Curious about your home’s past residents? St. Louis Public Library has several great, and FREE, resources for researching your home’s past; all you need is a library card.
One helpful resource is HeritageQuest. HeritageQuest gives you access to census records (up to 1940). For those of you who live in multi-family homes, census records can be more informative than searching for building owners (e.g., 80% of the individuals living on my block in 1940 rented). You can search this database at any library or online from the convenience of your home.
To get started searching online, you will need to have your library card number as well as your pin. If you do not know your pin, call or visit the library before you sit down to search. Once you are ready, go to the St. Louis Public Library website, www.slpl.org, and click on the link at the bottom of the page titled Online Learning and Reference, then Databases. From there select the database you would like to search, enter your card number and pin, and begin your search.
Searching for your address in Heritage Quest is a bit tricky. Heritage Quest is set up to use for genealogy searches, when you likely have at least a last name of a person. If you do not know the names of anyone who has lived in your home, you have to know the Ward and Enumeration District for each census year you are searching; these numbers change from year to year. Lucky for you, I searched the 1900-1940 censuses for my block, 4000 Botanical. The numbers below include blocks in the Shaw neighborhood and will at least get you close enough to find where your block, and home, will be covered.
1900 | Ward 24, District 357
1910 | Ward 13, District 214
1920 | Ward 13, District 268
1930 | Ward 15, District 25
1940 | Ward 15, District 96-361
To search, click on the census year you would like, and then use the “Browse this collection” box on the right hand side. It can take a bit of time to search through the pages, but once you get the hang of it, your search can go pretty quickly.
I enjoyed seeing the number of people recorded on my block increase as housing was developed; in 1900 one household with 8 people was recorded, in 1940 95 households with 304 people were recorded. I also enjoyed reading the occupations of various residents over time. At different points in time my block included brewery owners, coal mine workers, dressmakers, salesmen for butter and eggs, railway conductors, music teachers, telegraph operators, timekeepers for street cars, and many more occupations.
Now that you know how to start, go forth and search! Once you conduct a search of your own, I would love to hear what you learn. Give an update on your house history searching in the comments section of this post.