City Guide: St. Louis
2/22/2011
St. Louis is home to essential records and repositories -- some of which are now online. Let this guide be your portal to finding your Gateway City ancestors.
Even before its signature arch rose over the city, St. Louis was a gateway: for fur traders, then for the Mississippi River steamboats, and later for a World's Fair. Smack-dab in the nation's midsection, St. Louis is home to essential records and repositories -- some of which are now online. Let this guide be your portal to finding your Gateway City ancestors.

A furry beginning
People of the Mississippian culture (600-1400) built mounds in the area; some of the largest are still preserved just east of the Mississippi River in Illinois' Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. In the 1670s, French explorers Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette were the first whites to nose around the area, and less than a century later, a fur-trading post was set up in 1764.

Soon afterward, word of the treaty that ended the French and Indian War spread to the area. One of its provisions put all land east of the river into British hands, resulting in more French settlers moving to St. Louis; it soon became the capital of the Upper Louisiana territory. The same treaty made the area west of the river Spanish, but the French regained control briefly before selling the entire territory to the fledgling United States in 1803.