Adopted in Louisiana and Looking for Kin?

Tracing Your Roots: It's a closed-record state, and Katrina complicated things, but don't give up.

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"You may obtain a certified copy of a birth certificate if you are the person named on the document, spouse of the person named on the document, parent of the person named on the document, adult child of the person named on the document, sibling of the person named on the document, grandparent of the person named on the document, or an adult grandchild of the person named on the document (unless otherwise authorized by LA R.S. 40:41)."

In addition, Louisiana vital records from more than 50 years ago are available to the public from the Louisiana State Archives. The archives hold Orleans Parish death records for 1819-1962, birth records for 1819-1912 (or at least 100 years ago) and marriage records for 1870-1962. They also have statewide Louisiana death records for 1911-1962 (or more than 50 years ago). You can search the indexes, and if you find any matches, you can order right from the website.

Your husband could also order the record of his biological mother's marriage before she moved to Denver. This could provide information about her birth and her parents. Unless she married after 1963 or outside of Orleans Parish, her marriage record should be available from the Louisiana State Archives.

 Researching Rose Bailey's later life could also lead to clues about her origins and parents. You could track down her death record and/or newspaper articles about her to see what information about her history was supplied. If she applied for social security, you could order her application. Without knowing her married name, we did find a Rose M. Robinson in the Social Security Death Index. She was born Sept. 2, 1919, and she died Feb. 5, 2002. She applied in Louisiana and last resided in Denver. You can send in an order form and pay the $27 fee to obtain a copy of an application. Ancestry.com has more information about this process.

As for Lewis Marks' birth in Mississippi, the state did not require recording births until November 1912. This means that you will need to see if you can first establish the likeliest location of his birth and/or the names of his parents before you will be able to delve more deeply into Mississippi marriage, land, probate and other records. Some ways of doing this would be to find and order his death record, look for an obituary in local newspapers, check for his tombstone and burial records, and follow him in the U.S. Federal Census.

There are at least two obituary indexes for the New Orleans area in which you could search for Lewis Marks. The New Orleans Public Library has an index for 1804-1972 and an order service is available. Someone has continued this index to cover 1972 to 2012.

Since your husband was born in 1941, you should see if you can find his parents in the 1940 census records. It is possible that they appeared in city directories for New Orleans around this time. If you know the names and/or addresses, you could also try to identify the family they each served. This could assist in locating Lewis Marks and Rose Bailey around the time of their son's birth.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University. He is also editor-in-chief of The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

Send your questions about tracing your own roots to TracingYourRoots@theroot.com.

This answer was provided in consultation with researchers from New England Historic Genealogical Society. Founded in 1845, NEHGS is the country's leading nonprofit resource for family history research. Its website, AmericanAncestors.org, contains more than 300 million searchable records for research in New England, New York and beyond. With the leading experts in the field, NEHGS staff can provide assistance and guidance for questions in most research areas. They can also be hired to conduct research on your family. Learn more today.

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