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A gazetteer is a list and description of places. It can be used to locate the places where your family lived. Gazetteers describe towns and villages, sizes of population, rivers and mountains, and other geographical features. They usually include only the names of places that existed at the time the gazetteer was published. The place names are generally listed in alphabetical order, similar to a dictionary.
Two helpful guides to Louisiana place-names are:
- Gibson, Dennis A., ed. Index to Louisiana Place Names Mentioned in the War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Lafayette, Louisiana: University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1975. FHL book 976.3 E5i
- Hansen, Harry, ed. Louisiana: A Guide to the State. New York, NY: Hastings House, 1971. FHL book 976.3 E6h. This is a revised edition of a 1941 WPA publication.
How did your ancestor find the correct destination out West? Quite possibly they had a copy of Brown's book:
- Brown, Samuel R. The Western Gazetteer or Emigrant's Directory, Containing a Geographical Description of the Western States and Territories, viz. The States of Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Mississippi: and the Territories of Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Michigan, and North-Western. Auburn, N.Y.: H.C. Southwick, 1817. Digital versions at NIU Library Digitization Projects and World Vital Records ($).
For river and bayou landings, see:
- Adams, Louis A. Adam's Directory of Points and Landings on Rivers and Bayous in the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. (includes Tennessee) New Orleans : W.L. Murray, 1877. Digital version at Internet Archive.
See the wiki page United States Gazetteers for more information.