Diversity in the Notarial Archives: Jewish and German Communities

The records of the Clerk of Civil District Court’s Office, which date back to the 1700s, represent the rich history of New Orleans and its diverse communities. Our archives can be used for property, family history, architectural, and landscaping research.

Alphonse Barnett, Joseph Cohn, and Abel Dreyfous, Notaries

This post will showcase three Orleans Parish notaries Alphonse Barnett, Joseph Cohn, and Abel Dreyfous and how they catered to Jewish and German communities in New Orleans. These notaries passed acts relating to many recognizable organizations such as Touro Hospital and the Jewish congregation, Gates of Mercy.

Alphonse Barnett

Alphonse Barnett was a native of New Orleans. Barnett served numerous Jewish and German clients. His acts include wills, sales of coffee house contents, procurations, and boat sales. The Research Center houses forty-one volumes of his notarial acts ranging from 1847-1890.

The act featured below, passed before notary, Alphonse Barnett, is the testament of Wilhelmine Charlotte Ziegeler Siebel in its entirety. She was a native of Germany, listed “now aged about 28 years.” Ms. Siebel declared that she was lawfully married to George Siebel with no children. Her father was deceased, and her mother was living in Germany. According to the will, she would be leaving $3,000 to her husband. Also, she would be leaving property, goods, and effects to her late brother’s wife. Other property, goods, and effects would be passed to her brothers, William Ziegeler and Fitz Ziegeler for them to divide and share.

Barnett, Alphonse. 1860, Apr. 20. Vol 19, Act 47. Courtesy Hon. Chelsey Richard Napoleon, Clerk of Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans.

Joseph Cohn

In 1817, Joseph Cohn was born in Hamburg, Germany. Cohn immigrated to the United States as a young adult. He was prominently known as an editor and owner of German newspapers in New Orleans. During the 1840s, he founded the German Courier and the German Gazette.1 In his last twenty-five years of life, he served the city as a notary.

Gates of Mercy (Hebrew translation: Shangarai Chasset) was the first Jewish congregation in New Orleans, officially chartered with the state in 1828.2 The synagogue, featured below, was located in the 400 block of N. Rampart. The original building contract can be found in an act passed before notary, Hilary B. Cenas, on July 5, 1850.

Joseph Cohn executed a building contract between Shangari Chassed [Chasset] (Gates of Mercy) and John Breen for repairs to the synagogue on August 1, 1854.

Cohn, J. 1854 Aug 1. Vol 1, Act 44. Courtesy Hon. Chelsey Richard Napoleon, Clerk of Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans.

The repairs consisted of carpentry work to the blinds, sashes, doors, and drawers. Other work included raising and re-laying the marble floor in cement, plastering and whitewashing all of the inside walls, and painting and varnishing all of the inside wood and ironwork. The work was priced at $750.

On September 2, 1881, two small congregations, Gates of Mercy and the Dispersed of Judah, officially merged in the act featured below passed by notary Joseph Cohn. The act is an amendment to the charter of Shangari Chassed [Chasset] (Gates of Mercy) and includes the new name of the congregation, Gates of Mercy of the Dispersed of Judah.

Cohn, Joseph. 1881, September 2. Vol 44, Act 108. Courtesy Hon. Chelsey Richard Napoleon, Clerk of Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans.

As stated in the act, Gates of Mercy of the Dispersed of Judah is the English translation for the Hebrew “Shangarai Chassed Linfuzoth Jehudah.”

In 1937, Touro Synogogue became the official name of the merged congregations.3

Touro Synagogue, 1912. Charles L. Franck Photographers.

An example of Cohn working closely with the German community in New Orleans was an act of donation. (Shown below) The donation was from the German Brotherly Society to the Germania Lodge No. 258 of the German Order of the Harugari. The German Brotherly Society donated ten burial lots in Lafayette Cemetery No. 2 and the movable effects of a banner, furniture, and seventy-five dollars in ready money.

Cohn, Joseph. 1881, Dec. 24. Vol 44, Act 135. Courtesy Hon. Chelsey Richard Napoleon, Clerk of Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans.

The German Order of the Harugari was founded in 1847 in New York to preserve the German language, advance the spiritual and tangible interests of its members, and provide aid and benefits to its members and their families. According to an 1895 article in the New York Times, there were four lodges in Louisiana with 142 members in the previous year.4

Seal of the Germania Lodge.

Pictured below is a Germania lodge that still exists in New Orleans. It is unclear if this particular lodge was once connected to the Order of the Harugari.5

Germania Lodge No. 46, F. & A.M. at 4415 Bienville Street, as of July 2019 from Google Maps

Abel Dreyfous

Abel Dreyfous was born in Belfort, France, in 1815. His obituary notes that by age 10, he had already mastered several languages. At age 14, Abel Dreyfous apprenticed with a notary in France. He later decided to move to America for more opportunities. Upon arriving in New York, Dreyfous taught himself English. He noticed how different the laws in New York were compared to those in France. When Dreyfous learned that Louisiana operated under the Napoleonic Code similarly to France, he made his way to New Orleans in 1832. By 1843, he was commissioned a notary public by the governor and formed a partnership with Joseph Cuvillier soon after. Abel Dreyfous eventually opened his own office and created a business partnership with his son, Felix J. Dreyfous, who had decided to also become a notary. Abel Dreyfous belonged to the Orthodox Hebrew congregation, Tememe Derech, as well as the Hebrew Benevolent Association.6

Displayed below are the attachments to a building contract. The contract, between Jacob Otto and Henry Fröhlig, was to build a Creole cottage, kitchen, and dependencies on the corner of Prieur and Carondelet Walk (now Lafitte Avenue) for $2,800. The plot plan for the property includes the floor plan and front and side elevations (or facades) of the structure. The building specifications are written in German. This act was executed by notary, Abel Dreyfous, on July 25, 1867.

Floor plan and front facing elevation. Attached Plan, Dreyfous, Abel. 1867, July 25. Vol. 18, Act 46. Courtesy Hon. Chelsey Richard Napoleon, Clerk of Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans.
Side elevation. Attached Plan, Dreyfous, Abel. 1867, July 25. Vol. 18, Act 46. Courtesy Hon. Chelsey Richard Napoleon, Clerk of Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans.
Building specifications written in German. Dreyfous, Abel. 1867, July 25. Vol. 18, Act 46. Courtesy Hon. Chelsey Richard Napoleon, Clerk of Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans.

In an act of sale passed before notary, Abel Dreyfous, John Frederick Schröder sold a property to Touro Infirmary and the Hebrew Benevolent Association on July 8, 1879. The property was in the Faubourg Delachaise and bounded by Prytania Street, Coliseum Street, Aline Street, and Foucher Street. It fronted on Foucher Street.

Photo of Touro Infirmary c.1910. Photo created by Detroit Publishing Co., located in Library of Congress Prints and Photographs
Division Washington, D.C. https://lccn.loc.gov/2016815352
Dreyfous, Abel. 1879, July 8. Vol. 36, Act 7. Courtesy Hon. Chelsey Richard Napoleon, Clerk of Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans.

In 1882, the site became the infirmary, accepting “…’pay’ patients, in addition to the amount of the hospital’s charity work.” Touro Infirmary is still located on this site today, in addition to several added locations as the institution has grown over the decades.7

Image of Touro Infirmary as of September 2019 from Google Maps, fronting on Foucher Street

The Jewish and German communities, respectively, have influenced this city as evidenced by the charters, property sales, and other acts documenting their daily affairs. Barnett, Cohn, and Dreyfous, by way of their notarial practices, helped these communities lay the foundations for institutions and organizations in New Orleans.

The Clerk’s Office has a rich amount of history pertaining to the Jewish and German communities. If there are any particular interests that you would like to learn more about, please contact the Clerk’s Office. We are happy to assist.


1. Times-Picayune, 14 May 1882, p. 3. NewsBank: America’s News – Historical and Current.

2. The Greater New Orleans Archivists, and Andrew Simmons. Jews of New Orleans: an Archival Guide. Edited by Lester Sullivan, Greater New Orleans Archivists, 1998.

3. http://iajgscemetery.org/usa/louisiana-la/new-orleans-orleans-parish

4. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1895/08/25/105982648.pdf

5. https://www.germanialodge.com/about

6.Times-Picayune, 2 Nov. 1892, p. 3. NewsBank: America’s News – Historical and Current.

7. https://www.touro.com/about-touro/our-history/

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