Notice a trend? It seems many of my stories and history posts have something to do with Missouri history. There is a reason for that! Three of the four main branches of my family have roots in Southeast Missouri that predate the Civil War. One branch’s roots even predates the Louisiana Purchase by about seventy years! Because of my roots, I have become good at locating genealogy sources for this region. Thus, I thought I’d share several good resources.
Before I list and summarize sources, there are a few things you should know. If I can link to a freely available online version of a text, such as Google Books, I will. If not, I will link to WorldCat. WorldCat is a nationwide library catalog and it can point a user to the various libraries that hold the title. When a link to WorldCat Local is opened, it will determine your geographic location and provide a list of the holding libraries beginning with the ones nearest to you. However, some smaller libraries may not be included because they do not partner with the larger organization (OCLC) that provides WorldCat.
- Goodspeed’s History of Southeast Missouri: This is the best go-to source. Written in the 1880s, this book contains the most detailed information about the region and features detailed descriptions of the towns and their people. At the end, there are biographies of the most notable Southeastern Missourians of the era (ex. local and state politicians, military officers, wealthy citizens, large landowners, explorers, founders of cities and/or counties, etc.). It was information from this book that lead me to discover direct ancestors from my father’s family and my mother’s family had met before Missouri was even a state when they served on a jury together at the home of yet another ancestor!
Missouri Digital Heritage now offers a digital version. It is browseable and fully searchable.
- The History of Southeast Missouri by Robert Sidney Douglass: Written in 1912, this book provides a narrative of Southeast Missouri’s history from the earliest explorers to the time it was written. Of special note, this title provides regimental histories, a biographical appendix, and names of all newspapers published pre-1912. Unless you had a famous ancestor by Southeast Missouri standards, chances are they won’t be named but you can use this book to locate information on where they lived and locate the newspapers to check for more information. The State Historical Society of Missouri’s Newspaper Collection is the state newspaper repository and they should have microfilm copies of most papers mentioned.
- Heinrich Weidner, 1717-1792, Catharina Mull Weidner, 1733-1804: Through Four Generations by Anne McAllister: Why mention a book that seems to focus on one family? Well, if you live or have relatives from Madison and Bollinger counties, you are probably related to Heinrich and Catharina. If you are from another Southeast Missouri county, chances are you are still connected to them somehow. The Weidner family Anglicized their name to Whitener while still in North Carolina. In 1810, when they moved to Missouri with a few other families, they, those families, and earlier settlers intermarried. In fact, there were no less than three intermarriages with the Bollinger family in that first Missouri generation! The families settled in what is now Madison and Bollinger counties and continued to grow. This text provides a full listing of every family member for those first four generation (in addition to those that remained in North Carolina); just look for the chapter that details the ancestors on Captain Henry Whitener, a Revolutionary War veteran.
- Colonial Ste. Genevieve by Carl J. Ekberg: If you have French ancestry and a Missouri connection, this text is not to be missed! Professor Ekberg has created a definitive history on the earliest settlement of Missouri, its people, their movements (including the creation of other settlements), and more. He has left no stone unturned! The text chronicles the settlers origins (most came from French Canada, then to Kaskaskia) and follows the settlers through until the arrival of German immigrant to Ste. Genevieve. It also includes information about the settlers dealings and intermarrying with the Native Americans.
- Kaskaskia Under the French Regime by Natalia Maree Belting: Many of Ste. Genevieve’s settlers came from Kaskaskia, just across the Mississippi River. This book chronicles the life and customs of those citizens while they were in Illinois and the first few years of Ste. Genevieve itself. While the Google Books version doesn’t link to it, if you buy or find the newest release of the book at a library, it features transcriptions of all the mentioned primary source documents, including marriage licenses and baptismal records.
- Southeast Missouri State University’s Sagamore: The Sagamore is Southeast’s long-running yearbook. It began in 1918 and continued until the 1980s or 1990s. If you had a relative enrolled or thought to be enrolled at the university during these years, you can probably find their photograph, major, and other select information depending on the year. Currently, only the first ten years are available, but more will be added as the volumes are scanned.
- Fort Davidson Research Resources: Fort Davidson in Pilot Knob, Missouri was the site of a major Civil War battle in Southeast Missouri. Within their collection of resources, several are treasure troves for genealogists. The Research Centers has made available online lists of Union and Confederate soldiers at the battle, lists of African-American soldiers at the battle, the Pilot Knob Home Guard roster, and a list of Iron County voters. All the lists contain biographical information.
- Confluence and Crossroads: The Civil War in the American Heartland: I’ve briefly mentioned this before since I volunteered on the project, but it needs inclusion here. The project is a joint effort of multiple institutions led by Special Collection and Archives at Southeast Missouri State University. It covers twenty-eight Southeastern Missouri counties and five Southern Illinois counties from 1854-1877. While content is continuously added, the project will be complete by July, 2013. Why is this important to mention? The project includes scans of letters, diaries, journals, photographs and more that were about and created by citizens of the region covered. Many of the text-based documents have been transcribed (not OCRed!), so they will be easy to search. You might just find a reference to an ancestor, if not something they or a family member wrote!
- A History of Missouri from the Earliest Explorations and Settlements Until the Admission of the State into the Union by Louis Houck: This late addition to the list is a three volume set from 1908. I knew of its existence, but never had the opportunity to explore the set and was hesitant to originally list it. However, a distant cousin who looked over this list after publication provided details for a summary, as he found it useful in his genealogical research. Volume 1 covers the pre-French settlement era; Volume 2 covers early settlement with an emphasis on the Cape Girardeau area; and Volume 3 covers settlement from 1775-statehood. Information covered includes population data, settlement patterns, and major events. He says it includes many photos, maps, and illustrations and that “there is a lot of good stuff here for both historians[s] and genealogist[s].”
Lastly, there are two main archives to check for Southeast Missouri genealogy information.
- The State Historical Society of Missouri: SHS collects material on everything pertaining to Missouri history. They maintain book, newspaper, map, oral history, and manuscript collections.
- Special Collections and Archives at Southeast Missouri State University: Special Collections and Archives’ mission includes acquiring material on the “historical, literary, and cultural experience of Southeast Missouri, the Mississippi River Valley region,” and the university.
And don’t forget to check with individual county or town historical or genealogical societies and county record centers. Those institutions are very likely to have information to help with your search. The State Historical Society of Missouri maintains a list of these.
Stay tuned for further genealogy posts this spring. I’ll feature some state-wide and nation-wide genealogy resources.
Do you have any other recommended resources I missed?
Edit: 3/14/13: Source 9 added.
6/30/14: Added note about MDH version of Goodspeeds.