Saint Louis Recorded Archives Transcription Project

St. Louis Recorded Archives Transcription Project, 1938-1940

-Finding aid by Lillian Ruth Frick and Jeanne Schatz

March 1989

Revised July 1993


The French and Spanish official recordings of colonial St. Louis contain a wealth of research material from 1764 to 1804. The records are mainly deeds, wills, marriage contracts, inventories, constable's sales, mortgages, powers of attorney, and miscellaneous "instruments" (documents) written in French and Spanish. Because the spelling of names was somewhat erratic at the time, the names taken from the instruments may have slightly different spellings than what is now considered the proper spelling. Researchers of African-American history may wish to note the name Berry Mitchum, which is probably a phonetic spelling of John Berry Meachum, a famous St. Louis cooper and clergyman.

The National Park Service, with the cooperation of the St. Louis Recorder's Office, sponsored Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects numbers 6869 and 8364 to translate and transcribe these colonial archives of St. Louis. The transcriptions were then indexed by proper name and by subject matter. The indexing project began on October 11, 1938 under the supervision of Herbert L. Moscowitz. It took the staff of well qualified research workers 17,810 hours to complete the transcriptions and indexes of the 2503 "instruments" housed in the archives of the Office of the Recorder. The transcriptions were made in pencil on 5x8 inch ruled tablet sheets, and then typewritten on 5x8 inch white index cards. All proper names were underlined with red ink. The cards were arranged by volume, book, and page number.

The extant original documents are housed in the Missouri Historical Society [225 S. Skinker, St. Louis, Missouri 63105, (voice) 314-746-4500]. They are arranged by instrument numbers assigned by the Society staff. This collection is accessible through two name index card files. The City Recorder's Office [1200 Market St., Room 126, St. Louis, Missouri 63103, (voice) 314-622-4610) has two sets of colonial archives documents for the period 1793-1804. The first was created in 1859 by Edward Berry and is made up of documents in French or Spanish, each followed immediately by Berry's English translation of the document. Berry also indicated the page numbers from the original volumes. Rebound in the 1960s, this set is somewhat out of order and a few documents are missing. The second set is less complete. The first two volumes have been made to look like originals. These have the instrument numbers assigned by the Missouri Historical Society and may have been created as late as 1912. The other four volumes are copies of Edward Berry's work, without the English translations. These records are accessible to the public if the names and dates involved are known.

Series 4-6 are believed to be part of a WPA project as well, however there is no documentation of this. These records were found in conjunction with the Recorded Archives records, are recorded on similar cards, and were listed with the WPA records in a 1982 report. Therefore, they have been included as part of this collection.

Information obtained from this collection must be properly cited, whether used in publication or in other formats. The proper citation for this collection is:

National Park Service

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

St. Louis Recorded Archives Transcription Project

Box__, Folder__

Researchers are advised that before records, photographs, or any other unpublished materials from this collection can be published or exhibited, permission from the National Park Service must be obtained in writing.


Series 1. Recorded Archives

This series contains English translations of documents of the St. Louis Recorder's Office dating from about 1764-1804. The transcriptions are typed on 5x8 inch cards and are arranged by volume, book, and page number. Proper names are underlined in red. This series contains 3634 cards.

Series 2. Proper Name Index

This series contains 5x8 inch cards for each name mentioned in the transcribed records. There are separate cards for various spellings of names which contain "see also" references to other spellings. Each card lists the volume, book, page, and instrument (document) number which relates to that individual. There is also a "Remarks" section which contains a brief statement as to how each record relates to each name. This series is arranged alphabetically, then chronologically within each name. This series contains 8383 cards.

Series 3. Subject Index

This series contains a subject index to the transcriptions and consists of 75 letter size sheets, some typed, some hand written. It is arranged alphabetically by subject or type of document, then chronologically within each heading.

Series 4. Mills

This series contains passages taken from county histories regarding various kinds of mills. The information is typed on 5x8 inch cards and includes the source of the information, the county in which the mill was located, and a short history which usually includes the owner's name and the name of the mill. This series is arranged alphabetically by county and covers a period from 1784-1855. This series contains 61 cards.

Series 5. Block Owners

This series contains typed 5x8 inch cards citing passages from various sources regarding ownership of certain properties in St. Louis. The data covers 1804-1811. Information given includes source of data, owner's name, and a brief description of the property. Occasionally, the sum of money paid is noted as well as some history concerning the parcel. This series is arranged by lot, however the listing below is alphabetical by owner. This series contains 15 cards.

Series 6. Taxpayers

This series contains two sets of 5x8 inch cards containing information dating from 1836 on St. Louis taxpayers.

Sub-Series 1.

This sub-series is arranged by block number. The card for each block number lists the names of people owning property on that block and a description of their property. This sub-series contains 36 cards.

Sub-Series 2.

This sub-series is titled "St. Louis Tax Records of 1836" and contains information taken from an original volume in the possession of Henry Chouteau. Information given includes block number, owner, street, dimensions of lot, assessed valuation, and boundary streets. This sub-series is arranged alphabetically by owner and contains 258 cards.

If you have questions regarding archives holdings, contact Archivist Jennifer Clark at the JNEM Archives at (voice) 314-655-1600. Appointments are encouraged, if possible.

Last updated: October 1, 2020

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