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Kaskaskia was already a village inhabited by the Kaskaskia Indians when French Jesuit priests established a mission there in 1703. France claimed the territory by virtue of the expedition of Marquette and Joliet in the seventeenth century. Kaskaskia (and all of present-day Illinois) was originally part of Quebec until the Mississippi River Valley was annexed by Louisiana on 27 September 1717. During its time as a French possession, Kaskaskia was the largest town in Illinois.
The French ruled Kaskaskia from 1719 to 1763, when they lost it (and all of their territory east of the Mississippi River, except New Orleans) at the end of the French and Indian War. The British held Illinois and Kaskaskia until July 4, 1778, when American General George Rogers Clark captured the town without firing a single shot.
Americans started arriving almost immediately, and many of the French speaking colonists left the town to settle in Missouri (then under Spanish control) or in other French colonies. By the 1810 U.S. Census (the first surviving American census for Kaskaskia), there were far more Americans in the town than Frenchmen. The transformation from French colony to American city was so complete that the area is today called the American Bottom.
Illinois became the 21st state on 3 December 1818, and Kaskaskia was its first capital. Two years later, though, the capital moved to Vandalia and in 1839 to Springfield. When the capital moved, Kaskaskia lost its importance. People left the town and it soon became an irrelevant farming community on the edge of Illinois. The town was struck a crippling blow in 1881 when the Mississippi River changed course and buried Old Kaskaskia. What remained of the town became an island and one of the few parts of Illinois that lies west of the Mississippi River.
Today Kaskaskia barely exists. In the 2000 census, it had 9 citizens.
The Catholic parish register survives in fragments only. Christenings/Baptisms are the lost from mid-1721 to 1759. No marriage records before 1724 or from mid-1729 to 1740 are extent, nor are burial records before 1721 or from late 1727 to mid-1764.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception was a Catholic parish established originally as a Jesuit mission among the Indians in 1695 that had moved to the current site of Kaskaskia in 1703. It became a full parish in 1719. The parish register is the best available record for genealogical information before the early 1790's and the arrival of a large influx of Americans. The parish register is available (in French only) in the following sources:
- La population des forts français d'Amérique (XVIIIe siècle) by Marthe F. Beauregard. Kaskaskia's parish record is in volume 2. (Note: Beauregard only compiled records through 1799, even though the parish register goes well into the 19th century.)
- LDS Family History Library microfilm #1026607, Item 3
- The Drouin Collection at ancestry.com.
- Kaskaskia Records, 1778-1790, by Clarence Walworth Alvord, 1909. This is a compilation of civil records during the beginning of American rule in Kaskaskia. Includes a mix of court records, petitions to the American government, military records, and censuses.
- A Directory, Business Mirror, and Historical Sketches of Randolph County by E. J. Montague - the first history of Randolph County, Illinois, published in 1859.
- Kaskaskia Under the French Regime by Natalia Maree Belting, published in the 1940's and still one of the authoritative sources on French colonial life in Randolph County (especially Kaskaskia).
- The History of Kaskaskia, Illinois, in a Family History Context
Societies and Libraries
- Belting, Natalia Maree. (1948). Kaskaskia Under the French Regime. Polyanthos: New Orleans, p. 16-17
- Belting, Natalia Maree. (1948). Kaskaskia Under the French Regime. Polyanthos: New Orleans, p. 38
- Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois. (1915). v. 1, p. 251-252.
- Norris, F. Terry. The Illinois Country--Lost and Found:Assessment of the Archaeological Remains of French Settlements in the Central Mississippi Valley, 1703-1763. Doctoral dissertation presented to Saint Louis University, 1997, p. 236.
- Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois. (1915). v. 2, p. 315.
- Norris, F. Terry. The Illinois Country--Lost and Found:Assessment of the Archaeological Remains of French Settlements in the Central Mississippi Valley, 1703-1763. Doctoral dissertation presented to Saint Louis University, 1997, p. 194.
- Mason, Edward Gay. (1881). Kaskaskia and its Parish Records. Chicago: Fergus Printing Company, p. 19
- Mason, Edward Gay. (1881). Kaskaskia and its Parish Records. Chicago: Fergus Printing Company, p. 11, 14, 15, 19.
- Belting, Natalia Maree. (1948). Kaskaskia Under the French Regime. Polyanthos: New Orleans, p. 10-12.