Missouri Genealogy Resources

Missouri is lucky to have a great free genealogy resource in Missouri Digital Heritage. MDH is the state’s digital initiative database.  Both the State of Missouri and its institutions, mainly universities and libraries, have contributed collections that tell the state’s history.  Most of the collections feature scans of documents and photographs, but some are just finding aids or transcriptions.  Either way, it features over a hundred wonderful collections all worthy of exploration.  Several collections are ideal for genealogists.  All the genealogy collections can be found at this link, but I have chosen to highlight the most useful and those that pertain to the majority of the state.  Others listed on the linked site are relevant only to specific towns, cities, counties, or ethic groups.

  1. Missouri Birth and Death Certificates Pre-1910:  This database provides “185,000 records from 87 counties” covering births, stillbirths, and deaths in Missouri.  Searches can be conducted by name (full or partial), county, or a combination of both.  Access is provided by the Missouri State Archives.
  2. Death Certificates (1910-1962):  The death certificate database features over 2.2 million records.  Each year, new records that are over fifty years old are added (ex. in 2014, 1963 will be added).  The database can be search by one or more of the following fields: last name, first name, year of death, and county.  Access is provided by the Missouri State Archives.
  3. Missouri County History Project:  This database features county histories contributed from many institutions statewide.  Many are scanned copies of the Goodspeed’s county histories.  All counties are covered, but some are included in regional discussion as opposed to just that county.  Within the histories, there are many mentions of the people who lived in the counties and the histories of the counties and towns are covered.
  4. Missouri County Plat Books:   The plat book collection is a joint venture led by the Missouri State Library.  The plat books map who owns the land at various points in history.  While not always indexed, if you know where an ancestor lived (town or township) it is easy to locate the sections of the book to check and scan the image.  Often, in addition to your ancestor, you will find their relatives nearby.
  5. Land Records:  The land records cover the sale of first colonial, the federal land in Missouri.  The records are divided into six collections: French & Spanish Land Grants, 1790-1803; United States Land Sales, 1818-1903; Township School Land , 1820 – 1900; Seminary and Saline Land, 1820 – 1825; Swamp Land , 1850 – 1945; and 500,000 Acre Grant, 1843 – 1951.  The latter four are transcribed or in the process of being transcribed.  The French and Spanish Land Grants are not in English.  Follow the link for more information on each collection.  Records can be searched by the name of the purchaser (first name, last name, and year) or land records by section (section, township, and range).
  6. Registre d”Arpentage:  The Registre was created between 1798 and 1806 by surveyor Antoine Pierre Soulard to document claimants and their land for the Spanish government.  There are 710 total surveys, all in French.  Searching is easy, as a list of all included names are provided.  To read the documents’ writing, a guide of common phrases and their translations is provided.  However, even if you chose not to read the French, you can still study the maps.  This collection is provided by the Missouri State Archives.
  7. Naturalization Records, 1816 – 1955:  These naturalization records are the ones that existed before the federal government managed the process; previously it was managed at the county level.  You can search for immigrant ancestors by name, native country, county, year, an a combination of these.  Access is provided by the Missouri State Archives.
  8. Soldier’s Records: War of 1812 – WWI:  I’m copying and pasting here; I couldn’t describe it better: “The Soldiers Database is a comprehensive database abstracted from the individual service cards and listing more than 576,000 Missourians who served in the military from territorial times through World War I. It includes entries for twelve wars and military engagements in which Missouri soldiers took part….The database is searchable by name or unit and searches can also be limited to a particular war. Images of the original service records are linked to most database records.”  Access is provided by the Missouri State Archives.
  9. Missouri Union Provost Marshal Papers 1861-1866:  “Completed in 2010, the database contains over 72,000 entries relating to Missouri, some 18,000 these relate to St. Louis” about Missouri’s white and colored citizens in the Civil War era, both soldier and civilian.  Searching can be done by name, keyword, and/or county.  Information included on the individuals depends on their category, so follow the link for more information.  Again, the Missouri State Archives provides the records.
  10. Missouri Historical Review:  The MHR is the journal edited and issued by The State Historical Society of Missouri.  It’s basis is articles written about Missouri, Missourians, and Missouri history, including some genealogical articles.  It never hurts to check these and see if you ancestors might be mentioned.  You can search by keyword or browse issues.

    MDH Genealogy Screen

    MDH Genealogy Screen

Besides’ MDH, there are several other to check for more information.  Missouri also features many well equipped archives and special collections of interest to genealogists.

  1. The State Historical Society of Missouri:  SHS collects material on everything pertaining to Missouri history.  The have book, newspaper, map, oral history, and manuscript collections.  Before visiting, someone can search the collection online to narrow down the resources one needs to review.  The main SHS research center is in Columbia, Missouri by the have satellite centers in St. Louis, Kansas City, Rolla, and Cape Girardeau.  They also provide document delivery to Springfield.
  2. Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center: This center is located in St. Louis at a separate location than the more famous museum.  Most of their documents will relate to the history of St. Louis, the Greater St. Louis Region, and its citizens.  The also offer online indexes and some online photographs.
  3. Kansas City Public Library’s Missouri Valley Room Located in the main branch of the library system in the heart of downtown Kansas City, the Missouri Valley Room features many books, documents, and maps telling the history of Kansas City, the Greater Kansas City Region (including part of Kansas), and its citizens.  Their website features some indexes and photos.
  4. Mid-Continent Public Library’s Midwest Genealogy Center:  Located outside of Kansas City in Independence, Missouri, this center is operated by the Mid-Continent Public Library system.  It bills itself as “is one of the nation’s preeminent resources for family history, providing access to almost three-quarter of a  million on-site materials….The collection has grown to over 17,000 circulating titles, more than 85,000 reference titles, and a vast number of periodicals and newspapers, as well as microforms, maps, and online databases.”  While Missouri records can be found in abundance, the Midwest Genealogy Center has Midwestern and nationwide coverage and a worldwide reputation.
  5. Missouri State Archives:  Located in Jefferson City as part of the James C. Kirkpatrick Information Center, the State Archives holds many Missouri records, including the original copies of all the documents listed in collections 1-2 and 5-9 (and parts of collections 3-4).  Additional records include census data, photographs, and state legislative records.  While using the online copies is an easier method, I still wanted to list the State Archives in case someone wanted to know where to locate hard copies.

And, again, don’t forget to check with individual county or town historical or genealogical societies, local libraries, and county record centers.  Those institutions are also highly likely to have information to help with you search.  The State Historical Society of Missouri maintains a list of historical or genealogical societies.  If you are researching ancestors within Southeast Missouri, check out my earlier post on that.

Finally, I have mostly worked with Missouri resources.  Do you have any resources similar to these for other states?  If so, please comment.  I can compile a list for a future post.

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16 thoughts on “Missouri Genealogy Resources

  1. I’ve never been able to find my g-grandfather in these records but I’ve always been surprised at the wealth of information they contain on other individuals.

    • I know your feelings about still not being able to find someone in the MDH records despite all the information. Maybe your problem has the same roots as mine: Many courthouses burned down in the 1800s and early 1900s, either by accident or as part of a battle or guerrilla action in the Civil War. It is unknown just how many records were lost!

      What were the years your great-grandfather lived in Missouri? And which part of Missouri? I might be able to recommend a resource or place to check.

  2. I’d be obliged.

    We really don’t know much about him. Andrew Jackson Henson was born in 4 July 1853 and gave his place of birth as Missouri. He later moved to Illinois where he lived for quite some time and died in Indiana. He listed his mother (name unknown) as being born in Alabama. We believe Andrew was a Cherokee Indian. I have checked the Dawes Rolls for Eastern Tribes and there was an Andrew Jackson Henson. I think this is a different person though.So far the only records we have located for him are his marriage records as well as the 1910 Census. He is a terribly elusive person.

    But yes if you could suggest some places to check I’d be grateful!

    • Without narrowing things down geographically, I don’t know what else to recommend. You’re already looked at the Census records and the MDH records databases. My great-grandfather was also part Cherokee and I looked into the Dawes Rolls for Eastern Tribes myself. The Catch-22 with the Dawes Rolls are that they only list those who decided to live on the reservation, not those who opted to live elsewhere. Thus, I’d say you are right that particular Henson may not be him.

      If we knew what part of Missouri to check, the County Histories might be helpful. In lieu of not knowing, my only other recommendation would be to visit or contact either The State Historical Society of Missouri or the Midwest Genealogy Center. They have tons of books that are not scanned that could have some information. SHS also has the newspaper collection which could mention him somewhere (birth, marriage, and death announcements frequented papers then). While knowing a region or town for Henson would be useful, the newspapers are in the process of being scanned and placed online. Thus it may be possible to run a name search now or in the future and locate something.

      Sorry I couldn’t help more.

      • If it wasn’t for the 1910 Census we never would have known he was born in MO. What you said about the courthouses burning down in the past—this could probably be the reason we’ve been unsuccessful in tracing Andrew’s line. 😦

        Thanks for the suggestions, will what I can come up with!

        • You’re welcome! I’m just sorry I can’t help more with sources. I did have another idea though. Sometimes the spelling of the family name changes over the years, frequently because census takers interpreted the spelling differently. I know that’s happened with my ancestors. Maybe you could try looking for variations like Hensen, Hanson, or Hansen?

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