New Orleans: Port of Arrival

Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.

The New Orleans began as a trade port, established by the French 1717, aimed at the transport of goods up and down the Mississippi River. The venture, however, was not profitable and the port, along with the entire Louisiana Territory went from French to Spanish and back to French rule before acquisition by U.S. in 1803, as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Early residents to the Port of Orleans were a rough and ready bunch, but colonial settlers moving west began migrating south, as well. The Port of New Orleans was threatened with British Invasion during the War of 1812, resulting in the famed Battle of New Orleans, under the direction of the General Andrew Jackson. Over time and through many difficulties, the Port of New Orleans prospered and became a port of entry for many immigrants from Ireland, Germany and elsewhere. This series on New Orleans explores the history and rich culture of the city, its residents and those just passing through.

Insight into the where passengers arriving at the Port of New Orleans might have been headed, along with a discussion of how passenger lists evolved over time in their level of detail is the subject in Destination or Stopover.

Although the French influence is strong, those arriving at the Port of New Orleans were a diverse group, including an influx of Germans, some of whom remained. So powerful was the "sell" of emigrant agents, that families or even entire villages might travel together, often by way of France or some other port. And not all came from Europe. A brief overview of these immigrant nations, with links to lesser known passenger lists and a key German resource is found in Immigrant Origins.

While the Acadian and Creole populations may be most commonly associated with Louisiana, many ethnicities passed through. Even before 1800 there was a clear Jewish presence, which some researchers might not expect. Highlighting a number of useful resources for researching the diverse groups entering this important southern gateway is the focus of Ethnicity of Immigrants.

Immigration is always a matter of push and pull, and sometimes starvation and poor health are the push. Yet the perils of the trip itself afforded little relief, and for many it was to be their last journey on earth. An account of the hazards faced by immigrants on board these ships and the disease brought with them into the city is reported in Healthy Life in a New World.

Death and burial rituals may differ dramatically between countries, among cultures and among religions. New Orleans, because of its location and varied culture, has always had unique and interesting cemeteries and customs. A discussion of burial practices in New Orleans during the mid-1800s when disease was rampant and ideas and resources for research is presented in Interments.

Back before the French arrived, the area was home to the Houma Indian Village, a tribe which continues today and was generally friendly to the French. Just one year after the Port was established the ship, Count de Toulouse, arrived carrying a number of soldiers and their wives, along with men of other occupations. An account and partial list of those aboard the and their occupations is presented in Early Occupations.

Over time men and women of various occupations arrived to meet the needs of the growing city. A study of occupations shows a clear pattern between "occupation and immigrant ships." Those in the professions and entertainers were more likely to travel aboard smaller ships, rather than the large and more perilous immigrant ships. And the types of occupations varied dramatically. An examination of these trends, with examples from various ship arrivals is shown in Occupations, Part II.

As a port city said to be second only to New York, New Orleans spawned many business enterprises. Shipping and services related to shipping were a large part of the picture, as was manufacturing and the slave trade. A variety of resources are available for researching ancestors who may have played a role in New Orleans commerce, as outlined in Making a Living.

Even the buy and diverse nature of the population in New Orleans could not circumvent racial and ethnic discrimination. And while much of New Orleans was Catholic, other faiths grew, as well, with those of the Jewish faith singled out for discrimination on a par with slaves. At the same time, missionaries were administering to the Native American population and some faiths founded benevolent institutions. Cemeteries of many faiths are found in and around the cit. An overview of this growth and change is presented in Religion.

Like other communities, education was important to New Orleans. The education of wayward young girls dates back to 1718 and The Library Society, established in 1805. The College of Orleans was founded in 1811 and, of course, New Orleans is home to Tulane University, founded in 1834. In addition, two all-black and one segregated colleges came into being after the Civil War. This history of education, including links to resources is examined in Education.

Arts and entertainment is the hallmark of a growing community, and New Orleans was no exception -- the city is famous for its rich and colorful festivals and entertainment. The arts in New Orleans drew many entertainers from abroad, many returning to their homeland when the "season" was over. And many took their talents north for a time and returned. It is said touring companies may have had their start in New Orleans. For a look at this fascinating history and how it can aid your research, see Arts.

Although to some it may be considered a remote outpost, an understanding of the city's history of immigration, it's rich and diverse culture and it's geographic position at the mouth of the Mississippi River, in addition to the many people who passed through and those who stayed and their collective contributions to the development not only of New Orleans but the country as well may shed new light on those researching their ancestors.

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