Monday, May 21, 2018

St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds Office

The staff at the St. Louis (City) Recorder of Deeds office met with StLGS volunteers last week to reaffirm their willingness to assist genealogists with St. Louis records. Theirs is a fee-based service, but those fees are used to further records preservation and provide staff to assist the public.

What you will find in the Recorder of Deeds Office:
  • Marriage Records from 1766 to 1931: These consist of applications and licenses from 1881 to 1931, a register from 1877 to 1880, registers from 1808 to 1876 (the year the city split from the county), and some marriage contracts and prenuptial agreements from the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century. 
    • There is a $3.00 fee for each uncertified copy of application, license, or register entry and a $12.00 fee for certified copies.
    • An additional fee for searching may be levied if exact information is not provided.
  • Land Deeds: St. Louis County from 1766 to 1876 (pre-split); St. Louis City, 1877 through 1920
    • $3.00 fee for first page, uncertified copy; $5.00 certified; $2.00 for each additional page of the same record.
    • Search fees apply, if necessary.
Additional records include:
  • Deeds of Adoption, 1880 through 1916 ($5.00 uncertified copy; $7.00 certified)
  • Incorporation Records ($3.00 uncertified first page; $5.00 certified; $2.00 each additional page of same record)
  • House of Refuge Orphanage from 1854 through 1909 ($5.00 per copy of index or minute book page)
  • Nurse Registrations, 1910 through 1937 ($3.00 per copy of license or index page)
  • Trademarks, 1865 through 1930 ($5.00 per black and white copy)
The Recorder of Deeds office is located in City Hall at 1200 Market Street, St. Louis, Mo. 63103. The Land Records are in Room 126 and the Archives Department is in Room 129. The office is open from Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. (Archives Dept.) and 5:00 p.m. (Land Records). More information and an online search capability for land records and a limited number of marriage records at

Monday, May 14, 2018

Classes and Lectures in May

Our friends at the Missouri History Museum and the St. Louis County Library have several classes and lectures to offer this month that will be of interest to many family historians.

Missouri History Museum in Forest Park

Wednesday, 16 May: "Underground Panoramas: Urban Archaeology and Unearthing St. Louis History at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Site," presented by Joe Harl, principal investigator of the NGA site dig and an archaeologist with the Archaeological Research Center of St. Louis. Mr. Harl will share what the excavations on the site are revealing about the German and Irish immigrants that once resided in this north St. Louis neighborhood.
7:00 p.m., Lee Auditorium; free, no registration required.

Thursday, 17 May: "If It Looks Like a Man––Gender Identity, Female Soldiers, and 'Lady Bushwhackers' in the Civil War," presented by historian, Diane Eickhoff. Explore how and why some women were able to throw off their cultural restrictions and participate in the Civil War.
7:00 p.m., Lee Auditorium; free, no registration required.

Sunday, 20 May: Battle of Fort San Carlos Commemoration, featuring author Stephen L. Kling Jr., who will speak on "Personalities and Stories from the Battle of St. Louis." His talk will include some materials from his book plus additional findings from further research.
2:00 p.m., Lee Auditorium, free, no registration required.

Thursday, 31 May: "An American Soldier: Asian American Service in the U.S. Military," panel discussion following a debut of An American Soldier by the Opera Theater of St. Louis.
7:00 p.m., Lee Auditorium; free, no registration required.

St. Louis County Library

Monday, 21 May: "Identifying Ancestral Military Veterans," presented by Larry Franke, research librarian in the History and Genealogy Department. Explore sources for learning more about your ancestors who served in the military. Prerequisites for this class: "Census Basics" and "Basics for Genealogical Research."
10:00 a.m., Cliff Cave Branch Computer Classroom; free, advance registration required; click here.

Thursday, 24 May: "Advanced Techniques for African American Research," presented by Dan Lilienkamp, research librarian in the History and Genealogy Department. Dan will present case studies to illustrate how to fill in gaps in missing information. Prerequisite for this class: "Tracing Your African American Ancestors."
6:30 p.m., Lewis and Clark Branch, Meeting Room 1; free, advance registration required; click here.

Thursday, 31 May: "Census Basics for Genealogical Research," presented by Larry Franke, research librarian in the History and Genealogy Department. Learn how to search census records by using Ancestry Library Edition and other online databases.
2:00 p.m., Headquarters Computer Classroom; free, advance registration required; click here.

The library has free computer and technology classes available as well. Check out their  calendar for May by clicking here.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Email We Know, But V-Mail . . .?

The StLGS monthly meeting for May is this coming Saturday, the 12th. "The Homefront: V-Mail to Email" is the topic, and it should be of interest to all, as its focus will be World War II. St. Louis County Historian, Danny Gonzales, who was to have been our speaker, has moved back to his home state of Indiana, and the talk will instead be presented by Mike Venso, the curator of museums for the county.

Mike will take a look at all the ways in which World War II impacted American society. The title of his talk stems from a unique method of communication used during that war to save cargo space on ships. As genealogists, we certainly know how heavy piles of paper can get, and the cargo space on ships needed to be reserved as much as possible for war-related materials and not personal correspondence. Yet, staying in touch with family was very important for morale of the troops so writing was encouraged.

V-Mail was an abbreviation for Victory Mail and it was modeled on a system started in England. The idea was that you would write your letter on a special V-Mail letter sheet, one that contained both space to write and an envelope (see the photo). Once a V-Mail letter was mailed, it was funneled to a special station where the contents were microfilmed and reduced to a much smaller size. "The rolls of film were sent to prescribed destinations for developing at a receiving station near the addressee."* The letter-sheets were then reproduced on paper again, but still in smaller size, and sent on to the people to whom they were addressed. Not surprisingly, this system was also called "Photomail," but some called it "Tiny Mail" or "Funny Mail" because of the miniaturized size of the final copy.

The launch of the new system was on 15 June 1942; the first of the overseas V-Mail stations run by the U.S. Army opened in April 1943 in Casablanca. Between June of 1942 and April 1945, more than 556 million pieces of V-Mail were mailed from the U.S. to military post offices and more than 510 million pieces were received from military personnel abroad.*

To learn more about V-Mail, you might like to read the articles on the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum website at

*Smithsonian National Postal Museum

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Four Courts Building in St. Louis

(Many thanks to StLGS treasurer, Viki Fagyal, for contributing this interesting bit of St. Louis history.)

If your ancestors had business with the police department, jail, morgue, or a St. Louis City court between 1871 and 1907, they completed that business at Four Courts. The Four Courts building could be described as one-stop shopping. Built in 1871, it replaced the previous courthouse and city jail. Four Courts "occupies the square formed by Clark Avenue and Spruce Street on the north and south and Eleventh and Twelfth streets on the east and west. On its site formerly stood the mansion of Henry Chouteau, whose property extended in the form of a peninsula into a small lake then known as Chouteau's Pond.* Only three courts were housed in the building; however, "it is said that the name originated with one of the judges, a native of Ireland, who bestowed the name upon it on account of its resemblance to the Four Courts at Dublin.*

"The Four Courts building included the Criminal Court, the Court of Criminal Correction on the third floor; the Police Courts, Grand Jury rooms, City Marshal, and City Sheriff on the first floor, along with the offices of the Circuit and Prosecuting Attorneys. Police Headquarters were located on the second floor. The armory was located in the basement. The Police Stables were on the Twelfth street side where the 'hoodlum wagon' was kept. The Dead Animal Contractor's office was on the Eleventh street side of the building. The Coroner's office was at the corner of Eleventh and Clark. The Morgue was located at the corner of Twelfth and Spruce."*

Executions by hanging took place in the courtyard of the jail with up to 200 visitors as witnesses. The city morgue was situated in a one-story brick building in the southwest corner of the jail yard, making space for identification of unknown corpses.*

Many naturalizations for the period of Four Courts' existence were finalized at Criminal Court and the Court of Criminal Correction. Your ancestor may have visited this old St. Louis landmark. All references describe the beauty and grandeur of the Four Courts building. Many photographs and drawings are available by searching online. The building was demolished in stages beginning with a condemnation of the Four Courts in 1916 and ending in 1927 with demolition of the morgue building.

*1: Thomas J. Scharf, History of Saint Louis City and County, From the Earliest Periods to the Present Day Including Biographical Sketches of Representative Men, Vol. II (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts & Co., 1883), 733.
*2: Ibid.
*3: "SLMPD Complete Historic Photo Collection: St. Louis Police in Four Courts," St. Louis Police Veterans' Association, City of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, City of St. Louis, Missouri ( : accessed 11 July 2016).
*4: Joseph A. Dacus and James William Buel, A Tour of St. Louis: Or, The Inside Life of a Great City (St. Louis: Western Publishing Co., 1878) 533.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Spring and DNA Sales are Popping Up!

It seems like all of the DNA testing companies are running sales this coming week in honor of spring and Earth Day, and those companies will undoubtedly be having upcoming Mother's and Father's Day sales as well. If you have been thinking of having some testing done, this might be a good time.

We are often asked for recommendations about which test and which testing company is the "best," and we always answer the same way. The best company is the one that has the largest number of potential matches for your specific ethnic group and the best test is the one that answers your own research questions. The largest of the companies, and those with the likeliest matches for most family historians, are 23andMe, AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, LivingDNA, and MyHeritage DNA. The first three have been in business for a very long time, and the last three are the newest entries into the DNA testing field. They each offer different tests for about the same price range.

For a very comprehensive article about DNA testing, you can click here to check out a blog entry posted in April 2017  at DNAeXplained–Genetic Genealogy.

Another article that might help you is a comparison of all of the major DNA players. Written in February 2018, this review covers most of the larger companies. It explains the entire testing process and has a comparison chart that is easy to follow. Click here to read the article.

For those of you who have already done the testing and need help interpreting the results, a reminder that the StLGS Summer Speaker Series will feature Diahan Southard, an expert on the subject of DNA testing, who will be Making Sense of Your DNA on Saturday, 28 July from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. at Orlando Gardens in Maryland Heights. More information and registration are on the society website. Click here to go the page.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Upcoming Genealogy Events Around Town

Time to share some interesting upcoming events:

Do you have Polish roots?

You can explore the history and culture of Poland at the Florissant Valley Branch of St. Louis County Library, 195 New Florissant Rd. South, on Thursday, 19 April, at 7:00 p.m. A speaker from Saint Louis Polonia will be on hand to discuss traditional Easter egg painting and Polish food. This is a free event, but pre-registration is required. Learn more and/or register by clicking here.

Do you have Pioneer roots? 

Did you have a female ancestor who traveled west on the Santa Fe Trail? Dr. Frances Levine, president of the Missouri Historical Society, will share stories of the women who crossed the frontier via wagon train on Thursday, 19 April, at 7:00 p.m. at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, Lee Auditorium. This is a free lecture, part of the museum's "Crossing Frontiers" lecture series; no pre-registration is required.

Do you have Native American roots?

On Saturday, 21 April, Historic Sappington House will host a tour, either at 1:00 or 3:00 p.m., focusing on the role that Native Americans played in the pre-state territory. The restaurant on-site will be featuring snacks typical of the time and the people. The tours will take place at the Sappington House and Barn Restaurant, 1015 S. Sappington Rd. in Crestwood, Mo. The tour and snacks are $10 but the fee will be waived for anyone becoming a Sappington House Foundation member. Reservations are required; call 314-822-8171 or send a note to . Get more information by clicking here.


Do you have Jewish roots? 

Join author and blogger, Israel Pickholtz, at a free lecture called "Using Genetics for Genealogy Research: Lessons in Jewish DNA––One Man's Successes and What He Learned on the Journey." Mr. Pickholtz began working on his family history in the mid-1990s and became involved in genetic genealogy in 2012. He wrote a book on his own family findings using DNA, Endogamy: One Family, One People, and maintains a website called the Pickholz Project. He will be speaking on Monday, 30 April, at 7:00 p.m. at the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center Theater, 12 Millstone Campus Drive in Maryland Heights, Mo. This is a free lecture, but pre-registration is required. Call Shirley Wise at 314-442-3765 or send her a note at . More information is available by clicking here.

Monday, April 9, 2018

New Events for Your Calendar

Thanks to all for coming to our 47th annual Family History Conference on Saturday, 7 April. It was a wonderful day of learning, shopping, and sharing. All the hard work ahead of time pays off when a conference comes together and we see how much everyone has enjoyed themselves.

Here are just two photos so you can get a taste of the event. Ann Fleming spoke about DNA just before lunch in the larger room and Dan Lilienkamp kept a group interested in online family trees in the Milano room.
 We should have more photos to share with you soon and will post them on our Facebook page for everyone to enjoy.


Two new events are ready for registration on our website. First, our Summer Speaker Series will feature DNA expert, Diahan Southard, who will spend a full day with us on Saturday, 28 July. Diane's workshop, called Making Sense of DNA, is divided into four lectures:
  1. "Let Your DNA Tell Your Story"
  2. "Five Tips to Make Sense of Your DNA"
  3. "Three Powerful Ways to Find Your Best Matches"
  4. "Connecting Your DNA Matches"
Once again, this workshop will take place at Orlando's Event and Conference Center in Dorsett Village shopping center at Dorsett and McKelvey in Maryland Heights. Your registration fee includes lunch, so we encourage pre-registration to ensure we have your choice of meal ready for you.

For a flyer with more details, directions to the venue, and/or to register, click here.

In conjunction with the Saturday conference, Diahan will be available for private consultations on Friday, 27 July, from 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. These will be twenty-minute one-on-one meetings at the Drury Hotel on Olive Street Road in Creve Coeur and must be booked in advance. You can learn more about the consultations and/or register via the link above.


We are ready to welcome this year's group of researchers to join us for our annual trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Every year we take a few dozen people from all over the U.S. to spend a week working in the world's largest genealogy library. Our trip this year begins on Sunday, 28 October and ends on Sunday, 4 November. Before we leave, we will have several classes of special interest to participants, a group meeting in early September, and an electronic mailing list to keep you abreast of progress. Your week includes the expertise of two group leaders, a Sunday night meal, a guided tour of downtown Salt Lake City and the library, a Monday night group meeting, and assistance as you do your library research during the week. We stay at the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel, right next door to the library, and shuttle service to the airport and back is included. Your room will have a microwave, a refrigerator, and coffee/tea service and the hotel is ideally located for restaurants, shopping, or doing a bit of sightseeing. To learn more, download a flyer, and/or to register, click here.


 Interested in St. Louis orphanages? For those of you who have been asking questions about orphanage care in St. Louis, we have compiled all of Viki Fagyal's articles from last year's Quarterly journal, plus a long bibliography that was not in print into one beautifully spiral-bound book that debuted at the Family History Conference on Saturday, 7 April. Almost 100 pages in length, the book is now available for sale in our online store or pop into the office for a copy. It's called Researching Orphans and Orphanage Care in St. Louis and it is for sale for $13.00 for StLGS members, $15.00 for non-members. If you are purchasing online, be sure to log in and get your coupon code for your discount. You can learn more and/or purchase the book by clicking here.