquerque Democrat. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1880s-1886

Albuquerque Democrat. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1882-1880s

Albuquerque Evening Citizen. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1905-1907

Albuquerque Evening Democrat. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1884-1886

Albuquerque Evening Herald. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1911-1914

Albuquerque Evening Review. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1882-1883

Albuquerque Hard Times. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1970-1971

Albuquerque Herald. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1922-1926

Albuquerque Journal-Democrat. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1899-1903

Albuquerque Journal. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1926-1933

Albuquerque Journal. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1926-Current

Albuquerque Journal. (New Albuquerque [I.E. Albuquerque], N.M.) 1880s-1882

Albuquerque Morning Democrat and Albuquerque Morning Journal. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1887-1890

Albuquerque Morning Democrat. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1886-1887

Albuquerque Morning Democrat. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1890-1898

Albuquerque Morning Journal. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1886-1887

Albuquerque Morning Journal. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1903-1926

Albuquerque News. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1946-1940s

Albuquerque News. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1960s-1980

Albuquerque Opinion. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1886-1887

Albuquerque Review. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1876-1880

Albuquerque Review. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1880s-1880s

Albuquerque Street News. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1990-Current

Bernalillo County Beacon and the Old Town News. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1941-1942

Bernalillo County Beacon, Albuquerque Times, and Old Town News. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1942-1944

Bernalillo County Democrat. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1880s-1880s

Citizen Courier. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1962-1963

Courier. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1963-1960s

Daily Citizen. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1886-1892

Daily Citizen. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1903-1905

Daily Democrat. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1880s-1883

Daily Times. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1892-1894

Duke City News. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1935-1946

Evening Citizen. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1892-1895

Evening Herald. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1914-1922

Focus. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1970s-1990

Hard Times. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1972-1970s

Health City Sun and Bernalillo County Legal News. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1948-1975

Health City Sun and the News Chieftain. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1975-1980

Health City Sun. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1929-1948

Health City Sun. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1980-Current

Heights Outlook Albuquerque. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1980-1982

Indian Messenger. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1969-1970s

Jewish Community Link. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1970s-1980s

Link. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1980s-1990s

Magee's Independent. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1922-1923

Morning Journal. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1884-1886

New Mexico Business Weekly. (Albuquerque, Nm) 1994-Current

New Mexico Catholic Renewal. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1967-1969

New Mexico Independent. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1977-1980s

New Mexico Oil News. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1925-1926

New Mexico Press. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1864-1867

New Mexico Sentinel. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1936-1940

New Mexico State Democrat. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1910-1910s

New Mexico State Independent. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1918-1919

New Mexico State Tribune. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1923-1933

New Mexico Sun. ([Albuquerque, N.M.]) 1982-1983

News. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1885-1887

Nm Business Weekly. (Albuquerque, Nm) 1997-2012

Nucity. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1992-1995

Oil News and Uranium Digest. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1940s-1957

People of God. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1980s-Current

Prime Time : The Newspaper For New Mexicans 50 Plus. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1990s-Current

Republican Review. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1870-1876

Rio Abajo Weekly Press. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1863-1864

Rio Grande Valley Irrigator. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1887-1880s

Sandoval County Times-Independent. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1971-1980s

Seer's Catalogue. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1971-1975

Seers Rio Grande Weekly. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1976-1978

Seers. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1975-1976

Semi-Weekly Review. (Albuquerque, N. Mex.) 1868-1870

Tribal Messenger. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1970-1975

Tribune-Citizen. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1909-1911

Valencia County News. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1964-1976

Valencia Valley News. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1963-1964

Weekly Alibi. (Albuquerque, N.M.) 1995-Current

Albuquerque School Records

Albuquerque, NM Alameda Public School Class of 1920 Old Yearbooks

The Mirage - 1949, University of New Mexico Genealogy Gophers

The Mirage - 1953, University of New Mexico Genealogy Gophers

The Mirage - 1955, University of New Mexico Genealogy Gophers

The Mirage - 1959, University of New Mexico Genealogy Gophers

The Mirage - 1960, University of New Mexico Genealogy Gophers

The Mirage - 1961, University of New Mexico Genealogy Gophers

The Mirage - 1962, University of New Mexico Genealogy Gophers

The Mirage - 1963, University of New Mexico Genealogy Gophers

Additions or corrections to this page? We welcome your suggestions through our Contact Us page

The Mormon Church Is Building a Family Tree of the Entire Human Race

Mormons think as hard as, probably harder than, anyone else in the world about what it means to keep facts alive, or at least to keep them accessible to the living, and the phenomenon they have built out of granite, microfilm, machines, and software is as mind-bogglingly ambitious for our century as the flying buttresses and gargoyles of Notre Dame were in the twelfth century.

Even as a large branch of American genealogy sheared off at the turn of the twentieth century into a mad eugenic scheme to reshape the human race, the Mormons got on with their mission to gather and share records. Around that time Mormons whose ancestors had come from Europe could find out about their forebears only by traveling back to their home countries and transcribing whatever information they could find. As a way to assist its members, the church began to send representatives to locate collections of records, copy them all, and bring them back to Utah. In the 1920s the church began recording the genealogical information it had gathered on index cards, and in 1938 it started to make copies on microfilm. Eventually the microfilm was circulated to thousands of Mormon libraries throughout the world. By the 1950s the church elders faced an ever-growing pile of film, and in the wake of the great destruction of records in Germany in World War II, they started to store it safely for posterity inside the Granity Mountain Records Vault.

The mountain now holds parish records and old English manuscripts dating from the 1500s, including records from London, when civil registration began in 1837, and copies of jai pu, Chinese family records, which date back before AD 1. Overall the data the Mormons have gathered is equivalent to thirty-two times the amount of information contained in the Library of Congress—and the church adds a new Library of Congress’s worth of new data every year.

This massive infoverse exists to serve Joseph Smith’s teaching that church members should offer baptism to dead relatives. Because members may only carry out the rite for their own ancestors, all church members now spend a great deal of time tracing their lineages back through time. Have humans ever built anything of this magnitude without an eye on the afterlife?

Fifteen miles away from the vault, in the clean streets of Salt Lake City, I met with Jay Verkler at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Built originally as a grand hotel in 1909, the structure stands next to the white, Disney castle-like Mormon Temple. When we met, Verkler was the CEO of Family Search, the Mormon organization that manages the vault's records and promotes genealogy throughout the world. Once a gifted twelve-year-old who wrote software for the bank where his father worked, Verkler became a Silicon Valley entrepreneur until the church's elders summoned him back to Salt Lake City. Verkler is of an imposing height, and he has a thick helmet of blond hair (which, at a recent genetic genealogy conference hosted by the LDS, had its own Twitter feed, @JayVerklersHair). He looks exactly like the kind of modestly presented, clean-living Mormon missionary you might find knocking on your front door. His command of the intricacies of information storage in an ever­ decaying world combined with an implacable commitment to the eternal ideals of the church make him a powerful presence. More than any other organization his church has shaped how genealogy is practiced in the world today.

“The core concept of why this church cares so much about genealogy stems back to the notion that families can be eternal organizations past death,” Verkler explained. “Members of the church seek out their ancestors because we think we have a duty to them to help them understand this gospel that we understand, and we think we can actually be together.”

The idea was magically appealing. At the time, my own boys were so young that I could scarcely imagine a time or place where I would not be present for them. As Verkler continued to talk theology, I mused at how brilliant a basis this was for a religion. What parents would not want to believe that they could be with their children forever?

Of course, if entire families are destined to be together in the afterlife, that would include parents and siblings and their spouses and children, aunts and uncles, and in-laws. Is this afterlife going to look like some kind of celestial neighborhood where the streets map out bloodlines, with entire apartment blocks assigned to close families? Or will it be more like a perpetual Thanksgiving feast designed by M. C. Escher after a bad night’s sleep?

“We’re not quite sure how it’s going to work,” Verkler admitted. “It’s not going to be like one big group family, but we think those connections will still exist in the afterlife.”

The LDS philosophy is about not just the next stage of existence but life before the afterlife too. “We think there’s a strengthening of you as a human when you know who you came from and where your roots are and when you respect that part,” said Verkler. He surely speaks the truth, because some of the Mormons I met in Salt Lake City were the friendliest people I have ever come across, respectful and polite to a most disarming degree.

Over the last ten years Marshall Duke, a psychologist from Emory University, has explored the value of family history in the lives of children. He developed a list of twenty questions such as “Do you know where your parents met?” “Do you know which person in your family you most look like?” and “Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?” Duke found that the higher children scored on the family-history test, the higher they also scored on measures of self-esteem and self-control and the lower they scored on anxiety, among other measures. Duke even looked at children who experienced the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. Even in this extreme case, knowledge of family history appeared to indicate how resilient the children were in the months that followed. Duke explains that it’s not necessarily the facts of the family that give children these qualities but the fact that, if children can answer these questions, it usually means that they have strong connections with mothers and grandmothers and that significant amounts of time have been spent communicating at family dinners and on family vacations. All the stories of a family add up to what Duke calls an intergenerational self, which he associates with personal strength.

All the industry that the Mormons have devoted to assembling genealogical records is not just for church members. “We provide our records for everybody,” Verkler explained. “We think that it’s doing good for the world.” Accordingly, there are more than 3,400 Family History Centers in the world. They are a sacred municipal library system, and anyone who wishes to research his family history can make use of them. Smart, kindly people will help him search historical documentation such as birth records, death certificates, land records, and any other document that might establish a genealogical connection. A borrowing system between the centers and the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City means that if your local center doesn’t have the record you are after, another might be able to copy it onto a disk and send it.

In this respect too the LDS differs from all other religions. Its kind of twenty-first-century munificence requires an extremely sophisticated understanding of informatics and digitizing. Trying to determine and then store everyone’s name and existence for perpetuity is also an insanely costly process. Today the Church has 220 data-gathering teams in forty-five countries that are making digital copies of new records. They are also converting 2.4 million microfilm records into a digital format. The LDS drove microfilm technology in the twentieth century, and today it is a leader in digital data storage. Its digital camera operators photograph records and get those images online within two days, and then an enormous army—that is to say, hundreds of thousands—of volunteers index the files and make them searchable. The Mormons were crowdsourcing long before the word was invented.

The last time I visited the church, it was deeply engaged in its biggest project to date—a joint effort with the national archives of Italy in which more than one hundred Italian state archives gave the LDS teams access to all the birth, death, and marriage records from about 1800 through to 1940. LDS photographers have produced more than 115 million images of the files, which recorded the lives of over five hundred million Italians from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They included people who lived before the invention of photography, people who watched their children die of the flu in 1918, and people who years later themselves died at the end of World War II. It is the most definitive collection of Italian civil records in the world.

The church’s most ambitious project is its online tree. Anyone who logs in to Family Search may record and research his or her family history there, but what distinguishes this tree from all the other online services is that the church is trying to connect all the branches, using its massive records and the activities of users to build a big tree of all of humanity. The endeavor must be, to some extent, possible. If anyone has the records to create this structure—a family history of all of the documented individual members of the human race, this group does. But the distinctive element of the LDS tree is that it’s collaborative: People can log on and add names and link them to documents and write personal stories—and once they have done that, their fifth cousin once removed may also jump online and edit that information, changing a relative’s name, linking it to other documents, or deleting the story altogether. No one I spoke to at Family Search seemed to think this would be a problem, but surely everyone’s version of her own family is different from that of her cousins?

Still, even if the online tree is in constant flux, the names and lives of millions of people will stay safe in the vault long after the names chiseled into all the world’s gravestones have eroded to nothing. The Mormon records will last for a very long time, at least until a natural disaster occurs, or maybe until some point in the process when a human being makes a mistake.

What if there were a huge natural disaster, and everything outside the Granite Mountain Records Vault were destroyed? Future historians could retrieve the mountain’s records and re-create many hundreds of years of demographic history. Would they also discover that most humans from all of history were, in fact, Mormons?

In the 1990s a Mormon group started working its way through all the names of the victims of the Holocaust, apparently baptizing them into the LDS. The controversy that erupted was resolved by a 1995 agreement between Jewish leaders and the LDS, whereby the church agreed to remove the names of posthumously baptized Jewish people from its records. But in the years that followed many Jewish names found their way back into them.

In 2003 an Armenian group protested that the LDS had baptized by proxy notable members of its community as well. In 2008 the Vatican sent a letter to parishes all over the world asking them to not share their records with Mormon genealogists. In 2012 it was widely reported that Anne Frank had been posthumously baptized into the Mormon Church. Similar stories emerged. Stanley Ann Dunham, the late mother of Barack Obama Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was abducted and murdered in Pakistan in 2002 Adolf Hitler Simon Wiesenthal, the Nazi hunter and Steve Irwin, the Australian TV naturalist, had all been baptized.

I asked Jay Verkler about proxy baptism. It was a misnomer, he explained: Members of the church only offer baptism to their ancestors. These ancestors are then checked off a list that notes that they have received an offer. That list is different, he said, from the “Members of Record” database, which includes only the names of people who have officially, during life, accepted such an offer.

Nevertheless, Verkler said, Frank had probably been offered what the church calls proxy ordinance about one hundred times. Members are supposed to offer proxy ordinance only to their own ancestors, but the policy has occasionally been abused. “What happens is that a member is reading about Anne Frank and [he] says, ‘Boy, I hope someone has made this offer to her. I think I will.’ And they go and they take care of it. Sometimes people get a little misdirected there.”

Mormons, explained Verkler, have warm associations with the idea of baptism. He understands that many Jews do not. “There were some really awful things that have been done to the Jewish community. Jews were forced to be baptized or burned at the stake, so ‘baptism’ is not a happy word. We didn’t understand that for a while, I think, culturally.” (As one Jewish genealogist confirmed to me, “The whole idea of proxy baptism is incredibly offensive for Jewish people.”)

“On the other hand,” Verkler said, “if you think about other religions that light a candle and say a prayer for someone, or create a prayer for someone who is deceased, it’s not a unique pattern, so that same kind of motivation is what I think motivates people.”

The same motivation may be involved, but as many Jews have pointed out, when they light a candle, they don’t make a record of it. The practice remains a point of tension between the two faiths, especially as there is a large Jewish genealogical community that relies on the resources created by the LDS.

Future historians of the Granite Mountain Records Vault may also be surprised to find that only heterosexual people married and had children in the early twenty-first century. Within the last two years, a growing series of online complaints have noted that people who want to record marriages of family members who are the same sex cannot because the software won’t record the union. Which is to say, the family tree database won’t allow users to report a marriage unless it takes place between a man and a woman. If this is the only database that survives a catastrophe, it will offer a skewed picture of life in our time. (Multiple requests to Family Search for comment on this issue went unanswered.)

Remember Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the illegitimate daughter of Senator Strom Thurmond? She said, “There are many stories like Sally Hemings and mine. (Hemings, a slave, had children fathered by the United States president Thomas Jefferson.) The unfortunate measure is that not everyone knows about these stories that helped to make America what it is today.” What America is today is a nation in which same-sex marriage has been recognized in more than half the states, Washington, D.C., and nine Native American tribal jurisdictions. The federal government of the United States recognizes gay marriage, as do those of at least nineteen other countries. In the United States alone there are at least 220,000 children being raised by same-sex couples. But if the LDS software won’t register these unions, all those American stories will have been lost, and the database of millions is no longer a real record, because it doesn’t record what’s real.

Excerpted from THE INVISIBLE HISTORY OF THE HUMAN RACE: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures by Christine Kenneally. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC. Copyright © 2014 by Christine Kenneally.

A previous version of this piece stated: "This massive infoverse exists to serve Joseph Smith’s late-nineteenth-century teaching that church members should offer baptism to dead relatives." We have removed "late-nineteenth-century" from this sentence since Smith died in the middle of the century.

Example of Native genealogy

  • Martell, Mme, Our People the Indians, circa 1950 (available SGCF in Montréal)
  • Trudel , Marcel , Dict. des esclaves . au Canada-français, (including about 2000 Native slaves, mostly Pawnees )

A few marriage repertories where the majority are Natives:

Note: I never take note of the book's title when it is a repertory, so don't ask me for the exact title (such as, for example, "Mariages de Pierreville et Odanak").

Mount Morris Genealogy (in Livingston County, NY)

NOTE: Additional records that apply to Mount Morris are also found through the Livingston County and New York pages.

Mount Morris Birth Records

New York, Birth Records, 1880-present New York State Department of Health

Mount Morris Cemetery Records

Scipio Road Cemetery Billion Graves

Mount Morris Census Records

Federal Census of 1940, Mount Morris, New York LDS Genealogy

United States Federal Census, 1790-1940 Family Search

Mount Morris Church Records

Mount Morris Death Records

New York, Death Records, 1880-present New York State Department of Health

Mount Morris Histories and Genealogies

Mount Morris Immigration Records

Mount Morris Land Records

Mount Morris Map Records

Map of Mount Morris, N.Y., 1893 Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Mount Morris, Livingston County, New York, August 1890 Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Mount Morris, Livingston County, New York, December 1885 Library of Congress

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Mount Morris, Livingston County, New York, January 1897 Library of Congress

Mount Morris Marriage Records

Mount Morris Newspapers and Obituaries

Mt Morris Livingston County Wig 1848 Fulton History

Mt Morris NY Spectator 1834-1837 Fulton History

Mt Morris NY Union 1881-1909 Fulton History

Mt. Morris NY Enterprise 1875-1982 Fulton History

Mt. Morris NY Picket Line Post 1903-1959 Fulton History

Mt. Morris NY Union Constitution 1856-1892 Fulton History

Picket Line Post 1904-1904 Pioneer Library System

Offline Newspapers for Mount Morris

According to the US Newspaper Directory, the following newspapers were printed, so there may be paper or microfilm copies available. For more information on how to locate offline newspapers, see our article on Locating Offline Newspapers.

Livingston County Whig. (Mount Morris, N.Y.) 1843-1848

Livingston Union. (Mount Morris, N.Y.) 1848-1862

Mount Morris Enterprise. (Mount Morris, N.Y.) 1875-1966

Mount Morris Spectator. (Mount Morris, N.Y.) 1834-1848

Mount Morris Union. (Mount Morris, N.Y.) 1881-1918

Mount Morris Union. (Mount Morris, N.Y.) 1932-1950

Picket Line Post & Mount Morris Union. (Mount Morris, N.Y.) 1951-1959

Picket Line Post and the Mount Morris Union. (Mt. Morris, N.Y.) 1918-1932

Picket Line Post, Mount Morris Union and Mount Morris Enterprise. (Mount Morris, N.Y.) 1966-Current

Picket Line Post. (Mount Morris, N.Y.) 1932-1950

Picket Line Post. (Mt. Morris, N.Y.) 1899-1918

Mount Morris Probate Records

Mount Morris School Records

Additions or corrections to this page? We welcome your suggestions through our Contact Us page

Who Were America’s Enslaved? A New Database Humanizes the Names Behind the Numbers

The night before Christmas in 1836, an enslaved man named Jim made final preparations for his escape. As his enslavers, the Roberts family of Charlotte County, Virginia, celebrated the holiday, Jim fled west to Kanawha County, where his wife’s enslaver, Joseph Friend, had recently moved. Two years had passed without Jim’s capture when Thomas Roberts published a runaway ad pledging $200 (around $5,600 today) for the 38- to 40-year-old’s return.

“Jim is … six feet or upwards high, tolerably spare made, dark complexion, has rather an unpleasant countenance,” wrote Roberts in the January 5, 1839, issue of the Richmond Enquirer. “[O]ne of his legs is smaller than the other, he limps a little as he walks—he is a good blacksmith, works with his left hand to the hammer.”

In his advertisement, Roberts admits that Jim may have obtained free papers, but beyond that, Jim’s fate, and that of his wife, is lost to history.

Fragments of stories like Jim’s—of lives lived under duress, in the framework of an inhumane system whose aftershocks continue to shape the United States—are scattered across archives, libraries, museums, historical societies, databases and countless other repositories, many of which remain uncatalogued and undigitized. All too often, scholars pick up loose threads like Jim’s, incomplete narratives that struggle to be sewn together despite the wealth of information available.

Enslaved: Peoples of the Historic Slave Trade, a newly launched digital database featuring 613,458 entries (and counting), seeks to streamline the research process by placing dozens of complex datasets in conversation with each other. If, for instance, a user searches for a woman whose transport to the Americas is documented in one database but whose later life is recorded in another, the portal can connect these details and synthesize them.

“We have these data sets, which have a lot of specific information taken in a particular way, [in] fragments,” says Daryle Williams, a historian at the University of Maryland and one of the project’s principal investigators. “. [If] you put enough fragments together and you put them together by name, by place, by chronology, you begin to have pieces of lives, which were lived in a whole way, even with the violence and the disruptions and the distortions of enslavement itself. We [can] begin then to construct or at least understand a narrative life.”

"I love that [the portal] really educates people on how to read the record," says Mary N. Elliott, a curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. (

Funded through a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,—described by its creators as a “linked open data platform” featuring information on people, events and places involved in the transatlantic slave trade—marks the culmination of almost ten years of work by Williams and fellow principal investigators Walter Hawthorne, a historian at Michigan State University, and Dean Rehberger, director of Michigan State’s Matrix Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences.

Originally, the team conceived as a space to simply house these different datasets, from baptismal records to runaway ads, ship manifests, bills of sale and emancipation documents. But, as Rehberger explains, “It became a project about how we can get datasets to interact with one another so that you can draw broader conclusions about slavery. … We’re going in there and grabbing all that data and trying to make sense of it, not just give [users] a whole long list of things.”

The project’s first phase launched earlier this month with searchable data from seven partner portals, including Slave Voyages, the Louisiana Slave Database and Legacies of British Slave-Ownership. Another 30 databases will be added over the next year, and the team expects the site to continue to grow for years to come. Museums, libraries, archives, historical societies, genealogy groups and individuals alike are encouraged to submit relevant materials for review and potential inclusion.

To fulfill the “important obligation” of involving researchers of all types and education levels, the scholars made their platform “as familiar and unintimidating as possible,” according to Williams. Users who arrive without specific research goals in mind can explore records grouped by categories as ethnicity or age, browse 75 biographies of both prominent enslaved and free people and lesser-known ones, and visualize trends using a customizable dashboard. Researchers, amateur genealogists and curious members of the public, meanwhile, can use to trace family histories, download peer-reviewed datasets, and craft narratives about some of the 12.5 million enslaved Africans transported to the New World between the 16th and 19th centuries.

At its core, says Rehberger, is a “discovery tool. We want you to be able to find all these different records that have traditionally been out in these silos, and bring them together in the hope that people can then reconstruct what’s there.”

Enslaved individuals pose in front of a wooden house on William F. Gaines' Hanover County, Virginia, plantation in 1862. (Public domain via Library of Congress)

New surnames for baptized natives - History

For more than five hundred years, America has been a land where people have sought, if not always found, freedom. Those who were successful in their search have come to be seen as quintessential American heroes. And yet while we celebrate freedom as the founding tenet of our nation, the great paradox of America is the long existence and influence of slavery. At the nexus of slavery and freedom were free people of color, the tens of thousands of people of African descent who overcame incredible odds and lived free in the most unlikely of places—the slave societies of the South, the Caribbean, and Latin America in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Many histories of America have failed to tell the story of these resilient and fascinating people.

If most Americans today are aware that some black men and women, like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, were able to escape from southern plantations and live in freedom in the North, few realize that free African Americans also lived in and occasionally prospered in places where slavery was so deeply rooted that it took a war to abolish it. One such place was Louisiana.

During the antebellum period, Louisiana's free people of color enjoyed a relatively high level of acceptance and prosperity, a legacy of the state's French and Spanish founders, but as the American Civil War approached, white society increasingly turned against them. Most heavily concentrated in New Orleans, many worked as artisans and professionals. Significant numbers were also found in Baton Rouge, St. Landry Parish, and the Natchitoches area, where some were plantation owners and slaveholders. It is for their contributions to the arts that Louisiana's free people of color have come to be best known, with many distinguishing themselves as authors, artists, and musicians. Only in the last few decades have historians themselves begun to appreciate the complexity of free black communities and their significance to our understanding not just of the past, but also the present.

The fact that free people of color, particularly in the South, never made it into the mainstream narrative of American history is extraordinary considering their status was one of the most talked about issues of the first half of the nineteenth century. Even where their numbers were small, they made significant contributions to the economies and cultures of the communities in which they lived, and, as a group, exerted a strong influence on government policy and public opinion at a time of increasing polarization over the issue of slavery.

Nor did their story lose its relevance once the abolition of slavery had rendered all Americans legally free. Discrimination against freedmen, blacks who had never known slavery, and Creoles of Color in the post-bellum South led many of them to seek a better life elsewhere, where many of mixed-race heritage were able to "pass" in their new communities. As a result of their exodus, southern black communities were deprived of talented leaders, businessmen, role models, and cultural brokers at the time when they were most needed. Those who remained, however, cooperated with other African Americans in the long struggle for civil rights.

This project hopes to contribute to the rediscovery of these "forgotten" people and their role in the state's racial, political, economic, social, and cultural past.

Contexts: Free People of Color in the Americas, 1492-1830

The history of free people of color in the Americas extends back to the beginning of the Age of Exploration. The crew of Christopher Columbus's first expedition included a free black sailor. Juan Garrido, a black conquistador, traveled with Ponce de Léon and Pánfilo de Narváez in what is now the United States and Mexico, while Juan Valiente, a free black man from Cádiz, helped lead the first Spanish expedition to Chile. Estéban de Dorantes, a negro alárabe ("Arabized black"), saved the shipwrecked explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his men from certain death by posing as a shaman and persuading Native Americans to share their food.

Free people of color played an important role in Spain's New World empire as soldiers, sailors, artisans, and laborers. Manumission, by which slaves were granted or purchased their freedom, had been customary in the Iberian Peninsula as far back as Roman times and was transplanted by the Spanish and Portuguese to their American colonies, giving rise to a large and vibrant population of free people of color.

The Roman Catholic faith, which, at least initially, discouraged the enslavement of anyone who had accepted Christianity, contributed to the relatively liberal attitude of the Spanish and Portuguese toward free people of color.

In some ways, the French had a similar outlook, imagining a society where class was more important than race and in which everyone was entitled to fair treatment, provided they had been baptized into the Catholic Church. For all its harshness, the French Code Noir, adopted in 1685, included articles protecting the rights of freed slaves, which were essentially the same as those of whites, with the exception that they could not vote, hold public office, or marry a white person. While generally, the French, Spanish, and Portuguese codes treated slaves and free blacks less harshly and offered greater legal protection than did Protestant nations, in practice, local conditions such as slave revolts and the distance of the colonies from central administrative control probably more directly affected their experiences.. The French were also more tolerant of racial mixing, especially in sparsely settled frontier societies like Louisiana, where there were significantly fewer white women than men. At the same time, they developed elaborate color categories to define the results of that mixing.

In the British colonies, people of African descent, whether free or not, faced severe social and legal restrictions. Race, for the British, was as important as class. Most of the English colonies in North America and the Caribbean passed formal black codes between the 1670s and 1750s. Slaves there had almost no legal standing, and freed slaves and freeborn Africans had few civil rights. Individuals had to carry "freedom papers" wherever they went, as proof of their status, and those without them ran the risk of being re-enslaved.

Free black communities existed up and down the eastern seaboard of North America. The largest was in Philadelphia, which through the influence of Quaker antislavery activists had opened its doors to black men and women in the mid eighteenth century. Other cities with significant populations of free blacks were Boston, Providence, New York, and Charleston. The first man killed in the Boston Massacre of 1770 was Crispus Attucks, a free mixed-race sailor. Four African Americans fought at the Battle of Lexington in the American Revolution, and some historians have estimated that as much as one-fifth of the rebel army that recaptured Boston from the British was black. Although George Washington discouraged free colored men from enlisting in the Continental Army, they joined anyway.

In the southern colonies during the Revolution, free blacks served in colonial regiments and militias, but were more likely to assist the British. At war's end, almost all black loyalists were transported to Canada, Britain, the West Indies, or Sierra Leone, reducing the South's already small free black population. That said, in 1790, the state with the largest population of free blacks was Virginia.

The era of the Early Republic in the U.S. saw the formal abolition of slavery in most northern states as well as the creation of the Northwest Territory, where slavery was outlawed from the beginning. Even in the Upper South, the number of manumissions rose. The free African-American population of the North grew from about 27,000 in 1790 to 138,000 in 1830 in the Upper South in the same period, it went from 30,000 to 150,000. This rise in population was due for the most part to natural growth. In states like Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, runaway slaves were a contributing factor, though some of the new states of the Midwest, particularly Illinois, enacted severe "Black Laws" to limit African-American migration there.

Free people of color worked in a wide range of professions. In the North, many acquired small farms. Land ownership by free blacks in the South was less common, and those who worked in agriculture were often overseers and occasionally bookkeepers, business managers, and attorneys on the farms of white relatives. Many white planters, in fact, preferred to hire free blacks as managers because they would work for a lower salary than whites and were viewed as being more familiar with slave culture. In cases where the employer and employee were related—white fathers often employed their mixed-race children—there may have been an element of trust beyond what would have existed had the employee been a slave or an unrelated white worker.

Free people of color occasionally became affluent farmers and businesspeople in their own right, especially in Louisiana. The navy and merchant marine were other common career paths for free black men. Some became craftsmen and artisans or worked as unskilled laborers at jobs that white people did not want to do. Others became ministers or, in Catholic areas like Louisiana, took religious orders. Free African-American women in cities typically found work as domestic servants, washerwomen, and seamstresses. A fortunate few owned boarding houses. The least fortunate worked as prostitutes.

The conditions in which free people of color lived varied, but were often deplorable, especially in northern cities, where many could only afford lodging in attics and cellars. Though free, they still suffered from racial prejudice. As historian Donald Wright has written, "Simply because many northern whites condemned slavery did not mean that they cared at all for persons of African descent." Most saw blacks as inferior and as competitors for jobs.

In both North and South, free blacks faced segregation in public places. Mob violence targeted at black citizens occurred in many northern cities in the early 1800s. African-American churches in New York and Philadelphia were regularly vandalized, and in Providence in 1824, a white mob tore down every single building in one of the city's black neighborhoods. A riot in Cincinnati in 1829 resulted in more than 1,000 African Americans leaving the United States altogether and moving to Canada.

The dire social and living conditions of black men and women in Northern society, in fact, were used as an argument against emancipation by slavery's defenders, who sincerely believed that free blacks in northern cities were worse off than slaves on southern plantations.

Early Days: Colonial Louisiana, 1718-1803

Ironically, given its later history, there was one place where free people of color enjoyed a relatively high level of acceptance and prosperity during the eighteenth century: Louisiana. Although Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania all had larger free black populations, their influence and social significance were arguably greatest in Louisiana.

The first free blacks in Louisiana were probably slaves who escaped and lived with American Indian tribes. A court case from 1722 is the first record of a free man of color in the struggling colony. Two years later, a free black man filed suit against a white man. The earliest record of a marriage between two free people of color dates from 1725. Louis Congo, Louisiana's first executioner, was a free black man. Another, Jean Congo, is listed in the 1726 census as a toll collector and keeper of the High Road along Bayou St. John, documenting that some people of color in colonial Louisiana held professional positions. In the winter of 1729-30, the Natchez Indians laid siege to Fort Rosalie at what is now Natchez, Mississippi. Many of the slaves that fought with the French relief force were given their freedom in reward for their service. The earliest surviving record of a slave manumission dates from 1733, when Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, New Orleans's founder, freed two slaves who had been in his service for twenty-six years. It became common practice in Louisiana for elderly slaves to be freed and also for masters, in their wills, to free individual slaves or entire families.

In 1763, France ceded Louisiana to Spain to compensate it for its losses in the Seven Years' War. The colony's transfer marked the beginning of the most liberal period in Louisiana's history in regard to free people of color. The Spanish enacted a new set of laws called Las siete partidas. These laws offered slaves greater protection from mistreatment by whites and made it easier for them to acquire their freedom. Blacks who were already free could now serve in the militia, buy and sell their own slaves, and were protected from arbitrary police searches. Although the law forbidding mixed-race marriages remained, it was frequently ignored. Free people of color were able to live lives not remarkably different from those of whites of similar social and economic status.

In addition to marriages, extramarital relationships between the races existed. It became an accepted practice in Louisiana for white men (married and unmarried) to take black paramours. These relationships were often longstanding. Some historians have argued that free women of color desired to be the mistresses of white men because it improved their status and security as well as their children's. Dozens of these women in the late eighteenth century acquired valuable property through their relationships with their white partners or fathers. By one estimate, a quarter of the houses along the main streets of New Orleans were owned by free blacks, many of whom were single women. At Natchitoches in central Louisiana, Marie Thérèse Metoyer (better known as "Coincoin") managed several large estates given to her by a French official with whom she had a 25 years-long liaison and ten children. (Her offspring formed the basis of the large settlement of free people of color that lived along the Cane River.) Successions of prominent white men as late as the 1850s acknowledge and bequeath property or money to their illegitimate children of color. Historians have also argued that, in other instances, it was the woman who had the economic upper hand in such arrangements when the white man enjoyed lesser financial means than she.

Transition: Louisiana's Territorial Period, 1803-1812

At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, at least one in six of the roughly 8,000 people living in New Orleans was a free person of color. The city's population, both white and black, increased significantly between 1791 and 1810 due to an influx of émigrés displaced by the Haitian Revolution (led by Toussaint Louverture, a free man of color). The first official U. S. census of Orleans Territory in 1810 counted 7,585 free persons of color, compared to 34,311 whites and a total population of 76,556.

The influx of black refugees from Haiti heightened anxieties among Louisiana's white population. Over the previous twenty years, the colony/territory had only narrowly escaped several slave rebellions. Free people of color, it was argued, would only incite further unrest. The situation was made worse by the departure in 1803 of the Spanish, who had treated the group, for the most part, with a liberal hand. Territorial governor William C. C. Claiborne was pressured not only by President Thomas Jefferson's administration, but also by Louisiana's French-speaking white inhabitants to reduce the number of free men of color who served in the militia. Some wanted to see a reduction in the size of the free black population altogether.

In 1806, the territorial legislature passed an act (never fully enforced) prohibiting free black males from entering Louisiana and ordering those over the age of fifteen who had been born elsewhere to leave (Louisiana's native free people of color had been granted U. S. citizenship in 1803). In 1812, one year after the failed German Coast uprising (the largest slave rebellion in U. S. history), free black men were denied the right to vote. Throughout this period and until the abolition of slavery made their separate legal status obsolete, free persons of color were required to carry passes, observe curfews, and to have their racial status designated in all public records.

Golden Age: The Early Antebellum Era, 1812-1830

Despite the restrictions imposed during the territorial period, the granting of statehood in 1812 coincided with the beginning of the "golden age" of free people of color in Louisiana. Though many left for Europe, the Caribbean, or Latin America, others stayed behind, lured by Louisiana's booming economy (at the outbreak of the Civil War, the state was the richest in the Union and New Orleans the third largest city). Free colored men and women could own, inherit, and sell property, including slaves. Large plantations on the outskirts of New Orleans were sold off and subdivided to form new neighborhoods where free blacks purchased plots of land alongside whites. Many became involved in important New Orleans social and cultural institutions such as opera, theaters, balls, benevolent groups, and the church. Louisiana's free black population rose from just under 11,000 in 1820 to about 25,000 in 1840, keeping pace with the rise of white and slave populations and representing about seven percent of the state's total population.

Free people of color worked in many of the trades that white people worked in, ranging from shopkeeping and general unskilled labor to more specialized lines of work such as carpentry, stonecutting, and metalworking. Historian David Rankin determined from the 1850 census that of all American cities, New Orleans "had the highest percentage of free black males employed as artisans, professionals, and entrepreneurs, and the lowest in 'low opportunity' occupations like laborer, mariner, gardener, servant, and waiter. New Orleans also contained more than a quarter of all free men of color employed as professionals, managers, artists, clerks, and scientists in the fifteen largest cities in the United States."

It is for their contributions to the arts that Louisiana's free people of color have come to be best known. Many distinguished themselves as authors. Armand Lanusse published Les Cenelles, an anthology of poetry by free men of color, in 1845. One contributor to the work, Victor Séjour, is regarded as Louisiana's greatest French-language playwright. Jules Lion, one of Louisiana's first lithographers, was a native of France who came to New Orleans around 1830 he is thought to have introduced photography to the state. Eugène and Daniel Warburg, sons of a German-Jewish real estate speculator and his slave, became highly regarded sculptors and marble workers, carving many of the elaborate tombs for which New Orleans is so well known. Although the composers Basile Barès and Edmond Dédé would write their finest works after the Civil War, they grew up during the "golden age" of free people of color in New Orleans and were influenced by the city's mixture of African, Caribbean, and European cultural traditions. Barès also published works as a slave, only gaining his freedom shortly before his master's death, after which Barès continued to run the music business his former master had owned.

A few free people of color were highly successful in business. The merchant and real estate broker Bernard Soulié doubled his capital from $50,000 to $100,000 in the 1850s. A decade earlier, Eulalie de Mandeville Macarty acquired her personal fortune of $150,000 through a combination of gifts from a white lover, her family's wealth, and her own dry goods business. Pierre Casanave, the Haitian-born clerk of Jewish businessman and philanthropist Judah Touro, used the $10,000 legacy that his employer left him to set himself up as a commission merchant and undertaker. By 1864, he was said to be worth $100,000. Thomy Lafon amassed perhaps the greatest fortune of all—half a million dollars—through brokering and property speculation and was among Louisiana's most prominent philanthropists, contributing to charities, schools, hospitals, and antislavery societies. Another philanthropist, Marie Couvent, the African-born widow of the wealthy black businessman Bernard Couvent, left money in her will when she died in 1837 that was used to found the Institute Catholique, one of the first schools in the United States to provide a free education to children of African descent. The daughter of one of the oldest families of free people of color in New Orleans, Henriette Delille, made a name for herself as the foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family, the second oldest Catholic religious order for women of color. The Sisters worked with the poor, the sick, the elderly, and among slaves, founded a school for girls in 1850, and opened a hospital for needy black Orleanians.

Louis Charles Roudanez, trained as a doctor in France and New England, owned a successful medical practice in New Orleans in the 1850s, treating both white and black patients. In 1864, he began publishing the French-language La Tribune de la Nouvelle Orleans, the nation's first African-American daily newspaper. Norbert Rillieux, though not a businessman, made an important contribution to the business life of Louisiana when he invented, in 1843, a new technique of sugar refining that revolutionized the industry.

In recent years, historians have begun to look beyond New Orleans at free black populations in other parts of Louisiana, where, by all accounts, they were just as successful. The first record of a free black living on the prairies of southwestern Louisiana is from 1766. The 1774 census of the Opelousas district indicates that this same man owned two slaves and fifty cattle, a notable fact at a time when, according to historian Carl Brasseaux, only 22 percent of households in this part of Louisiana owned slaves and only 18 percent of freeholders possessed fifty cattle. In 1810, white males in the area around Opelousas outnumbered white females by a margin of almost 500, resulting in liaisons with slaves that evolved into common-law marriages in which the female was eventually emancipated.

Many free black households were controlled by matriarchs. Marie Simien, in 1818, owned nine slaves and more than 7,500 acres of land, including 1,400 acres of prime farmland in St. Landry Parish. The largest family of free black planters and merchants outside of New Orleans was the Metoyer family of Natchitoches Parish, which intermarried with other black planters. In 1830, the family owned nearly eight percent of the slaves in Natchitoches Parish. Some individuals owned no land or slaves but worked as plantation overseers. Aaron Griggs, for example, worked on Antonio Patrick Walsh's plantation in West Feliciana Parish in the 1820s. Others lived in towns, typically working as builders. Free blacks were living in Baton Rouge at least as early as 1782. In 1850, eighty of the 159 free blacks in Lafayette Parish were living in Vermilionville (now Lafayette), and nearly half of the free black population of St. Martin Parish lived in the towns of St. Martinville and New Iberia. Much of the free black population of the "bayou country" fled in the 1850s as racial tensions mounted, and many of those who remained were driven out in 1859 by bands of white vigilantes.

Decline and Civil War, 1830-1865

Many southerners, already on the defensive in regard to slavery, worried that free people of color would collaborate with abolitionists. In addition, with southerners' perceived threat to slavery, race-based distinctions became more important than one's legal status. As a result, Louisiana's "golden age" of free people of color fell into decline around 1830, the beginning of an era of particularly harsh legislation regarding African Americans, both slave and free. It became a crime to publish anything criticizing white supremacy masters wishing to free their slaves had to post a $1,000 bond guaranteeing that freed slaves would leave the state within thirty days and all blacks were prohibited from testifying against whites in court. In 1855, free people of color were banned from assembling or forming any new organizations or societies. The emancipation of slaves was outlawed entirely in 1857, and, as during the territorial period, free persons of color were required to carry passes, observe curfews, and have their racial status designated in all public records.

Other factors also played a part in free blacks leaving Louisiana. An influx of Irish and German immigrants, who displaced free black tradesmen and were willing to work at unskilled jobs for low wages, began in the 1830s. The Panic of 1837 severely affected the state and pressured some wealthy blacks to sell property. Due to multiple factors, Louisiana's free black population shrank over the next twenty years. Many left to seek a better life in the North, France, Haiti, and Latin America. Some, no doubt, were able to "pass" as white, and so no longer were counted among free people of color. Others still were resettled in Africa and Mexico by colonization societies. On the eve of the Civil War, free people of color represented just 2.6 percent of the population of Louisiana, a decline from 7.7 percent in 1830.

Those who remained faced divided loyalties when the Civil War broke out in 1861. In May of that year, about 1,500 free black New Orleanians responded to Confederate governor Thomas Overton Moore's call for troops, forming the Louisiana Native Guard. Although its colonel was white, it was the first military unit in American history to have black officers. In the Cane River region of northwest Louisiana, two free black units were formed, the Augustin Guards and Monette's Guards, but both were rejected for service. Why free people of color volunteered to defend the Confederacy is a matter of debate. Some may have seen it as a way to enhance their position in society. Others probably feared that they or their property would be harmed if they did not conform. After the fall of New Orleans, some Native Guard members formed a new unit as part of the Union Army. Swelled by runaway slaves, it was soon divided into three regiments, two of which participated in the siege of Port Hudson. Captain André Cailloux, a respected businessman before the war, was killed in the action. His death, widely reported in the press, became a rallying cry for African American recruitment.

For free people of color who owned plantations and slaves, the war was a mixed blessing, bringing greater freedom, but destroying the state's economy and causing significant property loss. A string of droughts and crop failures, together with the need to grow food rather than cash crops during the Union blockade, contributed to the economic turmoil. Plantations owned by free people of color, moreover, were not spared the ravages of Union troops, who carried off livestock, crops, farm implements, and household items. With no capital, slaves, or money to hire workers, free black planters had to work their own fields. As historian Gary Mills has written, "Instead of elevation to a position of full citizenship and equality, the once influential families of color were now publicly submerged into the new mass of black freedmen—a class and a culture with which they had no identification and one that harbored much resentment toward them."

Legacies: Louisiana's "Creoles of Color" after the Civil War

Although most African-American planters, like their white counterparts, were ruined by the Civil War, other free people of color prospered in the war's wake. In politics, especially, they emerged as the leaders for Louisiana's black population. During Reconstruction, many were elected to the state legislature, and for a short time, P.B.S. Pinchback, the son of a white Georgian planter and his slave, served as Louisiana's governor he was later elected to Congress. Despite their common political situation, though, English-speaking blacks such as Pinchback were not readily accepted as leaders by a Creole elite who had their own aspirations to leadership. These two camps crystalized around two newspapers, one started by Pinchback and one by the prominent physician Charles Roudanez. The latter's La Tribune de la Nouvelle Orleans / The New Orleans Tribune was a French-English newspaper published from 1864-1870. The first black daily newspaper in the United States, it came to serve as the voice of the Creoles of Color (a term adopted after the Civil War and still used today to designate people descended from free people of color). Pinchback's Louisianan, in its various forms, enjoyed a longer run from 1870 to 1882 and was identified with English-speaking blacks.

Such ethnicity-based distinctions lessened somewhat in the face of Jim Crow laws of the late nineteenth century. As a result of these discriminatory regulations, black political influence waned, but even then the descendants of free people of color, who could still remember the so-called "golden age" of the early nineteenth century, continued to challenge racial prejudices and segregation laws. The most famous case was that of Homer Plessy, who attempted to ride a New Orleans streetcar for whites only. The Comité des Citoyens, which was made up primarily of French speaking-free people of color, organized a legal suit over the incident that came to be known as the landmark case Plessy v. Ferguson. The efforts ultimately backfired, however, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the "separate but equal" doctrine, a view it would adhere to until 1954. Creoles of Color continued to cooperate with other African Americans to fight injustice and also persuade progressive whites to support black institutions, such as Xavier and Dillard Universities and the Flint-Goodrich Hospital and Nursing School. In the twentieth century, attorney A. P. Tureaud filed the suit that led to the end of school segregation in New Orleans. His son, A. P. Tureaud, Jr., became the first black student to enroll at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Another descendant of free people of color, Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial, became New Orleans's first black mayor in 1977.

We can also trace the legacy of Louisiana's free people of color in what may be the state's greatest contribution to the world—jazz. Combining European and African musical traditions, men such as Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe (better known as Jelly Roll Morton), Alphonse Picou, Jimmy Palao, Manuel Perez, Freddie Keppard, and later Sidney Bechet created a distinctive sound that became synonymous with Louisiana and influenced countless musicians of all races. This quintessentially American art form, which for more than a century has embraced not only diverse peoples but also diverse ideas, is a fitting monument to free people of color. In jazz, as the late Dave Brubeck put it, "Kinship doesn't come from skin color. It's in your soul and your mind."

Identifying the right church

On the eve of the Revolutionary War, more than half of those in the English colonies were either Congregationalists (mostly in New England) or Anglicans (Church of England, dominant in the South). Others were Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed and in much smaller numbers, Quakers, Baptists, Catholics, Methodists and Jews. Spanish and French colonists were largely Catholic a significant minority of French colonists were Huguenots.

That religious picture changed dramatically during the following century. Anglicans and Congregationalists lost government sponsorship and popularity. More experiential faiths took their place. By 1860, half the congregations in the US were Methodist and a quarter were Baptist. Another 10 percent were Catholic—a number that would grow as more Catholic immigrants arrived.

To determine what church might have records of your ancestors, make an informed guess based on these factors:

Family lore: Ask older relatives what churches family members attended throughout their lives. Check with distant cousins, too, especially those who still live near an ancestral hometown.

Records: An ancestor’s faith or specific church might be specified (or at least hinted at) in nonreligious records. Watch for a religion or church mentioned in an obituary or associated with a burial place (keeping in mind that a churchyard burial may have represented the religious wishes of other relatives, not the deceased). Research the affiliation of ministers who married or buried your ancestors. Look up the meaning of symbols on tombstones. Look for biographical details in funeral programs, county histories and other documents.

Transitions: The religious choices of one generation don’t always agree with the preceding one. Switching to a different faith might happen with marriage or migration away from relatives or to a place where the old faith didn’t have a foothold. As you trace immigrant ancestors, be aware that some ethnic groups assimilated faster than others. Watch for a transitional generation whose more “American” naming patterns or dress are distinct from those of the previous generation. This may be a key time to look for clues pointing to an “Old World” religion.

Ethnic group: Immigrants often brought their country’s dominant faiths. English were often Anglican (a denomination that became the Episcopal church in the United States) Scots-Irish, Presbyterian and Scandinavians, Lutheran. Irish, Italians, Spanish, French and many Eastern Europeans often were Catholic. Germans had the most variety: Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Jewish and many smaller sects.

Conversely, members of many religious groups—English Quakers or French Huguenots, for example—came to the United States because they didn’t agree with their national faith. Consult history books to learn the overall religious picture of your ancestor’s ethnic or national group, including dissenting or “nonconformist” sects that migrated during that time period.

Immigrants from the same place and who shared a religion often settled together in America. Those initial religious cultures evolved with the changing times and residents. A region of the South that was primarily Anglican during one generation may have become mostly Methodist or Baptist within a few generations. Research local history to learn about these patterns.


The nearest reasonable option may have determined a family’s place of worship. Many Congregationalists who went west from New England joined Presbyterian churches, which had a similar culture. Migrating German Lutherans may have joined ranks with local Reformed or similar German sects. City directories and neighborhood maps showing property ownership or local landmarks can help you identify the churches nearest your ancestors.

Some Catholic immigrants didn’t attend the parish nearest their home. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, ethnic parishes served German, Irish, Italian, Slovak and other Catholics who wanted to worship in their own languages. Local histories or a Catholic diocesan archivist (see below) can tell you about local parishes that served your family’s ethnicity.

Methodist Sunday School Register

  1. On continuing pages, the year may appear in an abbreviated format, such as 81 for 1881.
  2. Prob likely stands for “probationer,” a probationary member. Look for these names with further information on a probationer’s list in the register book.
  3. This migration information is a clue to look for individuals in their new places.
  4. If someone was “received into membership,” look for his or her entries in the member list in elsewhere in the register book.
  5. Notes such as ”discontinued as unworthy” or “discontinued—drunkenness” reveal more than just whether a person was present at Sunday school.

(Catholic) Family Trees — Unlocking Church History via Genealogy

The Archdiocese of New York is digitizing 8 million sacramental records.

Above, Worshippers exit St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on Easter 1910. Below, a 1914-15 baptismal registry is among those being newly archived. (photo: Courtesy of Find My Past)

The handwriting is cramped, the entry in barely-legible Latin on the yellowing pages of a sacrament register for the year 1814:

“15th Baptisavi Miriam filial Roberti Bankhead et Catherinae Magee natum Maii. Sponsa Elizabeth Lyons. P.F. McNulty.”

That is: On May 15 in 1814, Mary, the child of Robert Bankhead and Catherine Magee, born on the 4th, was baptized by Father McNulty at St. Paul’s in Philadelphia, with Elizabeth Lyons as the godmother. No godfather is listed.

Opening one of these parish registers — large, sometimes fragile volumes filled margin-to-margin with names and dates — is a journey into the past. The work used to require time, travel and vast stores of patience.

While the thrill of hunting through dusty archives has been lost, the computer age has provided rich rewards in its place.

Records once hard to locate and scattered across continents are found now on services like Ancestry and Find My Past, where they can be retrieved through the internet with a simple search.

The Catholic Church is one of the richest repositories of genealogical data in the world. Sacraments mark rites of passage in baptism, first Holy Communion, confirmation and marriage, often recording events and people invisible to civil records.

The records help researchers find people in specific locations at particular times in history, along with their connections to other people.

Now, the Archdiocese of New York is following the lead of Philadelphia and partnering with U.K.-based genealogy site Find My Past ( to bring its data online.

Two Centuries of History

The region that currently makes up the Archdiocese of New York initially fell under the jurisdiction of America’s first bishop, John Carroll. It began keeping records of baptisms and marriage in 1785, almost 30 years before it became a diocese with its own bishop. Although it now encompasses Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and some surrounding counties, in the early years, its borders stretched to all of New York state and northern New Jersey. This places the records for a large portion of early U.S. Catholics in its archives. Making that data available to the public, while still protecting the privacy of individuals, is the challenge facing the archbishop and archdiocesan archivist with this new project.

The diocesan records are currently found on microfilm, in databases and in the hard copies at parishes and the main archives. All told, the indexes being made public contain 8 million sacramental records, ranging from 1785 to 1918. New records will be available each year, while maintaining a 100-year gap in order to respect the privacy of individuals who may still be living.

As Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, observed in a statement: “It is vitally important to us that we balance this openness with a respect for the privacy of those whose lives are reflected in these records. That is why we have instituted a 100-year privacy rule on all the records we are releasing.”

The data tells the story of 130 years of Catholic history in the New York region, encompassing records from more than 230 parishes. The project will be done in three phases, with phase one, an electronic database of all the pertinent records, already complete based on microfilms created in 1980 for preservation purposes.

This index is now up and running on Find My Past, searchable by names, dates, sacraments and parishes.

Find My Past is the largest repository of genealogical records for England and Ireland it contains 8.5 billion family history records, including the largest collection of British parish records, electoral registers, 24 million pages of British and Irish newspapers, and many Catholic parish records from the U.K. and U.S. that are exclusive to the site.

“The Catholic Church holds some of the oldest and best-preserved genealogical records in existence,” says Find My Past researcher Alex Cox. “Since the early 19th century, New York City has been the largest port of entry for immigration into the United States. The millions of Irish, Italians, Germans, Polish and many others who settled in or passed through the state are captured in these documents. However, as many of these documents memorialize important religious sacraments, their privacy has long been protected, and access to original copies has, until now, been hard to come by.”

In 2017, Find My Past partnered with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to bring its records online. Cait Kokolus, director of the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Records Center, found the company easy to work with and recommended it to other dioceses. The genealogy company digitized the microfilm and picked up the costs for shipping and photographing records that had been left out during the original microfilming process.

“One contractual stipulation we made,” she observed, “was that the information could not be shared with any Mormon organization. This was in keeping with a ruling from the USCCB several years ago when many dioceses were approached by the Mormons wanting to digitize for free baptismal records. After we announced the database, I did receive a few phone calls from people worried about this.”

In 2008, the Vatican Congregation for Clergy directed episcopal conferences to instruct bishops to prevent genealogy services affiliated with the Church of Latter-day Saints (such as from digitizing information contained in Catholic sacramental registers. This was due to grave concerns over the practice of people posthumously baptizing their ancestors into the Mormon faith, which is in violation of Church teaching and is one of the main engines driving Mormon interest in genealogy.

Preservation and Privacy

For the New York process, stage two involves adding original images to the index.

All of the registers for each parish are brought to the archives and photographed again in color. Forty years have passed since they were last imaged for microfilm, and technology now allows for much higher image quality. In addition to recapturing the images, the archivists will also examine annotations found in the records. “In the Catholic Church, your baptismal parish is considered to be your parish of record and, ideally, the repository of information about all other sacraments you receive throughout the course of your life,” explained Kate Feighery, director of the archives of the Archdiocese of New York.

“All this information is sent to your baptismal parish and then included in the register. So even though one is only baptized into the Church once, the baptismal record may continue to be edited throughout the course of a person’s life. Since these records are not static, it is important to go back every once in a while and reimage to update with any notation edits that might have been made.”

During the imaging process, the archivists will also do preservation work on older registers. The final phase will be the digitization of the complete run of the archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic New York.

Sacramental records hold a wealth of data for the genealogist. Not all Church marriages are recorded in civil records, and information such as the names of godparents or witnesses might open new lines of inquiry.

There are unique challenges in working with the records.

“The data are mostly in Latin,” said Cox, “or in the language of the immigrant community (German, Polish, Lithuanian, Italian, etc.) which can cause difficulty in legibility (some scripts are very difficult to read) and interpretation.” Another challenge has to do with New York state law, which seals data related to adoption records forever. This means all baptismal records must be carefully examined to ensure they do not mention any adoption. This is part of the reason more photographs are not already online.

“Outside of the value for individual family historians,” said Feighery, “these records really paint a larger story about the immigrant experience in New York over time.

“The parishes that were opened to serve different immigrant communities, the languages in which the records were recorded, the names of the priests, and even the names of the parishioners themselves can really demonstrate the changing racial, linguistic and ethnic landscape of New York City and can also help track these communities as they moved out of the city into the suburbs and upper counties of the state.”

Thomas L. McDonald, a Register blogger, writes about history.

Thomas L. McDonald Thomas L. McDonald has been a writer and editor for the past 25 years, covering technology, history, archaeology, games and religion. He has degrees in English, Film and Theology with a concentration in Church History. He’s been a certified catechist for 12 years, and taught Church History for eight. His other writing can be found at Weird Catholic.

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