Missouri Government records cover a broad range of genealogy subject areas that can help you as part of your research, such as land ownership, courts, taxes, and naturalization’s. Given that Missouri court records cover such a wide selection of topics, they could aid you in many different ways. As an example, they could aid you in finding ancestors’ residences, identify occupations, locate financial information, determine citizenship status, or shed light on relationships between individuals. The whole thing relies upon on the type of court records that the ancestors” names show up in. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.
Missouri Courthouse records change extensively from county to county in both level of quality and volume. You will find different kinds of court records that are most likely to possess information related for your genealogical research below.
Missouri Court Records
The office of the clerk of the county court in every county has records of proceedings, common pleas indexes, road and right-of-way records, death and birth records, surveyor’s records, and chancery minute books on file. Bonds and commissions, stray notices, wolf scalps, tax books, real estate assessments, and county treasurer’s notes may also be found in that office in each county. Researchers should note that the county court was often known as the court of common pleas or the chancery court in certain counties.
The clerk of the circuit court office holds records that include the following: Divorces, Debt, Dissolution of Partnerships, Adoptions, Judgment, Tax Fee Book, Direct and Indirect Indexes
Circuit court criminal records indexes can also be found there. The circuit court has jurisdiction over adoptions. The clerk’s office also holds petitions, declarations, and certificates of naturalization, as well as records of granted citizenship. However, some deeds also contain records relating to naturalization.
St. Louis was a gateway for many families, thanks to its history and central location. St. Louis is home to Washington University, which has an American Culture Studies Program. Program participants have worked with the Missouri State Archives to create a searchable database. That database contains chancery, civil, and criminal records for the St. Louis Circuit Court. Researchers can visit the website to learn more about that record project.
The National Archives Central Plains Region holds some federal records about residents of Missouri. The United States district and circuit court records contain dockets, judgment books, and case files. Those records can be found on microfilm and date back to 1822. See Also Research In Court Records.
Missouri Land Records
The United States, France, and Spain were all responsible for granting land in what is now Missouri at various points in history. The Missouri State Archives holds original French and Spanish land grant papers. On September 16, 1805, the United States started recording French and Spanish land titles in St. Louis.
In 1818, United States land offices began granting land in what is now Missouri. The Ozarks Genealogical Society has Springfield Land Office Abstracts from 1835 to 1846 and an index called “Purchasers of U.S. Land Sales in Missouri, 1818-1846 (vols. 1-3)” available to researchers. Original U.S. land sale records can be found at the Missouri State Archives in Record Group 5, which consists of 17 rolls of microfilm.
If a description of the property in question is known, the researcher can contact the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States Land Office for copies of the original patents for the land. It may also be useful to search the online database for the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records.
Other land records that can be found at the Missouri State Archives include:
- Alphabetical Index to War of 1812 Military Lands of North Missouri
- Savannah Land Grant Pre-emption Grants from 1845 Through 1857 (Indexed)
- Platte Purchase Records
- Land Office Reports
- Microfilmed Copies of American State Papers, Volumes 1 – 8
- United States General Land Office Reports, 1828 to 1859.
Seminary lands, swamp lands, saline lands, school lands, and other useful records can also be found there.
There was a recorder of deeds in every county. That office holds direct and indirect deed indexes, as well as administrator’s deeds, quit claim deeds, mortgages and indexes to them, marriage license applications, marriage records and certificates, military discharge papers, and other related documents. The recorder of deeds holds all marriage records.
The Office of Recorder of Deeds records and files instruments of writing affecting real property or personal property, subdivision plats, federal and state tax liens, and other instruments of writing. Also, the Recorder’s Office issues marriage licenses, and in accordance with the Uniform Commercial Code files termination statements. All recorded instruments are available for public research. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research
- Missouri Land Claims (1835; reprint, New Orleans: Polyanthos, 1976) – beginning in 1812, is the 1832 report from the Commissioner of the General Land Office (GLO) to the 24th Congress
- Early Settlers of Missouri as Taken From Land Claims in the Missouri Territory (1834; reprint, Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1986) – contains records compiled and indexed from the American State Papers.
- BLM Land Records (glorecords.blm.gov)
- Missouri Land Record Books (amazon.com)
Missouri Probate Records
Each county holds its own probate records. However, the Missouri Supreme Court, Missouri State Archives, and Genealogical Society of Utah have worked together to place some records on microfilm. The microfilmed estate records can be especially helpful to researchers. Available records include all of the following and more: Index to Probate Court Papers, Court Records, Executor’s Bonds, Letters of Testamentary, Inventories, Sale Bills, Guardian and Curators’ Records, Court Appointments.
Case files, probate court records, and probate minute books may also be included. Researchers should also look for estate appraisal documents, guardian and administrator bonds, letters of administration, bills of sale, wills, docket books, and related documentation. The Missouri State Archives has an index of probate files for St. Louis from 1802 to 1900. Probate files for St. Louis up until 1865 can also be found on the website for the archives in .pdf form.
The County Probate Division has jurisdiction over the estates of deceased persons. The Division hears all litigation involving trusts, including those trusts established in wills. Disputes involving transfers to minors, personal custodianships and durable powers of attorney are also heard in the Division. In the smaller counties, probate matters are handled in the same office as the associate circuit court office. (In larger counties, there will be a separate probate court clerk’s office and separate probate judges/commissioners). See Also Guide to U.S. Probate Records Research
Missouri Tax Records
Some original tax records can be found at the Missouri Historical Society. Some can also be found at the Western Historical Manuscript Collection at the University of Missouri. However, many of the records that still exist must be researched in the individual clerk of the county court offices. Tax records for several counties can also be found on microfilm at the Missouri State Archives. The Archives Local Records Inventory Database should be consulted in order to determine which records are available.
Anyone who purchased Missouri land from the federal government before 1850 didn’t have to pay taxes on that land until 5 years after they bought it. Therefore, if a record indicates that a person had land and livestock, but was not paying taxes on the land, it’s likely that they had purchased that land within the 5 years prior to the date that the record was created.
The state auditor’s office kept track of some early lists of delinquent taxes. However, those records are now part of the collection called “Capitol Fire Documents,” which can be found at the Missouri State Archives. See Also Guide to U.S. Tax Records Research
Missouri Immigration & Naturalization Records
The Circuit Court Clerk office holds Naturalization records, including petitions, declarations of intention, certificates, and certificates of allegiance, and granting of citizenship are also located in the clerk’s office, as well as an index to civil case files. Some naturalization records have been found with the deeds. See Also Guide to U.S. Immigration Records Research
Missouri County & City Government Links
Missouri contains 114 counties and one independent city. Each county is the local level of government within its borders. The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. If you know of a Missouri county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please contact us so we may edit our database. Missouri State Government is located in Jefferson City.