Wealth of resources can help trace your family’s roots

The days leading up to the holidays always seem to usher in some of the calmest nights of the whole year. Reflecting on your family’s history is one great way to take advantage of these peaceful evenings. Earlier installments in this series from the Missouri State Archives have focused on starting a family tree and discovering new information in old photographs, but once these avenues are exhausted, where should you turn for additional information?

“History is always just around the corner in Missouri,” said Secretary of State Jason Kander, who oversees the Missouri State Archives. “Taking a trip to visit a place of importance to previous generations can offer numerous insights into the past.”

At a family farm, for instance, you can trace your roots and add context to your grandparents’ stories. Or perhaps visit the family cemetery, taking careful note of birth and death dates.

Missouri’s wealth of resources also extends to cultural institutions such as local courthouses, historical societies, churches, libraries, museums, archives and genealogical societies across the state. These resources are frequently in possession of records that can help you fill in the family tree, and offer numerous research opportunities.

Even in cases where local institutions are unable to make these records accessible, they are frequently available at larger, regional genealogical research centers. Missouri’s most prominent family history hubs, some of which are listed below, all offer free access to a wealth of information.

• Midwest Genealogy Center, Independence — Part of the Mid-Continent Public Library, this facility houses nearly 750,000 on-site sources, including books, newspapers, census records, military records and Native American records.

• Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City — As the official repository for state government, the archives provides access to materials dating from 1770, including military, birth, death, census and land records.

• The Library Center, Springfield – The headquarters of the Springfield-Greene County Library offers access to census records, newspapers, historic maps and a large collection of Civil War materials from the southern portion of the state.

• Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center, St. Louis ­ The large collection of books, maps, historic newspapers, photographs, letters and manuscripts make this archive, located near Forest Park, a must-visit for St. Louis area genealogists.

• MissouriDigitalHeritage.com ­ Spearheaded by Kander’s office, this collaborative effort to expand the state’s historical information online makes available death certificates, military records and numerous other genealogical resources. Plus, with no car necessary to reach the website, MissouriDigitalHeritage.com is the perfect place to visit on an icy day.

Even if you’re already neck deep in documents and other new sources of information, don’t forget that there’s always more to learn! Check back next week for our final segment: chronicling and making the most of oral histories.

This is the third in a four-part series from Secretary of State Jason Kander’s office focusing on ways Missouri families can take advantage of holiday celebrations to better understand their past and improve their family records.

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