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New Orleans Revisited: Early Occupations

Mention New Orleans, and most people think of levees and French culture. While both are certainly a part of New Orleans, the city is so much more significant in the development of the United States - and much older than we often realize since it predates statehood by decades.


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What we know as New Orleans was a Houma Indian village when it was visited by a French expedition in 1699. The Houma tribe exists today. In 1880, Gregoire Serigny donated land known today as the Serigny Cemetery in Gold Meadow, Louisiana. Most of the burials there are members of the Houma Indian Tribe. Billiot is a common Houma surname.

It took 19 years for the French government to establish a colony there; it was given the name Due d'Orleans and eight years later became the capital of the French colony of Louisiana. After being volleyed back and forth between foreign rulers, Louisiana became a state in 1812. There were 11,856 residents in New Orleans when it was named the capital of the new state.

New York and other east coast cities are more commonly thought of as major U.S. ports, but New Orleans had been the second most important port from its inclusion as a state capital. It has been the largest port in America for cotton, tropical fruit, and coffee — and, of course, tobacco.

If we review this history of New Orleans, we can see trends in occupations, migration, the arts, education, medicine, religion, and burials. Unless you are intimately familiar with the last 300 years of New Orleans life, you just might find some genealogical surprises along the way.

Let's begin with occupations. One of the first occupations was that of soldier. New Orleans has been occupied and fought over several times. As early as 1718, soldiers were arriving and sometimes bringing their wives and children along with them, indicating they probably intended to remain in the New World. Several wives came along with more than three dozen soldiers on the Count de Toulouse from France to Louisiana.

In 1717, John Law founded the Compagnie d'Occident and created a 25-year monopoly for exploring the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and cornering the market on Canadian beaver-skin trade. New Orleans was but a small part of his plan.

John Law also finagled a monopoly on the sale of tobacco and coffee at the same time he was organizing these concessionaires. The story is far more complicated than that, and while history is part of it, but our focus is genealogy

Among the ship's 152 passengers, there were also 18 tobacco workers accompanied by their foreman and a tobacco inspector.

• Pierre Andibert

• Bertrand Besse

• Jean Brouguet

• Pierre Capdu

• Pierre Chaudruc

• Antoine Descarail

• Jean Du Michel

• Jean Fegas

• Jean Fouillouse

• Pierre Gibert

• Jean Guirand

• Jacques La Rogue

• Pe Laval

• Pierre Oisou

• Jean Pourcharesse

• Pierre Ricard

• Abraham Sisac

• Pierre Talu

Other passengers included concessionaires — those who were, in the most simplistic of terms, establishing plantations where slaves and immigrants would work the land. Two concessionaires traveling on the Count de Toulouse brought along servants and skilled laborers.

Dauphine Cottive

a carpenter from Paris

Jacques Ravaux

a joiner from Meziere

Jacques Francois Moreau

a joiner form Paris

Romain David

a tailor from La Rochefoucault

Bernard Caudeon

a laborer from Tonzac

Pierre Lefebvre

a laborer from Corbie

Francois Couronnay

a lavoborer from Corbie

Jacques de Gaule

a laborer from Lizieux

M. Chaalons

a laborer from Chalons

Jean Pinam

a laborer from Poitiers

Jacques Diore

a cooper from LaSalle

When the ship set sail for the U.S., there was a brewer aboard with the surname of Tanns. A note on the manifest states that he deserted. Evidently, not everyone was so eager to cross the pond.

And if we put this into perspective, these immigrants arrived almost three-quarters of a century before Delaware became the first state, on Dec. 7, 1787. In fact, they arrived more than half a century before the 13 Colonies gained their independence in 1776.

This was not the first ship. The plantation properties had already been mapped out. The concessionaires already knew they wanted to grow tobacco and were bringing in tobacco workers to do the job. And, they sailed with soldiers and some of their wives.

We are just beginning to see the patterns that emerge as we explore the genealogy of New Orleans.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2008.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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