One of the most valuable finding aids in the State Historical Society is often overlooked. Indexes to early Missouri newspapers contain hundreds of thousands of entries that can lead a researcher to lengthy articles or short mentions of many topics in Missouri history. The newspapers indexed were published in the following times and places:
Boonville Weekly Advertiser (Jan 2, 1880-Dec 30, 1927)
Boonville Eagle (May 2, 1868-July 12, 1878)
Boonville Observer (March 13, 1844-December 27, 1856)
Boonville Western Emigrant (January 10, 1839-March 26, 1840)
Columbia Missouri Intelligencer (May 4, 1830-December 12, 1835)
Columbia Missourian (August 2, 1916-December 31, 1929)
Columbia University Missourian (September 14, 1908-August 1, 1916)
Columbia Statesman (1843-1886)
Fayette Missouri Intelligencer (June 29, 1826-April 9, 1830)
Franklin Missouri Intelligencer (April 23, 1819-June 16, 1826)
Jackson Independent Patriot (December 23, 1820-December 15, 1826)
Jackson Missouri Herald (August 13, 1819-August 26, 1820)
Jefferson City Inquirer (September 10, 1840-January 26, 1861)
Jefferson City Jeffersonian Republican (April 30, 1831-August 10, 1844)
Jefferson City People’s Tribune (October 4, 1865-December 26, 1883)
Jefferson City Daily Tribune (January 1, 1875-December 30, 1926)
Jefferson City Weekly Tribune (January 2, 1884-December 31, 1884; January 4, 1888-December 27, 1888)
Liberty Tribune (April 4, 1846-January 29, 1869)
St. Louis Missouri Argus (May 22, 1835-July 4, 1840)
St. Louis Missouri Gazette (July 26, 1808-March 6, 1822)
St. Louis Missouri Republican (March 20, 1822-December 23, 1828)
Each of these newspapers printed not only local news but also important stories from nearby counties and around the state. Therefore, it is a good research strategy to check all the indexed articles covering the desired time period, regardless of where the newspaper was published. This method proved useful for a patron looking for an ancestor who had died during a cholera epidemic in Marion County in the 1830s. He did not have a date of death. Although Howard and Boone Counties are not in northeast Missouri, a check of the indexes for those newspapers revealed not only the ancestor's date of death but also a story indicating that he had been a doctor who had sacrificed his own health caring for epidemic victims in the Palmyra area. The patron said that he had unsuccessfully searched for this information for twenty years.
The Society now houses over forty million pages of Missouri newspapers on microfilm. Patrons can easily access these newspapers if they have a date and the location of an event, but many topics in historical research are not event-oriented. In such cases, subject indexing is essential. If you are researching a topic or an ancestor, please search the online index.
Topics appearing in the indexes are diverse and can include topics such as wars; early roads and transportation; church histories; steamboating; African American history and slavery; school histories; natural disasters; political history, including party activities and election results; crimes; bushwhackers, outlaws, and vigilantes; local buildings under construction or being demolished; town histories; activities of local clubs and organizations; businesses (both specific businesses and by industry); and itinerant shows and lecturers. Researchers should check not only a topic but also geographic locations with subtopics.
Each newspaper index naturally emphasizes local news. For example, the Columbia Missourian, 1908-1929, index refers to a multitude of articles on the University of Missouri and its students and faculty. The Liberty Tribune index, 1849-1869, points to many articles on slavery because of Clay County's proximity to plantation areas on the Missouri River. The 1808-1828 St. Louis newspaper indexes are excellent guides to information on Native Americans and the Indian wars.
In addition to the online index, the Society houses a growing collection of newspaper indexes in book form. These books are generally published by genealogical societies or private genealogists and tend to emphasize birth, marriage, and death notices in newspapers over items of general historical interest.
The St. Louis Mercantile Library holds the clippings file of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat newspaper. This file was "weeded" over the years, and although some clippings date to the late 1800s, most clippings fall within the 1920s-1980s time frame. For more information contact: John Neal Hoover, Chief Librarian, St. Louis Mercantile Library at University of Missouri-St. Louis, 8001 Natural Bridge Road, St. Louis, MO 63121-4499; Phone: 314-516-7240 or 314-516-7247; Fax: 314-516-7241; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The St. Louis Public Library's Web site includes an obituary index that covers the years 1900-1909, 1918-1919, 1942-1944, and 1992-1999. The death index includes death notices and burial permit listings printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Most of the online newspaper archives available on the internet will date only to the time that the newspaper publishers started using computers for archival purposes. It is rare to find online databases that cover decades before the 1980s. Most newspapers maintained clippings files before that time, however, and many of these files remain intact in the individual newspaper offices. The Missouri Press Association provides a list of Missouri newspaper publishers, many with links to those newspapers' web pages, so that you may inquire about clippings files or other finding aids for articles.
The internet sites NewsLibrary and GetLocalNews are both fine starting places for researchers who want to search major U. S. newspapers for the last decade or two. More sites for online newspaper searching are listed on the Mid-Continent Public Library's web page titled "Magazine and Newspaper Databases."