30 April 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 (http://www.slpva.com/historic/saintlouifourcourts.html : 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.

23 April 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.

15 April 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 info@sappingtonhouse.org . 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 swise@jfedstl.org . More information is available by clicking here.

09 April 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.

02 April 2018

Family History Conference is Around the Corner

Have you registered yet? Although early registration is now finished, you can still register for the StLGS annual Family History Conference this coming Saturday, 7 April 2018, at Orlando Gardens in Maryland Heights. Walk-ins are always welcome, but if you would like to guarantee a spot (and
purchase a lunch), pre-registration is a good idea.

The day begins at 8 a.m. with welcoming remarks, and then the fun begins!  To start your morning, choose from our Pam Sayre, our keynote speaker's, talk on "Finding What you Need on Ancestry.com" or St. Louis County Library reference librarian, Mike Bridwell's, lecture on "Exploring Findmypast." After a short break, Pam will continue with "Delving Deeper into Ancestry.com Resources," or hear Missouri State Archivist, John Dougan, discuss "Many Stories, Many Sources, Nowhere to Start: Narratives Drawn from the Missouri State Archives." Another short break and then Ann Fleming will give you "Tools for Understanding DNA Results," while St. Louis County reference librarian, Dan Lilienkamp, will help you analyze those ubiquitous online family trees in his talk, "Does That Even Make Sense?"

The lunch break is extra-long so you can enjoy free time to chat with friends, explore the exhibitors' tables, or sit down for a few minutes with Ann Fleming, who will be available to answer DNA questions.

The afternoon brings four more choices. Pam Sayre will speak on "Finding What You Need on Familysearch.org" while StLGS projects director, Carol Whitton, offers ways to "Organize DNA Results Using Spreadsheets." The last break of the day will be followed by the closing lectures. Pam Sayre will bring you "More FamilySearch," and StLGS publications director, Ilene Murray, will talk about "Books, Books, and More Books: Online and Easy to Access."

During the breaks, we hope you will visit each exhibitor's table and drop one of your door prize tickets wherever you see something you hope you will win. Each exhibitor will be giving away a door prize to one lucky person. We also hope you will purchase raffle tickets for our very special raffle items. Among the seven items we have to offer this year are free subscriptions to Ancestry.com, Fold3, Newspapers.com, and FindmyPast! We have free research time with a certified genealogist and registrations to StLGS events, too.

Need to register now? Click here to go to the StLGS website for a flyer, directions, and/or to register.

We can't wait to share this exciting day with you and look forward to seeing you on Saturday!