Genealogy tools, New Orleans

The secret recipe for easily researching Louisiana death records

Searching death records in Louisiana used to be rather frustrating.

In days of olde, your only resource was the Secretary of State’s Office for records old enough to be released to the general public. True, the state helpfully put together online indexes, but you still had to request the death certificates by mail or drive to the State Archives in Baton Rouge and laboriously find records on microfilm.

Fortunately for those of us who have an irrational fear of microfilm readers (I’m raising my hand here), there’s an easier way. Best of all, you don’t have to live in Louisiana to utilize it although it might require a tank of gas.

The Church of Latter Day Saints has death records for every parish in Louisiana. Now, curb your enthusiasm for a moment.

If your great-great grandfather died in Louisiana but outside New Orleans in 1840, you’re out of luck. Only New Orleans and the adjoining Jefferson Parish started keeping records before 1911. And, if I’m being honest, most parishes (outside Orleans and Jefferson) weren’t good at insisting on death certificates until closer to the 1920s.

Not to curb your enthusiasm any further, but I should point out that I’ve yet to find death certificates for my great-great grandparents John S. Hebert and Rosalie Penisson even though they died in the 1920s. My guess is the family called a priest instead of a doctor because their deaths are dutifully recorded in church records. But it also could have been that the doctor just couldn’t be bothered.

Dr. B. A. Taber – the register of vital statistics for the town of Jennings – even made a joke about filling out death certificates in 1913 (see newspaper clipping below). Do you get the sense that he wasn’t keen on paperwork?

Here’s what the Church of Latter Day Saints has:

And .- just like the Secretary of State records – they’re searchable. Here’s the difference. The certificates at the Church of Latter Day Saints have been digitalized.

When you find a certificate you’d like to view in the Church of Latter Day Saints’ index, you can view early Orleans records with the click of your mouse from the comfort of your home. For other death records, you can view with the click of a mouse at a Family History Center. No microfilm!

There are Family History Centers across the globe and across the U.S. The pandemic’s made researching a little tricky in Baton Rouge. The center is currently closed although I’ve been able to email a church member and make arrangements to spend a few hours on a Saturday happily researching. Take my advice and call or email ahead.

The Church of Latter Day Saints has done a tremendous job of collecting records and making them accessible. You don’t have to be a member of the church to research their records. When I was a teen, my Southern Baptist grandmother took me, her Catholic granddaughter, to a Family History Center in Arizona. I’ve been a fan of their work ever since.

Happy searching!


3 thoughts on “The secret recipe for easily researching Louisiana death records”

  1. I just discovered this wonderful resource. Since I live in Virginia, going to the Archive is a little problematic. I’ve ordered many death certificates from the Archive. This will be a little more convenient. Luckily for me the closest Family History Center 2 miles from where I live.

      1. Thanks for letting me know. I will check it out. There is so much information on the Family Search website for Louisiana. It is amazing.

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