How to use the Colonial Document database

About the LHC Reading Room

The Reading Room at the Louisiana Historical Center (LHC) serves as the researcher’s access point to the Maps and Manuscripts collections, including the records of the French Superior Council and Spanish Judiciary. The Reading Room assists genealogists, academics, and professional researchers as well as the general public in accessing the Louisiana Colonial Documents Collection held by the Louisiana Historical Center. It is located on the 2nd floor of the New Orleans Jazz Museum at 400 Esplanade Avenue. Other collections available at the Louisiana Historical Center include newspapers, library collections, cemetery records, maps, sheet music, scrapbooks, architectural plans, shipping records and passenger lists, and historical publications. The Reading Room is open to walk-in researchers Tuesday through Friday. The hours are 9:3-am-12:00pm and 1:00pm-4:30pm. To request more information, please contact the LHC Curator Sarah Elizabeth at

How to Access the Colonial Documents

Researchers can locate specific manuscripts within the Colonial Documents collection by consulting several indexes. Unfortunately no one comprehensive index exists. The Black Books are a chronological index compiled during the Works Progress Administration, ranging from 1935-1942. They provide a summary or translation for the majority of the documents in the Colonial Documents collection. These abstracts are stored in a now-worn set of leather binders. The abstracts have been digitized and are accessible as PDFs online here. A second index is the Colonial Documents Index, a card catalog in the Reading Room arranged alphabetically by person. Another useful index that is available online is the Louisiana Historical Quarterly (LHQ) published by the Louisiana Historical Society from 1917 to 1948. The LHQ is available online to members of the society and in person to visitors of the LHC Reading Room.

Colonial Louisiana Documents

The Center’s records of the French Superior Council (1714-1769) and the Spanish Judiciary (1769-1803) are an invaluable primary source for researching Louisiana’s colonial history. These criminal and civil court documents record the social, political and economic lives of free and enslaved Africans, native peoples, and European colonists. Materials include debt collections, wills and successions, property lists, marriage contracts, baptismal and burial records, and records of commercial transactions and manumissions.


The general manuscript collections date from 1584 to the present. Included in the colonial period documents are the original 1724 Code Noir, signed by Louis XV and promulgated at New Orleans and many abstracts and translation of colonial documents in other archives, such as the Dispatches of the Spanish Governors of Louisiana (1766-1796) in 27 volumes. Manuscripts documenting Louisiana’s antebellum economic, social and political history are housed in several collections including the John McDonough papers (1813-1846) and the John Slidell papers (1822-1918), and numerous plantation ledgers and notebooks. Other documents concern the Battle of New Orleans, War of 1812, Mexican War, and Civil War.


Cartographic holdings total 1,400 original maps, ranging from richly illustrated 16th and 17th century views of the New World to a 1987 guide to K&B drugstore locations in New Orleans. The Helen and Solis Seiferth Collection of 159 maps (1541-1978) includes works by noted cartographers such as Jacques Nicolas Bellin, The Bleau family, Father Louis Hennepin Gerhard Mercator, and Abraham Ortelius.


The extensive microfilm collections include records of the Diocese of Louisiana and the Floridas (1576-1803).