Genealogy and Family History Research Guide

Named one of the 75 Best Websites for US State Genealogy Research by Family Tree Magazine, SHSMO is committed to providing increasing access to tools that help family historians uncover the stories of their ancestors and the impact historic events played in their lives.

Researchers at the State Historical Society of Missouri will find a wide variety of published and unpublished sources to help them discover their family history. The growing collection offers more than 4,000 newspaper titles from every Missouri county; over 250,000 books on state, local, and family history; thousands of manuscripts that include family and personal papers, oral histories, organizational and business records; maps; photographs; and an impressive art collection.

Getting Started

Genealogists use newspapers to find information about births, marriages, deaths, legal transactions, business advertisements, and local events. Some newspapers publish full obituaries for local residents; others print only brief notices. Current daily newspapers of large cities usually print only a few lines about the deceased, but obituaries in small town newspapers are generally more informative. Birth notices, marriage announcements, and anniversary notices can also provide useful information.

SHSMO’s reference collection includes a wide variety of published sources for genealogists. Cemetery transcriptions, town and county histories, city directories, family histories, autobiographies, college periodicals, church histories, newspaper indexes, and genealogy society journals are available. The Missouri Surname Index provides citations to biographies in early Missouri county histories and to selected biographical items in newspapers, periodicals, vertical files and books, but is not available online at this time. Researchers can search the reference collection through the University of Missouri’s online card catalog Merlin.

There are numerous types of manuscript collections but family and personal papers are the most frequently used by genealogists. These collections may include letters, diaries, scrapbooks, and photographs kept by families or individuals. While these collections can be beneficial for genealogists, not every family is represented in SHSMO’s manuscript holdings.

Genealogists may also access the paid online subscription service Ancestry.com for free on computers at SHSMO’s Columbia Research Center.

All researchers are welcome to use SHSMO’s resources. Holdings may be requested for use at any of the six SHSMO Research Centers but do not circulate outside SHSMO’s facilities and must be used on-site. Researchers must provide photo identification, and read and sign a rules and consent form before using manuscript material. Coats, bags, purses, and briefcases must be stored in a locker provided by SHSMO. There is no charge for reference assistance or use of the collections for patrons visiting SHSMO in person.

Adoption Records

Missouri does not have open adoption records. This situation, although common to most states, can complicate a genealogist’s search for their adopted ancestor.

Official Records

Missouri House Bill 1599, which took effect August 28, 2016, changes the law for requesting original birth certificates for adoptees. Please visit the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services website for more information.

For information about adoptions occurring prior to 1917, researchers should check with the Office of the Recorder of Deeds in the adopted child’s county of residence. Beginning in 1857, the State of Missouri required adoptions to be filed by deed in the county of residence of the person adopting the child. [Laws of Missouri, 1856-57, pg. 59] It was not until 1917, that adoptions in Missouri required a petition to be filed in the juvenile division of the circuit court of either the county where the child resided or the county where the person seeking to adopt resided. [Laws of Missouri, 1917, pg. 193]

Resources Available at the State Historical Society of Missouri

Prior to 1853 some adoptions were made by legislative act. A reference specialist at SHSMO will check the personal act list in An Index to the Statute Laws of Missouri for adoptions occurring during this early period.

Other Resources

Orphan Train Adoptions

During the years 1854-1929, the Children’s Aid Society of New York sent approximately 100,000 children from the streets of New York to find new homes with families in the Midwest. Many of these children were then adopted by the families. Those who came as children on the “Orphan Trains,” or had parents or grandparents who came, may have success locating family members by contacting the following organization:

Researchers may also want to consider consulting with a professional genealogist who specializes in adoption research.

African-American Genealogy

Researching African American ancestors follows essentially the same path as any genealogical research problem. Genealogists must exhaust several resources including family bibles, newspaper clippings, birth, death, and marriage certificates, obituaries, diaries, letters and other family papers. County, state, and federal records—such as the census, birth, death, and marriage records, wills, tax records, and land deeds—should also be used. SHSMO has an excellent African American collection for historians as well as some very useful resources for genealogists.

1790–1940 Federal Population Censuses

The census has been taken every ten years since 1790, but due to right-of-privacy laws, the 1940 Federal Population Census is the most recent one available to the public. The census schedules help determine relationships within a family and the ages and occupations of individual family members, as well as other valuable information. Due to the wealth of information found in the census, it is often the first resource genealogists consult after exhausting home resources.

Genealogists who are descendants of slaves may find their research is more challenging prior to 1870. Since slaves were considered the property of slaveholders, genealogists have to first identify the slaveholder. In the 1800 to 1860 censuses, slaves were enumerated by age and sex under the slaveholder’s name. Materials such as plantation records, wills, and inventories of estates provide means for discovering family documents. The 1870 census was the first to record African Americans by name following passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865.

Slave Marriages

Prior to the Civil War, marriages between slaves were not legally binding. After slavery ended in 1865, many former slaves became legally married. According to Missouri state law, the names of the children born before the marriage were also recorded.

Wills, Inventories of Estates and Deeds

Wills were the legal documents by which property, including slaves, was transferred from one person to another. Slaves were also manumitted in wills. Inventories of estates were compiled to determine the value of an estate prior to distribution among the heirs and to settle any debts.

Resources Available at the State Historical Society of Missouri

Although the SHSMO does not have records of births, deaths, marriages, or probate and circuit court proceedings, it does offer privately published indexes to abstracts and transcriptions of some county records. SHSMO also has numerous cemetery transcriptions in its collections. Researchers should keep in mind that some cemeteries have an African American burial section.

Books and Reference Sources

Many books are available on African American history for the general researcher. Family historians may also access the paid subscription service Ancestry.com for free on computers at SHSMO’s Columbia Research Center.

Military Records

SHSMO’s reference collection contains Janet B. Hewitt’s The Roster of Union Soldiers, 1861-1865, United States Colored Troops. Society holdings also include the Descriptive Recruitment Lists of Volunteers for the United States Colored Troops for the State of Missouri, 1863-1865, on microfilm from the National Archives. These records can be very useful.

Newspapers

SHSMO’s newspaper collection, dating from 1808 to the present, is the largest repository of state newspapers in the nation. The collection includes newspapers from every Missouri county with 4,500 different titles preserved on 55,000 rolls of microfilm. Most newspapers in the SHSMO collection are not indexed but are still a good resource for information about community news, births, obituaries, marriages, and legal notices. SHSMO also has a collection of African American newspapers, which includes the following titles:

  • Caruthersville: Caruthersville Anchor
  • Charleston: Charleston Spokesman
  • Columbia: Blackout, Professional World
  • Hannibal: Home Protective Record
  • Jefferson City: Western Messenger
  • Joplin: Uplift
  • Kansas City: Baptist RecordWestern MessengerGlobeInter-State HeraldAmericanCallSunLiberatorMissouri State PostRising SonSonWestern Christian RecorderWestern Messenger
  • St. Louis: AdvanceAmericanArgusPalladiumSentinelWestern Messenger
  • Sedalia: WeeklyConservatorSearchlightTimes
  • Sikeston: Southeast Missouri WorldSouthern Sun
  • Springfield: American Negro

Specific dates can be found in SHSMO’s Newspaper Catalog.

Birth and Death Records

Birth and death records are an important part of genealogical research but Missouri did not keep vital records for much of its early history. To document an ancestor’s life and death, family historians can often get around the lack of official records through creative use of alternate sources such as newspapers, census records, probate records, and cemetery transcriptions.

Official Records

Compulsory registration of births and deaths in each county was first required July 1, 1883, but was repealed in 1893 due to non-compliance. The Missouri birth and death records that were created, during this period and since, have been microfilmed and are available at the Missouri State Archives. The records can also be accessed online. The Vital Records division within Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services has been recording births and deaths since 1910.

Missouri State Archives

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

The cities of St. Louis and Kansas City kept records of births and deaths before the 1883 law was enacted. In St. Louis, by ordinance, deaths were registered from 1850 through 1910 and births from 1863 through 1910. Roughly 60 percent of births and deaths occurring within St. Louis were recorded during this time frame. Copies of these records are available at the Missouri State Archives.

Tips for Successful Research in Official Records

A non-compulsory birth registration law adopted in 1863 provided that county Recorders of Deeds could record births upon request. These births were recorded in the regular deed books and not indexed. This law is still in effect and is the only way a birth outside the state of Missouri can be recorded in this state.

Although County Clerks were generally responsible for keeping birth and death records from 1883-93, in some counties the Recorder of Deeds performed this task. In these counties, birth records are intermingled with land records in deed books.

Compliance with the birth and death registration law during 1883-93 was poor in many places. Some counties have birth and death records for only a fraction of the time that the law was in effect. Other counties have records which extend up to or past the date of repeal. A very few counties have records dating before 1883.

In most cases birth records provide each parent’s name, age, and place of birth. Death certificates made in 1910, and after, include blanks for the same information. A death record from 1883-93 does not have the name of the spouse or parents, but does give the date of death, cause of death, and place of burial.

SHSMO Resources

Newspapers

Birth notices seldom appear in newspapers prior to 1900 and when the papers began printing these announcements they most often took a form such as: “Born, to Mr. and Mrs. Thornton Smith, a girl.” The child's name was seldom given.

Though death notices occasionally consist of only one sentence, longer obituaries can give birth and death dates of the deceased, occupation, residence, place of burial, names of surviving family members, mention of family members who preceded him or her in death, and more. To search for obituaries, the patron needs to know the date and place of death as no comprehensive Missouri newspaper index exists. If the exact date of death is not known, indexed cemetery inscription lists and newspaper indexes can be helpful. Be sure to look at the Newspaper Indexes for more information on SHSMO’s indexes.

Census Records

SHSMO has federal census records for Missouri, 1830-1880, and 1900-1920. Some of the records are indexed. Also, the SHSMO has census records for some additional states. All census records are available at several branches of the National Archives located around the country or at the main National Archives facility in Washington, D.C. Census records do not give exact birth dates, but starting in 1850, the age of each person is given, together with the state or country of his birth. Beginning with the 1900 census, the month and year of birth are given. Genealogists may also view census records by accessing the paid subscription service Ancestry.com for free on computers at SHSMO’s Columbia Research Center.

Cemetery Records

Headstones usually give the year of birth and death or the full birth and death dates which may assist genealogists in locating newspaper obituaries. SHSMO has a large collection of indexed cemetery inscriptions from all over the state but not all Missouri burials will be found in the transcriptions. Small family plots in remote places such as farmers’ fields are easily missed even by the most dedicated cemetery book compilers. Of the cemeteries that were surveyed, some included headstones that could no longer be read as they had disintegrated into rubble. Also, individuals often chose to mark their graves in unconventional ways or financial hardships necessitated such practices. We have one account of an old woman whose grave was marked by her cast iron kettle. Nevertheless, most Society patrons can make progress by using our cemetery inscription book collection.

Probate Court Records

Wills, estate settlements, and guardianship records can be helpful in establishing family relationships as well as determining approximate birth and death dates. SHSMO has indexes to early wills of some counties that were transcribed by genealogists, but does not have probate court records. Copies of original probate documents must be obtained from the Clerk of Probate Court where the will was filed, or from the Missouri State Archives.

Other Records

The SHSMO does not have a strong collection of hospital or physician's records, undertaker records, baptismal or church records, records of fraternal organizations, school records, 20th century military records, family Bible records, employment records, or applications for insurance policies, but all of these materials can be helpful to the genealogist. Dates of birth and death can sometimes be found in biographies from county histories or in compiled family genealogies, some of which are in SHSMO’s collection.

Census Records

Since 1790, every ten years, the census of the United States has been taken by the federal government.  All census schedules are also available from the National Archives and its branches. Researchers should remember that census records often contain misspellings, inaccuracies, and omissions.

The SHSMO collection contains census records for Missouri: 1830-1880, 1900-1930.

National Archives

Federal Population Censuses

  • Before 1850: The head of household is named but other persons are not named, only enumerated by sex in age groups.
  • Beginning in 1850: Names of all free persons are given, with age, sex, color, occupation, value of property, and birthplace (state or country).
  • Beginning in 1880: The birthplace is also given (state or country) of the mother and father of each person.

The 1890 census was destroyed by fire in Washington D.C., except for a special schedule to that census listing living Civil War Union veterans or their widows. The State Historical Society of Missouri's Columbia Research Center has the Union Veteran schedule of 1890 for Missouri and Kentucky.

Indexes

SHSMO has composite indexes to the Missouri censuses of 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, and 1870; individual indexes to each Missouri county for 1840 and 1850; indexes to some Missouri counties for other census years; and indexes to many early censuses of other states.

Other Schedules

SHSMO has microfilm of the mortality, agricultural, and industrial schedules to the censuses of Missouri for 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880; the 1880 schedule of defective, dependent, and delinquent classes; and the 1850 and 1860 Missouri slave schedules. The mortality schedules list persons who died during the year preceding the taking of the census.

Federal Agricultural Census (1850–1880)

Researchers often overlook the agriculture census; however it contains a wealth of information about individual farmers. The agriculture census schedule was usually given to all free persons who produced goods valued at $100 or more, but census-takers often overlooked this rule, allowing farmers who produced goods of lesser value to also provide information.

The census offers an array of data concerning an individual farmer’s operation and production, including the value and acreage of the farm and whether it was owned or rented. The census also provides details about the number of livestock owned, production of crops, and use of machinery. Each category is split into subdivisions; for instance, the livestock category is subdivided into horses, dairy and non-dairy cows, swine, and sheep.

Searching the agriculture census schedules is similar to searching the population schedules. Both are arranged by county and township and the family number found in the population census corresponds to the family number in the agriculture census.

The agriculture census can be useful for both historical and genealogical researchers. For historians, it provides details about farming trends, types of produce and livestock, and the economic status of farmers. A genealogist can potentially find detailed accounts of an ancestor’s farming operation. Regardless of one’s research goals, the census provides insight into nineteenth-century agricultural practices and economy.

Federal Industrial Census (1850–1880)

Industrial schedules list businesses and facts concerning each business. Although not as valuable to genealogical researchers as the population census, the information in the industrial schedules has important uses for researchers studying economic and sociological trends from the mid-to-late nineteenth century.

Like the population schedules, the industrial schedules are arranged by county and then by townships or other divisions within each county. In addition to the name of the individual company and the type of businesses or product manufactured, census takers recorded power sources, machinery descriptions, the average number of employees of each sex, wages paid, materials used, and kinds, quantities, and values of production. The amount and type of information on the census increased as the century passed. There are few better tools for assessing Missouri’s economic growth in this era than the industrial census.

Federal Slave Schedules (1850–1860)

Slave schedules list only the slave owners by name. Slaves are enumerated by sex and age.

The schedules described above are arranged by county, and except for a few of the mortality schedules, are not indexed and cannot be searched by Society staff members.

Missouri State Censuses

The Territory of Missouri took censuses in 1814, 1817, and 1819. The State of Missouri took censuses in 1821, 1824, every four years from 1824 through 1868, and 1876, the last year. Most of these Territorial and State Censuses no longer exist. The available census are listed below:

At the State Historical Society of Missouri:

  • 1817 - St. Charles Territorial Censuses (transcription)
  • 1819 - St. Charles Territorial Censuses (transcription)
  • 1840 - Rives County (transcription)
  • 1844 - Callaway County (microfilm), Marion County (transcription)
  • 1852 - St. Charles County (transcription)
  • 1864 - Gasconade County (transcription)
  • 1868 - Cape Girardeau, Ste. Genevieve, and Webster counties (all microfilm)
  • 1876 - Benton, Callaway, Cape Girardeau, Christian, Greene, Holt, Howard, McDonald, Montgomery, Osage, Phelps, Reynolds, and St. Francois counties (all microfilm) Butler, Iron and Texas counties (transcriptions).

At the Missouri State Archives:

  • 1840 - New Madrid, Newton, Pike, Randolph, Ray, Rives (later Henry), Shelby, Stoddard and Warren counties (all transcriptions)
  • 1844 - Callaway County (microfilm); Greene County (transcription)
  • 1868 - Cape Girardeau County (microfilm)
  • 1876 - Benton, Cape Girardeau, Callaway, Christian, Greene, Holt, Howard, McDonald, Montgomery, Osage, Phelps, Reynolds, and St. Francois counties (all microfilm)
  • 1880 - Special Schuyler county census (microfilm)

Visitors can also access the federal census, but not Missouri state censuses, through the online paid subscription service Ancestry.com for free on computers at SHSMO’s Columbia Research Center.

Land Records

Land records begin with European settlement in North America and are among the most complete public records in existence. Genealogists use land records to establish when and where an individual was living at a specific time and to obtain clues about familial relationships. Although researching land records can be challenging, it can also be a rewarding experience for the family historian.

Official Records

Land records of Missouri are unique in that land has been granted by three nations: France, Spain, and the United States.

Land records in Missouri, 1804-1811, deal mostly with individual private claims made by early settlers to obtain a clear title from the United States government to land which they had owned or had been granted under French or Spanish governments. Recording of land titles began September 16, 1805, in St. Louis.

Land sales in Missouri were delayed until 1818 as a result of the 1812 New Madrid Earthquake because those with “injured land” were entitled by Congressional Act to new land from the public domain.

Records of land transactions of Missouri are available through the Missouri State Archives. Records include: Recorder of Land Titles, 1805-1872 (these contain the Spanish concessions); the Livres Terriens, the land books of the French inhabitants of St. Louis; United States Land Sales, 1818-1904; and Individual Private Claims, 1818-1852.

After property was transferred into private ownership, transactions regarding the property such as deeds, liens, and mortgages, were recorded and kept at the recorder’s office at the county courthouse.

While the SHSMO does not have land records in its collection, researchers can find land records at the recorder’s office at the county courthouse or on microfilm at the Missouri State Archives. Researchers will need to know the name of the purchaser, the approximate date of purchase, and the county in which the land was located.

Marriage Records

Researching marriages can be challenging, but knowing where to look to for records can make one’s search much more fruitful.

SHSMO Resources

Over the years, researchers have donated privately compiled indexes to early marriages in many counties. If available, staff members will check a county index, if the names of individuals and county are specified. SHSMO has very few indexes to divorce records. SHSMO does not have marriage or divorce records in its collections.

Prior to February 1853, the General Assembly occasionally granted divorces. If a divorce was obtained prior to 1853, a staff member can check the personal acts section in An Index to the Statute Laws of Missouri, by James S. Garland, to see if the divorce was granted by legislative act. In territorial days, divorces were granted in the general court; the jurisdiction was changed to superior court and circuit court in 1825. All courts of common pleas were abolished in 1875, except those in cities exceeding 3500 population. The jurisdiction of existing courts of common pleas coincides with that of the circuit court, and the Clerk of the Circuit Court has both.

Other Resources

Copies of marriage records must be obtained from the County Recorder of the county where the marriage is recorded. Unless you plan to document your genealogy, you will not need a certified copy and may obtain such a record from an index, or a film copy elsewhere. Fees for certified copies vary from county to county, depending on the type of service they have, their charge for notarizing if required, etc. Write to the County Recorder of Deeds except St. Louis, write to: St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds, Archives Department, Genealogy and Historical Research, City Hall, Room 127-A, St. Louis, MO 63103 and Kansas City, write to: Recorder of Deeds Office, Jackson County Courthouse, 415 East 12th Street, Kansas City, MO 64106.

Marriage records are not necessarily recorded in the county where they are performed. Prior to June 26, 1881, no marriage license was required; the marriage was recorded at any convenient courthouse. Since 1881 licenses have been required. A portion of the license is returned to the Recorder where the license was obtained and the marriage is recorded in that county only. A marriage license is valid anywhere inside the boundaries of the state.

Common law marriages have been prohibited in Missouri since June 20, 1921; persons involved in such relationships have no legal interest in common property unless both names are on deeds, etc. A law prohibiting bigamous marriages has existed in Missouri since 1865. The 1835 Missouri law forbidding marriage between whites and blacks was repealed August 15, 1969. If you seek a record of such a marriage prior to that date, records from adjacent states where such marriages were lawful might be helpful. Missouri law did not permit slaves to marry. After the Civil War former slaves could marry and the law provided that they could legitimize their children by listing them with the marriage record.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Bureau of Vital Records in Jefferson City has maintained an index to marriage and divorce records in Missouri since July, 1948.

Copies of divorce records must be obtained from the Clerk of the Circuit Court of the county where the divorce was granted, after 1853, except St. Louis, write to: City Circuit Court Clerk, City Hall, 12th & Market, St. Louis, MO 63103 and Kansas City, write to: Judicial Records Department, Jackson County Courthouse, 415 East 12th Street, Kansas City, MO 64106.

County records, mostly prior to 1900, have been microfilmed and are available at the Missouri State Archives. These filmed records include deeds, marriages, circuit and probate court proceedings, birth and death records (1883-1893; 1910-1962), and a few naturalization papers.

Military Records

Military service and pension records can offer an intimate glimpse into the life of an ancestor. Service records often include a physical description of the individual and list the battles they may have fought in. Pension records can provide a wealth of details about the veteran such as the names of his wife and children, date of marriage, service-related injuries, and places where he lived before and after service.

SHSMO Resources

While SHSMO is not an official repository for original military personnel records, it does have books and rolls of microfilm that include lists of soldiers’ names, biographies of military service members, and reports of military activities.

SHSMO’s website has a newspaper index to subjects and individuals’ names. At this time, the index includes St. Louis newspapers dated, 1808-1828, which can be helpful in locating items concerning early Indian wars and the War of 1812. The index also includes the Liberty Tribune, 1843-1869, and the Columbia Missouri Statesman, 1844-1885, which are useful for Mexican War and Civil War research.

SHSMO has microfilmed indexes to the following records held by the National Archives in Washington, D.C.: Index to War of 1812 Pension Application FilesMilitary Bounty Land Warrants, 1815-1858Index to "Old War" Pension Files, 1815-1926; and Index to Mexican War Pension Files, 1846-1848. All of these are arranged alphabetically by surname of pensioner or applicant.

The 1890 Missouri Census Index of Civil War Veterans or Their Widows, a printed index to the special census of 1890 microfilm, is also available. This index contains mostly Union veterans, but some Confederates are also listed. It covers veterans living in all Missouri counties except Daviess, DeKalb, Dodge, Gentry, and Van Buren.

Researchers can search SHSMO’s print collection through the University of Missouri’s online card catalog Merlin for regimental histories, Adjutant Generals’ reports, military rosters, and muster rolls as well as lists of personnel, official government publications, and publications compiled by patriotic organizations. Annual reports from the Confederate Veterans and the Ex-Confederates Associations often contain lists of men who died during the year and/or joined during the year. The Confederate Veteran magazine (1894-1932) contains many names of soldiers from all over the United States and it is indexed. The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies contains letters and reports that are particularly useful for tracing activities of military units. The 128 volume set is indexed. The indexed Missouri Historical Review may contain or refer to articles about battles and biographies of specific individuals. SHSMO's publication policies apply to this material, and so, some items may be photocopied only in part and some not at all.

The following sources are on microfilm and may be borrowed through interlibrary loan: Missouri Adjutant General Reports for the years 1861-65, 1897-98, 1915-16, and 1917-20 (three rolls, poorly indexed); and Missouri Confederates: A Microfilm Collection of Lists of Confederate Men Taken from Various Sources in the State Historical Society of Missouri (one roll, not indexed).

Several Civil War indexes are available for sale from the SHSMO.  They include Missouri Union Burials: Missouri Units and the 2 volume set Selected Union Burials: Missouri Units, which list burial places of some Union soldiers who fought in Missouri units. The index Grand Army of the Republic--Missouri Division--Index to Death Rolls, 1882-1940 lists deaths of about 10,000 Union veterans who died in Missouri between 1882 and 1940. The book Index of Residents, State Federal Soldiers’ Home of Missouri, St. James shows names of Union veterans and their wives or widows who went to live at the home during their final years.  Our Index to Missouri Military Pensioners, 1883 gives names, counties, and federal pension certificate numbers for all disabled Union veterans and widows who were receiving a pension as of January, 1883.  For more information on these and other books produced by the State Historical Society of Missouri, see SHSMO’s publications page.

Other Resources

Missouri State Archives

Complete records of men and women who served in Missouri units from 1812-1940 are stored at the Missouri State Archives. Two indexes are available online: World War I Military Service Cards Database and Missouri's Union Provost Marshal Papers, 1861-1866. When requesting a search for records give as much information as possible concerning the individual. For a Civil War record state whether service was Union or Confederate.

Adjutant General of Missouri

Records of men and women who served in Missouri units after 1940 may be obtained from the archivist of the Adjutant General of Missouri, 2302 Militia Drive, Jefferson City, MO, 65101. When making a request, provide the full name of the person and all known details, such as place of residence, birth and death dates, dates of service, and name of unit, if known.

National Archives

The National Archives has United States military records dated 1775-1912, with a few as late as 1917, and burial records of soldiers to 1939. Fires in Washington, D.C. in 1800 and 1814 destroyed many Revolutionary War records.  The National Archives also has many veteran benefit and pension records relating to military service between 1775 and 1934 excluding Confederate and World War I service.  World War I draft registration cards are available through the National Archives.  

Federal military service and pension records may be obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration for a fee. Researchers can find more information about ordering military service and pension records on the National Archives website.

Federal Records Centers

Many more recent records are at the branches of the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (MPRC) in St. Louis, as follows:

  • Army Branch - records of Army officers separated between June 30, 1917, and October 6, 1945, Army enlisted men between October 31, 1912, and October 6, 1945. Also Army Air Corps and Army Air Force personnel records for these years.
  • Air Force Branch - records for Air Force officers and enlisted men separated since September 1947.
  • Navy Branch - records of Navy enlisted men who served after 1885 and Marine officers and enlisted men after 1895.

In July, 1973 a fire at the MPRC destroyed about 80% of the records for Army personnel discharged between November 1, 1912, and January 1, 1960. About 75% of the records for Air Force personnel with surnames from Hubbard through “Z,” discharged between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964, were destroyed. Some alternate information may be obtained from records in the various state offices of the Adjutant General and in the offices of veteran service, military, and patriotic organizations.

Native-American Genealogy

Beginning in the 1820s, through a series of treaties between individual Native American tribes and the federal government, Native Americans ceded their claim to territory in Missouri and settled in present-day Oklahoma and Kansas. After their removal, Native Americans were not permitted to live in the state, making it extremely difficult for genealogists to trace Native American ancestry in Missouri.

SHSMO Resources

The SHSMO reference library has a splendid Native American collection for the historian, but our published sources are incomplete for tracing Native American genealogy. SHSMO does not have lists of rolls of Native Americans in Missouri.

Other Resources

Some agencies you might find helpful in your research:

U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is responsible for the management and administration of Native American land held in trust by the federal government and for administering services to Native Americans. The BIA website features a useful Native American genealogy guide.

National Archives

Valuable records of federal government agencies, including records from various field offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, have been deposited throughout the United States. National Archives records, 1830-1940, deal chiefly with Native Americans who maintained their tribal status. These records include lists relating to Native American removal, annuity pay rolls, and annual tribal census rolls of Native Americans who were living on reservations. The Bureau of Indian Affairs census rolls are separate from and unrelated to the federal decennial census schedules.

Oklahoma Historical Society

The Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) has a large collection of Native American records which pertain to the Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Choctaw, and Chickasaw. In addition, the OHS has many printed census rolls and other secondary source materials on the 65 tribes which made their way to Oklahoma.