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Options for 3 a.m.

So you’re anxious to start having fun with notarial records?

The ones mentioned yesterday, perhaps, from Orleans Parish that are at the Notarial Archives in downtown New Orleans?1

And you were disappointed that you couldn’t find every last them, easily and quickly, digitized online to be studied at 3 a.m. in your bunny slippers?

Never fear.

There are some fabulous collections of notarial records that are available online, even for those of us who — like The Legal Genealogist — really like our home computer comforts — and our bunny slippers.

First, from mentor and genealogist-extraordinaire Elizabeth Shown Mills — who just happens to be an expert on Louisiana genealogy — comes word of a major collection of digitized records at the website called the Louisiana Digital Library.

The description of this overall resource barely begins to describe its value:

The Louisiana Digital Library (LDL) is an online library of Louisiana institutions that provides over 144,000 digital materials. Its purpose is to make unique historical treasures from the Louisiana institution’s archives, libraries, museums, and other repositories in the state electronically accessible to Louisiana residents and to students, researchers, and the general public in other states and countries. The Louisiana Digital Library contains photographs, maps, manuscript materials, books, oral histories, and more that document history and culture. We hope that you find the items in the Digital Library as diverse and interesting as the people and places in Louisiana.2

notarial.laThere’s one collection in particular that you don’t want to miss if you’d like to learn more about notarial records. It’s called the Free People of Color in Louisiana Collection, and it’s a project that “brings together materials from LSU Libraries Special Collections, The Historic New Orleans Collection, the Louisiana Research Collection in Tulane University Special Collections, the Historical Center at the Louisiana State Museum, and the Louisiana Division of the New Orleans Public Library.”3

And many of the records that are digitized in this collection are notarial records: records created by the civil notaries we’ve been focusing on. Specifically, any record noted as being from the Cane River collection is a notarial record, and there may well be more. There are more than 1,900 items digitized in the collection, ranging from business records to emancipation petitions to apprenticeship papers and so much more.

If you really want to get a taste of what Louisiana notarial records can offer, this is a great collection to look at.

But I did mention that civil notaries aren’t limited to Louisiana, remember. There are civil notaries throughout those parts of the world where civil law (as opposed to British common law) is the dominant legal system. So if you want to play in notarial records, you can look elsewhere — and find massive collections that have been digitized and are available online.

A huge collection, noted by reader Marc St-Jacques, is the notarial records of Quebec. One option, if you can read French, is to view the collection at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. For the English speakers among us, another option is to view the Quebec notarial records through the digitized collection at FamilySearch, where more than four million pages are available to be viewed.

The underlying records themselves, of course, are often (though not exclusively) in French, since that was and is the official language of Quebec. But enough of them are in English that even us non-polyglots can manage to see what kinds of gems can be found in notarial records there.

And, for the record, a catalog search at FamilySearch using the search term “notarial” produces 36,565 results, of which 1,472 are online. They include, just as a few examples, notarial records from the Netherlands, from Luxembourg, from the Philippines, from Denmark, even from early St. Louis.

So go for it — notarial records are great fun. And there really is a lot to see even at 3 a.m. in our bunny slippers.


Image: Indenture of Jean Laurent, 1813 February 16; Free People of Color in Louisiana; Louisiana Digital Library.

  1. See Judy G. Russell, “Noting the notary,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 26 July 2016 ( : accessed 27 July 2017).
  2. Welcome to the Louisiana Digital Library,” Louisiana Digital Library ( : accessed 27 July 2016).
  3. Free People of Color: About this collection,” Louisiana Digital Library ( : accessed 27 July 2016).
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