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The Kaskaskia Manuscripts


The “Kaskaskia Manuscripts” collection is a group of over 6,000 original documents dating from 1708 to 1816. Consisting primarily of French notarial records made here in the Illinois colony, the collection includes marriage contracts, wills, inventories, deeds, depositions, partnerships, labor contracts, leases, and other transactions. The majority have not been translated or published. Together they form an extraordinarily vivid chronicle of life in eighteenth-century Illinois.


During the early 20th century, historian Clarence Alvord rediscovered and recognized the importance of the old records, which had been stored in bundles, boxes, and sacks at the Randolph County Courthouse since the mid-1800s. While he arranged for their conservation, his staff did not index or translate the massive collection. In 1909, Alvord wrote “Sometime in the future a calendar [or digest] of these will be made and printed…”


The future came in the early-1970s, when French literature scholar Lawrie Cena Dean made her first trip to the courthouse, and began a multi-year project that indexed and summarized (in English) this remarkable set of documents. 


Previously accessible only at the Randolph County Courthouse in Chester, Illinois, FICAS now maintains a digital archive of most of the records, which are searchable via the summary “Digest” completed by Lawrie Dean in 1982. Also available online are Dean's indexes to the Digest. 


To learn how to use the Digest, and to access additional information, see menu below. To go directly to the Digest, click the button below. 

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