Families on the Borderlands: Marriage and Kinship in Lower French Louisiana, 1700-1795

Jacquelyne Thoni Howard, Fordham University


This dissertation examines family development through marriage, sexual relationships, and households in lower Louisiana settlements during the 1700s. It compares family and household patterns that occurred in coastal settlements (Mobile and New Orleans) to the same type of arrangements in rural settlements (Natchitoches and Pointe Coupee). European imperial officials understood that the success of eighteenth-century empires depended upon governing the marriage practices of their colonial inhabitants. French officials imposed marriage polices to mitigate the dangers that uncontrolled relationships posed to the King’s authority. From their perspective, marriage policies achieved ideal colonial families. These regulations controlled public and private aspects of colonial life such as Church sacraments, race and class interactions, property transfers, procreation, language acquisition, and financial profits. Colonial employees often blamed the inhabitants, especially women when practices in lower Louisiana’s settlements did not meet expectations. European, African, Indian, and mixed heritage populations in Louisiana largely followed French norms, but they frequently married according to their own pragmatic considerations. During the transitional period, inhabitants in different settlements reacted differently based on the amount of military force applied by England and Spain. They used family imagery, language and values when negotiating their places with the new governments. The familial relationships of inhabitants thus held the potential to shape the fortunes of France and, later, Spain and England.

Subject Area

American history

Recommended Citation

Howard, Jacquelyne Thoni, "Families on the Borderlands: Marriage and Kinship in Lower French Louisiana, 1700-1795" (2019). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI13877654.