Tips for Researching the History of the House of St. Louis

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Have you ever wondered who once sat in your living room?

Dennis Northcott has spent the past 30 years developing his detective skills as an archivist for the Missouri History Museum. By sifting through digital indexes, census records, and old newspapers, he helps curious St. Louisians find out who lived in their home before, what they did for a living, and sometimes even what their home looked like in the past. era.

He likes to help curious researchers. “It’s just the thrill of the hunt,” he said on Friday. Saint Louis live.

A single trip to the Missouri Historical Society Library and Research Center off Skinker Boulevard could yield a wealth of information — and it’s completely free to the public. No appointment is necessary to carry out research.

Tips for Researching the History of the House of St. Louis

Northcott has helped hundreds of home history hunters and amateur genealogists discover their roots, including John Savio. Savio recently purchased her home in the Tower Grove South neighborhood of St. Louis. He knew the two-story brick house was built in 1908, but he wanted to know more.

In a single morning at the library, with expert help from Northcott, Savio discovered that the architect who built his home also co-designed St. Louis City Hall and Union Station. He even found a photo of himself. Gustav Wuest, he concluded, had “quite a mustache.”

Maria Giardina lives in the Soulard district, known for its historic residences. She spent 10 months searching for her home and amassed a three-inch-thick binder of documents. With Northcott’s help, she learned the names of 29 people who owned her home.

“They were all working-class people,” she said in awe. “They were shoe salesmen and they worked for lumber yards and they worked on the river. There was a longshoreman, saddlers, bakers. … It’s like, ‘Oh my God, those were living, breathing people.’

Brian Munoz

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St. Louis Public Radio

A historic photograph of architect Gustav P. Wuest. He was the architect of John Savio’s home at Utah Place and also helped design historic buildings such as St. Louis City Hall and Union Station.

Tips for Researching Your Home’s History

Here’s how you can start investigating your home’s history, according to Dennis Northcott and Neil and Veronica Putz of the Soulard Restoration Group Historical Committee.

First, start with your address and an estimate of when your home was built (if you have it).

Keep in mind that potential roadblocks may arise due to street name changes, house number changes, and vacant units.
A decent amount of information can be found at home, thanks to the internet. The St. Louis Mercantile Library is the oldest library west of the Mississippi and has an extensive digital library. For example, you can examine Maps to see a street view of your neighborhood in 1909 and you can examine the 1900 St. Louis City Directory to see who lived in your house.

Online databases, including journals.com and ancestry.com can be useful for looking up your address and the names of people who once lived in your home. Old newspaper articles often included full addresses whenever they mentioned a person. With a St. Louis or St. Louis County library card, you can use journals.com for free and search for copies of St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and German newspapers as early as the 1800s.

The Missouri History Museum has dedicated a full web page for house history. A video and some online research techniques give important advice on the use of these tools.

If you’re ready for a field search that requires you to leave your home, residents of the City of St. Louis can visit the Recorder of Deeds and see all of the bills of sale for their home or property dating back to the purchase. of Louisiana. These documents will tell you the names of the previous owners.

St. Louis City Hall also has municipal directories dating back to the 1800s. Sometimes you may need to use microfiche to view the documents.

The place you can find a personal guide to finding this information is the Missouri Historical Society Library and Research Center, just across from Forest Park. The library has indexed its information in a genealogical database for over a decade. You will have to go to the library to view the documents, but Dennis Northcott and his colleagues will be happy to help you.

The library has original city directories (formatted like telephone books) where you can look up your address and find out who lived there and what their occupation was. It also contains census registers, which let you see some pretty impressive cursive writing. The 1950 census is published on April 1.

Other practical resources:

Do you have any additional tips? Share them with us on [email protected] and they can help shape future coverage – or be added to this guide.

Saint Louis live” tells you the stories of Saint-Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenské and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphilland Kayla Drake. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The sound engineer is Aaron Dorr.

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