Knowing where to find the records for any given locality is always the quest for a researcher. For those with ancestors in Missouri, that quest is about to get easier. Missouri researchers have a wealth of information about the state and its settlers available both for online and on-site research. In Research in Missouri: The Land and the History, we looked at the geography, settlement patterns, and history that affected when and where our ancestors settled in Missouri. Finding additional records can shed light on their actions and provide evidence for relationships. Several repositories on the state level hold record collections of value to the researcher.
Missouri State Archives
Learn the origins of Missouri Counties on the “Missouri History” and “Organization of Counties” webpages. Like every location, knowing boundary changes ensures you will search each applicable parent county. County officials work with the archives so the records can be microfilmed for preservation and digitized at the same time. The webpage “County Records on Microfilm” contains a listing by county of the microfilm rolls so patrons can order copies. Be sure to check out the Description of Record Series page to best understand the records. Remember that we need to research the source as well as the information it holds.
State Government Records
The bulk of the physical records held by the Missouri State Archives are state government records. The Finding Aids portion of the website explains the scope and context of these records organized by record group (RG) by the department.
Birth and death records were mandated in 1910, but some counties recorded these vital facts at various times. The Missouri Birth & Death Records Database, Pre-1910, and Missouri Death Certificates, 1910 – 1970 are two indexed collections to search, with many images available.
The database Land Records: 1777 – 1969 holds entries from the French and Spanish eras and federal land sales and patents issued by the state. Missouri land research is complicated with the different government entities issuing the land. When searching the database, know that less is more. Start with the name, then narrow down. Remember that the early French and Spanish land records will be found listed for the original counties, not where the land currently is located.
State Census Records
Missouri Census Records and Tax Lists contains an index of some territorial, state, and special censuses. Also included are the federal mortality schedule and images of the federal agricultural, manufacturing and industrial schedules.
Missouri Digital Heritage
For example, are you interested in the exploration and settlement of Missouri? Manuscript collections, records, maps, and more are brought together under this heading for you to browse. The screenshot below shows a sampling.
Missouri Historical Society: Library & Research Center
The Missouri Historical Society (MHS) was founded in St. Louis 1866 “for the purpose of saving from oblivion the early history of the city and state.” The Library & Research Center, located in St. Louis, holds state-wide collections up to about 1950, with collections for the St. Louis area going well past that date.
The Library & Research Center houses the premier regional history collection documenting St. Louis, the state of Missouri, the Mississippi and Missouri Valleys, the Louisiana Purchase Territory, and the American West. In addition to tens of thousands of books, periodicals, photographs, artifacts, and documents, the Library & Research Center also contains one of the largest media collections in the Midwest.
What are some of the collections of value to a genealogist? Here are a few.
– Tax Lists by county.
– Voter Registration lists which may give the court of naturalization. You will need addresses from city directories before searching this collection.
– Colonial Era resources before 1803.
– Civil War gems such as the manuscript collection holding records, letters, and diaries.
– World War I Biography & Service Record questionnaires. Because these were created on the state level, they are a good substitute for the destroyed WWI records at the National Archives.
The Genealogy & Family History webpage is the beginning point for your research. among the many guides and catalogs is the Genealogy and Local History Index that lets you search by names, address, business, or source. By clicking on “source,” you can view the many sources included in the index. This will give you an idea of what to search for in the index. Know that some of the indexes, guides, and catalogs are only available in person.
State Historical Society of Missouri
Exploring the Research Guides for a variety of subjects will give you the background on the topic. You can then follow links to articles in the Missouri Historical Review, learn tips on searching the online catalog for that topic, and discover biographies, manuscripts, newspapers, photographs, and vertical files – all centering on the topic. For example, if you are researching the African American Experience in Missouri, the Research Guide brings together many resources to enrich your research. Opening the section on newspapers reveals details for thirty African American publications held in the newspaper collection and includes a table showing the title and date of publication.
With headquarters in Columbia, Missouri, six SHSMO research centers around the state focus on regional records. View the webpage for each center from the SHSMO website for information on contacting the staff or researching at the center.
Cape Girardeau Research Center – Southeast Missouri
Columbia Research Center – Northeast Missouri, holds older collections – even if related to other areas, including an extensive newspaper collection dating from 1808
Kansas City Research Center – Northwest Missouri, holds information on the history of Kansas City and Missouri’s western border.
Rolla Research Center – Central and southern Missouri, including the Ozark highland with many older collections
St. Louis Research Center – St. Louis and surrounding counties,
Springfield Research Center – Southwest Missouri and the Ozarks
Additional Missouri Genealogy Repositories and Resources
We’ve discussed some of the major repositories for Missouri research, but there are still many other places to find record collections to search. For a helpful page bringing together the many collections from the various Missouri repositories, see Genealogy Resources hosted by the Missouri Historical Society’s Library & Research Center. The staff curated these resources specifically with genealogists in mind.
These resources are from a variety of institutions, including the Missouri State Archives, the State Historical Society of Missouri, the St. Louis County Library, the St. Louis Genealogical Society, and the St. Louis Public Library.
Best of luck as you discover new resources for researching your Missouri ancestors!