Residents can look at death certificates of famous Missourians such as author Laura Ingalls Wilder, composer John William "Blind" Boone and American outlaw Jesse James' brother, Frank James, using the Missouri State Archives website.
The website isn't limited to famous individuals, though. Online users can trace their own family heritage back decades using the Missouri State Archives website.
The Missouri State Archives is currently processing nearly 53,000 newly available death certificates so the documents are searchable online.
By state statute, death certificates are sealed closed for 50 years before being transferred to the state Archives, said Christina Miller, senior reference archivist. This means the office receives a new set of death certificates every year.
The Archives are processing about 52,800 death certificates from 1968 so they can be digitally imaged and indexed, Miller said. Death certificates from 1910-67 are currently available online.
Earlier this week, volunteers helped organize the death certificates into boxes and folders so they are prepped for scanning. From there, staff scans the death certificates so they are digitally archived and then volunteers take about six to eight weeks to index the documents so online users can search for information easily.
The entire process takes about three months, Miller said, so the indexed images may be available online this spring.
Those interested in searching through their family heritage can visit www.sos.mo.gov/mdh.
Making the death certificates available online helps genealogists and historians find multi-generational information, Miller said.
"You can find out when a family member died or how they died, but you can also get their parents' information, which takes you back a whole generation," she said. "You can get their date of birth and place of birth. All of that information is super useful for people who are trying to trace their family history."
Not every state has their records online and some that do don't provide them for free, Miller said.
"A lot of them partner with institutions like Ancestry or FamilySearch, but Ancestry is behind a paywall," she said. "We want them to be freely available."
The state Archives is looking for volunteers to help index the death certificates. Those interested can contact the department at firstname.lastname@example.org.