Researching Italians in St. Louis
The best source of information on the Northern Italians in St. Louis is the sacramental records of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. PLEASE NOTE: It is not necessary to write to a particular church for this information, you can find it on your own! The best place, in my opinion, to access them locally is at the St. Louis County Library Special Collections at the HQ branch on Lindbergh, just south of Hwy 40. The Special Collections department is housed on the 5th floor. Be sure you check their website regarding items that are or are not allowed on this level for security reasons - there are small lockers available if needed, and your quarter is returned when you are finished! It was just announced that the St. Louis County Library is moving all of the genealogy materials to its own building in Chesterfield Valley, hopefully in 2012. That is less than half the current distance for me, I can't wait!
These records are also found at the city library on Olive downtown. I recently read that this library will be undergoing renovations in the near future. You may want to contact them before planning a visit to the building.
You can also order the microfilmed records from any LDS Family History Center in the world. The LDS microfilmed the books sometime in the 1980s, about mid to late 80s I think. Your access to them would be limited to about a 2 week time period though. St. Ambrose, for instance, is about 2.5 rolls and that would take me at least 24 hours of looking at a microfilm reader! It is hard to do more than a few hours at a time. The bonus is that most, if not all, of the St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parish records are also on the first roll of the St. Ambrose records.
Remember that in the Catholic Church, the parish in which a person was baptised should have record of any additional sacraments that the person received. Some parishes were better at keeping these records than others! Records are found in Italian, Latin, English, and occasionally German, and most are difficult to read, especially the early ones. As standardized forms were more widely used to record the information, it becomes easier to figure things out!
NOTE: The Archdiocese of St. Louis will not release records from 1930 and after unless they are your own personal records.
Archdiocesan Parishes with probable Italian populations
The parishes listed below are the ones in which I have found information for our family members - this is not a complete list of potential churches! The individual parish records were microfilmed in the 1980s and can be found at the libraries by parish name. The now closed parishes are found by the original parish name, even though the actual record books are now in the possession of another parish. Since there may be 2-3 parish closures in which the record books have changes hands, I will not attempt to guess where the older actual books may be. This is my reasoning behind saying that the libraries are the easiest places to find these records - they are all in one place!
St. Charles Borromeo - Was located at 29th and Locust. 1903-1982. The early records may be found under this name. Parish no longer exists. Please note that there is another church by the same name in St. Charles County and it is NOT the one you want!
St. Aloysius Gonzaga - Was located at 5608 Magnolia. Some Italians found here in the 1890s to about 2005. The parish no longer exists. for photos go to http://www.eco-absence.org/stl/staloysius/
St. Ambrose - greatest majority found here, parish was founded in 1903 and is still a very active parish.
Holy Innocents - Was located at 4923 Odell St., there were a few Italians here, parish no longer exists.
St. Leo - Was located at 23rd and Mullanphy, very few Northern Italians here, although many Sicilian families were in this parish. Parish no longer exists.
St. Bonaventure - 1871-1882 at 6th and Spruce. It was an Italian National church. I have not seen records from this church yet, but just by the dates of its existance, I would think there would be only a few Cuggionesi recorded there at best as it closed just as the wave of immigrants was starting.
A list of closed parishes, many with pictures of the buildings, can be found at: Closed Parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis
Other Websites that may be of interest in your research
Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of St. Louis - This site does not contain all of the individual parish cemeteries, but is still a very valuable resource as it contains records from the Archdiocese's largest cemeteries and the greatest majority of the Italians were buried in either Sts. Peter & Paul (founded 1864), Resurrection (founded 1928), or Calvary (founded 1854) cemeteries. In some death records in the 1920s-30s, Resurrection Cemetery may be referred to as 'New Sts. Peter & Paul Cemetery'. Note that there are numerous typos in the records, so try searching with the first 3 or so letters of a surname to find your person if you are not successful the first time. As an alternative way to find someone, search for another person you know (or suspect) is buried in the same lot. You can then pull up a list of those buried in the lot by clicking on the lot number link in the listing. Often, families bought lots adjacent to other family lots, so check the lots with numbers near the one you find a family member in. I think they are improving the accuracy of the data, but this database is probably several hundred thousand records, and it is a monumental task, and they probably had a difficult time reading the early records - I know I do!
Genealogy in St. Louis - Be prepared to spend time in this one, the Memories pages are fascinating if you are from St. Louis!