|Government/public records||Family or personal papers||Business records|
|Records of organizations and associations||Military papers||Reference form|
Manuscript repositories hold unique sources for genealogists, but these documents (also known as primary sources) generally are not the best place to start finding ancestors. Unfortunately, The State Historical Society of Missouri does not hold many government/public records that genealogists commonly use to locate their family. Once names and dates of ancestors are known, then genealogists are able to embark on their family history in manuscript collections.
Simply stated, manuscripts put history into genealogy research. Primary sources, in a sense, help make ancestors come to life. The letters, diaries, memoirs, and photographs provide a glimpse into the past where historians can learn and understand the innermost thoughts and feelings of the people that lived before us. Genealogists may find love letters between great-grandparents that describe their courtship days or diaries that express political views, religious beliefs, or the adversities experienced by an immigrant. Diaries are wonderful sources for understanding the day-to-day events that shaped an ancestor's life. Manuscript repositories may have early business records that explain how people worked, how much they were paid, or what products they made or bought. Records of clubs or other organizations may reveal an ancestor's interests and the actions they took to better themselves or their society. Family historians may learn about communities and neighborhoods by researching documents created in the places where family members lived. Manuscript sources provide the stories that help descendants relive the hardships and hopes and the ups and downs of an ancestor's day-to-day life. These life stories add more to a family's history than to a family's tree, and learning how early relatives lived is the most rewarding part of genealogy research.
There are five types of manuscript sources most often used by genealogists at The State Historical Society of Missouri: 1.government/public records, 2.family or personal papers, 3.business records, 4. records of organizations and associations, and 5. papers regarding military actions.
The government/public records are most familiar to genealogists. These include such items as estate, land, tax, marriage, birth, death, and census records compiled by our local, state and national governments. The State Historical Society of Missouri's government/public holdings are random. We unfortunately do not have records for every legal transaction that occurred in Missouri; therefore, genealogists should first contact the Missouri State Archives for these documents. The State Historical Society of Missouri has census records, as does the National Archives.
Family and personal papers are the items genealogists hope their early relatives left behind. These are the letters, diaries, photographs, and scrapbooks kept and collected by families or individuals. If these papers do exist, genealogists immediately know that their ancestors had enough forethought and appreciation of history to preserve these documents for future generations. Many family historians are not that lucky, as these types of papers do not exist. Genealogists can still use the papers of other families and individuals to see what life was like in the past. For example, perhaps an ancestor lived in Kahoka, Missouri. Even though there is no relation to the Hiller Family of Kahoka, their papers can reveal details about the community that are not found anywhere else. Maybe a great-grandmother lived in the same area and the Hiller Family Papers can help an historian understand what life was like in rural Missouri during the nineteenth century.
Some personal collections may hold relevant genealogical notes about ancestors. The Ethelda Henry Genealogical Collection contains notes, obituaries, and family group sheets of over 400 Boone County and central Missouri families. The Lilburn A. Kingsbury Collection includes genealogical notes, correspondence, and lists of Howard County, Missouri families, including some information about African-American families. While these two collections are beneficial for genealogists trying to locate names and dates of ancestors, they are rare among The State Historical Society of Missouri's holdings. Descendants searching for family members outside of central Missouri generally will not find these types of collections at our repository.
Business records can help family historians learn how people worked, how much they were paid, and the products they made and bought. The State Historical Society of Missouri has numerous records of businesses in Missouri.
The Lucy Wortham James Collection contains records of the Meramec Iron Works near St. James, Missouri. This collection documents an early mining and smelting operation. A family historian may discover what it was like for an ancestor to work in the iron industry during the 1800s by researching the company's work reports and wage books.
An early general store in Lexington, Missouri is documented in the Aull Family Business Records from 1830 to 1862. The family also opened stores in Independence, Liberty, and Richmond. Perhaps an ancestor immigrated to Oregon or California on one of the overland trails. Before embarking on their expedition, many travelers' stocked-up on supplies in the settlements along the western Missouri border. A general store, such as the one operated by the Aull Family, sold merchandise to immigrants; therefore, family historians may learn what dry-goods were needed to make the arduous journey to places out west.
The State Historical Society of Missouri has records of individual churches and large denominational organizations such as the Missouri East Conference, United Methodist Church Records among its collections regarding religion. Locating ancestors' names in church records first of all tells genealogists what religious beliefs their family members held. Secondly, these documents may describe church and social functions attended by the family. In the records of the Presbytery of Missouri--an administrative agency of Presbyterian Churches in Missouri--historians can locate such documents as church histories; elder, committee, ministerial, and circuit rider appointments; attendance statistics; among other materials.
The papers of University of Missouri faculty, the records of university social groups, documents relating to school districts and individual schools, and other papers of educational organizations can be located at The State Historical Society of Missouri. If ancestors attended or worked at the University of Missouri, genealogists may find records about them in such collections as the President's Office Papers dated 1892 to 1966 or the Athenaean Literary Society Records dated 1933-1958. Family historians may also want to contact the University of Missouri-Columbia Archives for additional sources regarding the university. The state's high schools are documented in the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, Records. These papers provide an overview of faculty, courses offered, and condition of schools throughout Missouri from 1892 to 1962. Family historians can begin to understand the educational qualities of their ancestors by researching these collections.
The records of social and fraternal organizations, such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) of Auxvasse, Missouri and the Daughters of the American Revolution allow us to understand the social circles of ancestors. Local chapters of the WCTU formed to fight the consumption of alcohol and bring awareness to the problems associated with drinking. Genealogists may be thrilled to find out that a grandmother or aunt joined the WCTU. This information would tell family historians much about the moral values of their ancestors.
Finally, genealogists also can find military sources at The State Historical Society of Missouri. Our repository has records that document U.S.military conflicts from the pre-statehood era to the Vietnam War, but some of our best sources are those dealing with the Civil War. Muster rolls or equipment lists may provide answers to which side a ancestor fought for or in which unit he served. Family historians may discover letters or diaries written by soldiers who witnessed firsthand the battles and horrors of the war. If these types of sources do not exist for an ancestor, genealogists may want to consult another soldier's papers from the same military unit. Family historians can learn more about the places in which a family memeber fought through the letters and diaries of other soldiers. Civil War letters and diaries oftentimes provide vivid descriptions of the carnage during battle, but records from the homefront are also of interest to family historians. These letters describe the constant stuggles families faced during the war. Most of The State Historical Society of Missouri's collections relate to the Civil War in Missouri and the surrounding states. Although we have many collections of this type, please keep in mind that The State Historical Society of Missouri does not have records for every unit and every soldier from Missouri.
If you are a genealogist who is interested in learning about how your Missouri ancestors lived, please check our subject guides for collections regarding your family. The State Historical Society of Missouri's reference staff will conduct preliminary research for genealogists. You may contact us by completing our on-line reference form. Make sure that your complete name and mailing address are on the form before you send it. To ensure a thorough response from us, please include the full names, the locations (city and county), the birth and death dates of your ancestors, and the type of information that you are wanting to find. The reference staff will check for matches in the name and subject index. Keep in mind that we cannot conduct extensive searches, so please do not send more than three names at one time. If we locate numerous references for your family, we suggest that you make a visit to our repository to research the materials firsthand. Good luck with your family history.