Genealogy Guides

Three images clothesline clipped to a string.


Researchers at the State Historical Society of Missouri will find a wide variety of published and unpublished sources to help them discover their family history.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 collection offers 4,500 newspapers 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.

The Society’s print 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 print 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 the Society’s manuscript holdings.

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

All researchers are welcome to use the Society’s resources. Holdings may be requested for use at any of the six SHSMO Research Centers but do not circulate outside the Society’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 the Society. There is no charge for reference assistance or use of the collections for patrons visiting the Society in person.