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Winter 2001
A Publication of the St. Louis Public Library

Vol. 1   No. 1


The Did You Know? section is designed to provide tips and research strategies and to  highlight a particular type of genealogical tool or resource.

As many of you may realize, it is often hard to find vital records prior to the early twentieth century. Some of the New England states have early records of births and deaths, and it is fairly common to find church records going back to the first settlement of an area. However, civil registration usually began later. In Missouri, legislation requiring registration of births and deaths went into effect in January, 1910. Prior to that, availability of vital records will vary by county. It is more common to find registration of marriages than of births or deaths.

In St. Louis, civil registration of marriages goes back to 1804. Indexing and records are available on microfilm starting with 1808. Catholic Church marriages in early French St. Louis are available in book form back to 1764, and book indexes of civil registrations go back to 1804. Marriage records on microfilm are available up through 1882, while indexes for city marriages are available through 1965 for males and 1963 for females. In 1876 the city and county split, and there is an additional set of records covering county marriages after the split. The county index covers the years 1881 – 1980, and we have copies of the actual marriage records for 1881 – 1954. The original records are held by the St. Louis City or St. Louis County Recorder of Deeds offices, depending on where and when the marriage took place.

Civil registration of deaths began in 1850. We have microfilm of these death registers for 1850 to 1909. It is important to remember that for the period 1850 to 1876, these will cover St. Louis City and St. Louis County. For the period after 1876, they will cover only the city of St. Louis. They are arranged by date and can be easily searched with the month and year of death. They are exceptional records. The registers include the certificate number, date of death, name of person, marital status, age, place of birth, place of death, occupation, cause of death, race, attending physician, undertaker and cemetery.

We also have a set of burial permits that covers the years 1882 – 1908. These are arranged in burial permit number order.

gfh02.jpg (52740 bytes)The original death certificates are available from the Vital Records Division of the City Health Department. Records after 1910 are available from the Missouri Department of Health as well. When a death certificate is not available, you may want to check for probate records, tombstones, cemetery records, obituaries, or funeral home records to establish a place and date of death. Availability of these records will vary by county and time period.

Civil registration of births began a few years later. There are some records dated as early as 1850, but in general the birth registers start in 1870, and continue until 1910. The records are filed by date and first letter of the last name, and are quite easy to use if you know the month and year of birth. The registers include birth date, name, sex, race, address, father’s name, father’s birthplace, mother’s name (may or may not include maiden name), mother’s birthplace, name of informant, and additional remarks. An Index to Register of Births covers 1910 to 1929, and the birth certificate could then be requested from the city or state vital records offices. When it is not possible to find a birth record, you may want to check for a christening or baptismal record. However, in some cases, a census is the only thing that will provide a place of birth and approximate time of birth.

As a rule, original copies of vital records will be available in the county where the event took place. Availability and cost of the records may vary by county. After 1910, birth and death records can also be requested through the Missouri Department of Health.

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