Genealogy Guides

A wedding party poses for a picture beneath the trees.

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.