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House History Research Guide

The following links provide information about resources to research the history of your St. Louis City or County home.

House History Research Guidebooks

The Missouri History Museum Library holds copies of the following house history research guidebooks:

  • Historical Home Research in the City of St. Louis, by Edna Campos Gravenhorst (published in 2003)

  • Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed(Room): Researching a St. Louis County, Missouri Home, by Kim Wolterman (published in 2009)

  • How to Research the History of Your Webster Groves House, by Ann Morris (published in 1980)

House History Article

For an example of methods and resources for researching the history of your house, see an article titled "How Well Do You Know Your Home?" in The Times of Skinker DeBaliviere (Volume 37, Number 3, Fall 2007, page 6).

Genealogy and Local History Index, Address Search

The Missouri History Museum's Genealogy and Local History Index is a good place to start your research. The Genealogy and Local History Index is an ever-growing index to selected published material, documents, and photographs at the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center. Try a search for your address in the Address Search option. (Key in your street number in the top box, and your street name in the bottom box. For optimum searching, omit the street suffix [i.e., Ave., Blvd., St.] from your search.) Please note that this Address Search does not include references to every address in St. Louis City and County; rather it contains references to selected sources that have been indexed.

Search for Your Street Address in Google

Try a search for your street address in Google and/or other Internet search engines. Many libraries have digitized various books and other published sources from their collections, so you may find a reference to your street address in a Who's Who publication, a school alumni magazine, an article in a historic newspaper, etc. Read more about searching in Google.

St. Louis City and County Directories

Another great resource is city directories, which were published almost annually and are similar in format to telephone directories. The alphabetical entries in these directories include the resident's name, occupation and address. In some years these directories include a reverse directory feature that allows you to look up a street name alphabetically, then a street address numerically, and the directory provides the name of the individual, business or institution that was located at that address. By using reverse directories, you can determine who resided in your home in a particular year. Read more about city directories.

U.S. Federal Census

The U.S. federal census was taken every ten years, and is a valuable resource for finding out information about past residents of your home, assuming that your home dates back to 1940 or before. The most recent federal census that is accessible to the public is the 1940 census. Read more about the federal census.

Genealogy and Local History Index, Personal Name Search

Once you've determined the names of past residents of your home, try some searches for these names in the Missouri History Museum's Genealogy and Local History Index.

Genealogy Links Page

The Missouri History Museum's Genealogy Links page includes links to many databases and indexes that may help you learn more about the past residents of your home.

Finding the Legal Description of Your Property

The legal description of your property appears on your deed. For homes in the city of St. Louis, you can look up this information in the Assessor's Property Database. To determine the date of construction for homes in the city of St. Louis, visit the Geo St. Louis site and key in your address. Then click the BUILDING INFORMATION link. For St. Louis County homes, visit the Real Estate Information database to find the legal description of your property. Select PROPERTY ADDRESS and key in your street address.

Building Permits

Building permits for the city of St. Louis are located at St. Louis City Hall. Edna Gravenhorst's book Historical Home Research in the City of St. Louis and the website of the Preservation Research Office both provide advice on locating building permits for homes in the city of St. Louis. St. Louis County only retains building permits for the past ten years. Check with your local St. Louis County municipality to see if they have retained building permits. (For example, the University City Public Library holds building permits for University City.) Also, beginning in 1907 St. Louis County building permits were published in the St. Louis Daily Record, which is available on microfilm at the Central Branch of the St. Louis Public Library and the Headquarters Branch of the St. Louis County Library.

St. Louis Building Department House Numbering Certificates

If you're researching a home in the city of St. Louis and are trying to determine the date of construction, you may want to consult the St. Louis Building Department house numbering certificates that are housed at the Central Branch of the St. Louis Public Library (13th and Olive in downtown St. Louis).

These forms for assigning street numbers to new buildings (mostly homes) in St. Louis City are dated late 1880s to the early 1970s. There are approximately 112,000 forms, arranged chronologically by reference number. The reference numbers are on two sets of index maps. Forms are available for many, but not all St. Louis City addresses. If there is a reference number on a property, there will be a certificate form for the property. The form gives the block number, lot number, house number, owner, and contractor.  Certificates also include a rough sketch of the property in relation to the street and a dated stamp of approval from the Street Department. The index maps and certificates are available in the St. Louis Room/Special Collections Departments at the Central Branch of the St. Louis Public Library. To request a lookup, contact the St. Louis Public Library at webref@slpl.org, and provide the street address that you're researching.

If you locate one of these certificates for your house, you may then want to check for a listing in the Building Permits section in the St. Louis Daily Record (check a few days following the date of the certificate). This newspaper began publishing building permit information in 1893 and is available on microfilm in the Genealogy Department of the Central Branch of the St. Louis Public Library and in the History and Genealogy Department of the St. Louis County Library Headquarters.

Deeds

Deeds for the city of St. Louis are located at the St. Louis Recorder of Deeds office in City Hall. Edna Gravenhorst's book Historical Home Research in the City of St. Louis and the website of the Preservation Research Office both provide advice on searching for deeds. Deeds for St. Louis County are located in the St. Louis County Recorder of Deeds office in the Lawrence K. Roos County Government Building in downtown Clayton. Kim Wolterman's book Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed(Room) provides advice on researching St. Louis County deeds.

Newspapers

Newspapers are a great resource for house history research, including death notices and obituaries, birth and marriage announcements, real estate transactions, photographs of homes, local news, and more. However, the vast majority of historical newspapers are not digitized and keyword searchable. Below is information about several online databases that provide online, keyword-searchable access to selected St. Louis newspapers for selected years. Read more about newspapers.

Maps and Atlases

The Missouri History Museum Library holds a large number of St. Louis City and County maps and atlases. Of particular interest are fire insurance maps (which show the "footprint" of buildings and indicate brick, frame, or stone construction) and plat maps (which show the names of property owners). Read more about maps and atlases.

Searching for a Historic Photograph of Your Home

The Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Department holds hundreds of photographs of St. Louis City and County homes. In addition, our library includes various published sources such as neighborhood histories, company employee magazines, and scrapbooks of newspaper clippings that sometimes include historic photographs of homes. Read more about searching for historic photographs of homes.

The Guide to the Archival Collections and Archival Finding Aids

The Guide to the Archival Collections contains brief descriptions of the size and content of our more than 3,000 catalogued archival collections. Read more about searching the Guide to the Archival Collections and archival finding aids.

Architectural Drawings

The Missouri History Museum Archives holds a collection of architectural drawings, some of which are for residences in St. Louis City and County. These drawings were donated to the archives by various architects or architectural firms. Please note that this collection consists of drawings of a small number of architects and architectural firms that chose to donate drawings to our archives.

There is no online index available to this collection of architectural drawings. If you would like to determine if we have a drawing(s) of a particular residence, contact the archives at 314-746-4510 or archives@mohistory.org. Please provide the street address, the name of the original owner (if known), and the name of the architect (if known). If you know the name of the architect or architectural firm, this will allow us to search our collection more thoroughly.

Please note that in some cases reproduction of the drawings (by photography, scan, photocopy) may not be permitted, either because the drawings are too fragile or the donor has placed restrictions on reproducing the drawings.

Index to St. Louis Death Registers, 1850-1908

The St. Louis Genealogical Society's "St. Louis Death Registers" CD comprises an index to deaths recorded in St. Louis City and County for the years 1850-1908. Entries in this index include the decedent's name, date of death, age, place of burial, and oftentimes the street address where the death occurred. Searching for your street address in this index may help you determine the name of a former resident of your house. This CD is arranged in 24 alphabetical PDF files, so you'll need to search for your address in each of these files. The "St. Louis Death Registers" CD is available in the Special Collections Department at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters and at the St. Louis Genealogical Society. Be careful when searching: For example, the address 2405 North Taylor Street is recorded in this CD as 2405 N Taylor St. (not 2405 North Taylor or 2405 N. Taylor). Also, when searching for a street such as South 2nd, try S Second and S 2nd. Finally, omit the suffix (Ave., Drive, St.) in your searches.

St. Louis County Historic Buildings Inventory

If your St. Louis County home is historic, it may be listed in the St. Louis County Historic Buildings Inventory.

National Register of Historic Places

Is your house, street, or neighborhood historic? Nomination forms for the National Register of Historic Places are packed with data regarding historic houses, streets, and neighborhoods. View nomination forms for St. Louis City and St. Louis County.

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