MISSOURI FAMILY HISTORY
EVERYONE, PLEASE NOTE
Everyone, family historian or not, is urged to speak with the old folks in his or her family, make and save careful notes, and caption the pictures in their family album. When the old folks help with the captioning, they tend to recall many elements of family history. Often, people of working age are unable to devote the time needed for family-history research in libraries and archives, but usually only younger people have the opportunity to learn from the old folks while the old folks are able to remember.
Anyone who seeks to learn of his or her family history is urged to join their local genealogical or historical society very early in his or her research, and, unless all their ancestors are from one limited area, also join a regional or state society. Of course, I recommend the Missouri State Genealogical Association, for which please see the links below.
OLD MISSOURI VITAL RECORDS MUST BE OPENED
Many, many Missourians are keenly interested in family history. However, some are impeded by a problem that exists with regard to the State Vital Records Office and which, indeed, would exist in any similar situation.
It is appropriate to keep certain vital records private for a reasonable time. So, when the State assumed the keeping of vital records in 1910, there was no immediate need to provide for opening of the records. But 90 years have passed.
The time has arrived for microfilm copies of the Missouri vital records (72 years old or older), and indexes at the State Vital Records Office in the Department of Health to be made available to the public at the State Archives. A 72-year interval is not arbitrary. Owing to the Federal regulation that census data remain closed for 72 years, that interval has become a de facto standard in the USA. A 72-year interval suffices for privacy.
Justification: Family Historians must be enabled to study record after record, not just seek one record at a time, and especially not have to work through an intermediary person or to depend on an index. That is essential, because of the many problems in interpretation of hand-written records, many typos, many spelling variations in names, even many variations in names themselves. There are many entries in which the surnames are mis-spelled.
Here is an example. One researcher's great-grandma's married name was Zakrzewski, a name that, with the silent 'k', is more often butchered than not. She died in St. Louis some time after May, 1910. Surely, her death is recorded in the State Vital Records office The only practical way to find her death data would be to search all the surnames that begin "Za", "Ze", "Sa" or "Se" in that time period. Repeated tries thru the Vital Records Office have been costly, but not successful.
In another case, a researcher submitted formal requests and fees to a vital records office (not Jefferson City) for his aunt's birth and death dates. He knew, and stated, that she was born and had died in the 1890s. They reported finding neither birth nor death records. As it happens, those older birth and death records are open. When he reviewed the microfilms, he found both her birth and death data. And he found that her birth name differed from her baptismal name and from her name at death! The latter had been the only name that he had known for her. Perhaps that vital records office's index cards were out of sequence. More likely, they had her recorded by only one of her names, not the one by which he knew her.
Because hand-written capital letters are the most troublesome, it often happens that indexes are severely deficient. Yet a governmental office can only check via an index. The Soundex system is similarly deficient, for it, too, depends on the surname initial.
What is needed is to add to Sect. 193.245 of RSMO 1994 a new sub-paragraph as follows:
(4) The department shall provide microfilms of all vital records that are 72 years old or older, and microfilms of indexes to all such records, to the State Archives for study by the public. In January of each year, the department shall provide microfilms of all vital records that have become 72 years old or older within the prior year, and microfilms of indexes to all such records, to the State Archives for study by the public.
Please note that this would in no way interfere with the present practices of the vital records office.
The public will gain needed access only if the state law so requires. The law will only so require when the State Legislators and State Senators take action.
Not long ago, Rep. Bob Behnen introduced successful legislation to transfer death records older than 50 years from the Department of Health to the State Archives.
What can each of us do?
When it is again an approipriate time, PLEASE contact your state legislator and to introduce or co-sponsor a like bill in the up-coming session.
ASK candidates if they will support opening of all death records and birth records 72 years old or older!
Missouri State Genealogical Association Main Site
My Missouri State Genealogical Association Journal Site
Missouri Genealogy Help
Missouri Family History
Missouri Military Units, Officers, 1865
Other Missouri Genealogy Info (USGenWeb)
Further Missouri Genealogy Info (USGenWeb)
St Louis Gene. Soc. Library Catalog - Missouri Genealogy Info
Missouri Manuscripts Collections Links
State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia
Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis
Genealogy Library, Mid-Continent Public Library
Missouri State Archives
State Vital Records Office
Missouri Records Sources
Dave Lossos' excellent St. Louis page
Concordia Historical Institute, Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod
(Includes United Church of Christ Archives), St. Louis
St Louis County Public Library - Genealogy Collection
Western Historical Manuscript Collection - Columbia
Western Historical Manuscript Collection - Rolla
Western Historical Manuscript Collection - Kansas City
Western Historical Manuscript Collection - St. Louis
Please see my St. Louis page.
Please see my General Genealogy page.
Return to Bob Doerr's Genealogy Page
Page modified: 23 Jan 2006