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Louisiana Genealogy

The state of Louisiana is considered a very multicultural, multilingual region. Even today it is greatly influenced by the food, speech, religions and traditions of the 18th century French, Spanish, Native Indian and African cultures.

The Spanish started in 1528 with Pánfilo de Narváez exploring the mouth of the Mississippi River. Not much was done by the Spanish at that time. By the 1600s the French expeditions established a firm hold on the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast. With its first settlements, France lay claim to a vast region of North America establishing a commercial empire from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada. In 1699, first permanent French settlement, Fort Maurepas was established, plus another fort at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Natchitoches settlement by the French was made in 1714. It proved to a flourishing river port and crossroads. Over time, planters developed large plantations and built fine homes in a growing town. This style was repeated in New Orleans.

The French increased build up of commerce and settlements allowed them to trade with the Spanish to the west and still prevent Spain from trying to claim the Louisiana region. Yet, from the 1720 until 1803, due to the various wars in Europe between Spain and France, the control of Louisiana did change hands many times. In discovering Louisiana genealogy this is an important aspect in understanding the culture of the state with its French and Spanish influence.

In the 1720s a major emigration for native Germans to the area just north of New Orleans came to set up four settlements along the coast called Karlstein, Hoffen, Meriental and Augsburg. They had originally been in the Rhineland of Germany. The four settlements were all developed by independent German landowners, who, despite occasional flooding and the rigors of frontier life, made a success of their settlements. Their farming endeavors provided food for their regions and to support New Orleans. The special area was referred to as German Coast, a major factor in Louisiana genealogy.

The Germans mixed with the Acadians, the early French settlers, and also learned the French language. By the intermarriages over the years, they helped create the Louisiana Cajun culture. Spain was in control of Louisiana from 1763 to 1800 and the Germans and Acadians worked together to help overthrown their power.

There had been some slaves in Louisiana, but by the early 1800 the numbers increased because of its larger sugar production. Between 1791 and 1803, thirteen hundred refugees arrived in New Orleans from several of the Caribbean Islands, increasing the French speaking populations since most had come from French island colonies.

In November 1803, the final transfer of the Louisiana Territory took place. The United States purchased all of Louisiana and millions of acres north and northwest for less than 3 cents an acre. This doubled the size of the United States overnight. It also proved the U. S. with free use of the important Mississippi River.

The Cajun culture has remained isolated in the swamplands of southern Louisiana. Another cultural and ethnic group are the Créole. They represent the French settlers born in Louisiana when it was a colony of France. Over the years they intermarried with those of Spanish ancestry. As the slave population grew in Louisiana, there were also African-Americans who could be called Creoles, because children were born from relationships between colonial white men and the enslaved African women.

Another important cultural group for Louisiana genealogy is the Isleños. It is based on a Spanish term which means ‘islander.’ The Isleños are descendants of immigrants from the Canary Islands of the Atlantic Ocean. They settled in the Louisiana region, especially in New Orleans, when it was under Spanish rule between 1778 and 1783. The people kept to themselves and maintained their Castilian language. By the 21st century, some Isleños still speak Spanish with a Canary Islander accent. The Canarian accent sounds extremely similar to Caribbean Spanish. The people’s ties to the Canary Islands of Spain have continued over the years, including foods and traditions.

In Louisiana the white population has a heritage of French, English, Irish, Welsh and Scots-Irish and have lived mostly in the northern portion of the state. Over the years, many immigrates have arrived from Poland, Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands and live in the southern end of Louisiana. Individuals originally from the Latin American counties make up about 2.7 percent of Louisiana’s population. The overall, Hispanic population represent about 2.7 percent of the state.

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