Colonial Records of the French and Spanish in the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi

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Colonial Spanish Borderland Research

This article is part of a series.
Overview of Colonial Spanish Borderland Research
Catholic Sacramental Records
Civil Legal Documents
Military Records
Catholic Church Diocesan Records
Spanish Land Records for the United States
Locating Colonial Records of Genealogical Value
Colonial Records of Texas
Colonial Records of New Mexico
Colonial Records of Arizona
Colonial Records of California
Colonial Records of Florida
Colonial Records of Louisiana
Colonial Records of the French and Spanish in the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi
List of Useful Resources for Colonial Spanish Borderland Research

This article originally appeared in "Colonial Spanish Borderland Research" by George R. Ryskamp, JD, AG in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy

French colonization of the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi area from 1673 to 1720 was discussed in the Louisiana section. While never a major colony, a number of records exist for this region during its French occupation, which ended in 1763 with the transfer of the Great Lakes region to British control and the Mississippi River area to Spain. French records from this area can be found at the Burton Historical Collection in the Detroit Public Library, as well as in archives in Quebec and the Archives d' Outre Mer in Aix en Provence, France. Several local libraries in Michigan, Illinois, and Missouri maintain collections of records for this area as well. An excellent overview of research in French Canada, including work in the colonial period in the Great Lakes region before 1763, can be found by reading John P. DuLong's French-Canadian Genealogical Research.<ref>John P. DuLong, French-Canadian Genealogical Research (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1995).</ref> Also consider visiting DuLong's web page for Acadian and French Canadian genealogy at and that of the French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan at A comprehensive guide to researching French-Canadian roots is found in French-Canadian Sources: A Guide for Genealogists.<ref>Patricia Keeney Geyh, Joyce Soltis Banachowski, Linda K. Boyea, et al., French-Canadian Sources: A Guide for Genealogists (Orem, Utah: Ancestry, 2002).</ref>

Census Records

The following chart identifies the known census records for the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi regions during the French and Spanish periods and tells where the original census records or microfilm copies can be found. Where possible, a citation to an archive or library in the United States has been preferred, even though that library may only hold a microfilm of the original. In cases where no such copy exists, the foreign archives holding the original copy is identified.

Censuses of the Great Lakes

Locality Year(s) Reference*
Illinois 1732 CTFCL
Louisiana 1706 CTFCL
Louisiana 1726 CTFCL
Biloxi 1700 CTFCL
Biloxi 1721 CTFCL
Detroit 1710 ANFP
Detroit and Mission Bois Blanc 1743 ACJ
Detroit 1750 PAC
Detroit 1762 DPL
Detroit 1765 HSP
Detroit 1768 UMI
Detroit 1779 BML
Ft. Saint Joseph 1780 PAC
Detroit 1782 BML; PAC
Arkansas 1794 LGR 27:367'368
Arkansas 1795 LGR 27:367'368
Arkansas 1796 LGR 27:367'368
Arkansas 1798'1799 AGI, Cuba
Illinois 1795 LGR 27:367'368
Illinois 1796 LGR 27:367'368
Petite Cote 1792 PAC
S. Louis 1771'1773 AGI, Cuba
S. Louis 1779 LGR 27:367'368
S. Louis 1795'1796 AGI, Cuba
Wayne County, Michigan 1796 OHS

Information concerning the early Detroit and Michigan censuses was taken from Michigan Censuses 1710'1830: Under the French, British and Americans, ed. Donna Russell (Detroit, Mich.: Detroit Society for Genealogical Research, 1982).

*ACJ: Archives de la Compagnie de Jésus in St. Jerôme, Quebec, Canada.

AGI, Cuba: The Papeles de Cuba section of the Archivo General de las Indias in Seville, Spain.

ANFP: Archives Nationales de France, Paris.

BML: Haldimand Papers, British Museum, London.

CTFCL: Charles R. Maduell Jr., The Census Tables for the French Colony of Louisiana from 1699 Through 1732 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1972; reprint, Clearfield Co., 2000).

DPL: Burton Historical Manuscript Collection at the Detroit Public Library.

HSP: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

LGR: Those found in the historical manuscripts section of the Library at Loyola University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

OHS: Ohio Historical Society.

PAC: Public Archives of Canada at Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

UMI: Gage Papers, William L Clements Library, University of Michigan. Six- or seven-digit numbers with no other reference are film numbers from the collection of the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, available through the local Family History Centers.

Catholic Church Records of Colonial Upper Louisiana Territory

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