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Winter 2003
A Publication of the St. Louis Public Library

Vol. 3   No. 1


Help!! provides an opportunity for readers to ask for assistance with genealogical queries. We invite our readers to contribute solutions to questions featured in this section. See the Contact section for e-mail and postal addresses. Put GFH-HELP!! in the subject line.

Question: I’ve been looking for a death certificate for my great-grandfather who died in St. Louis in 1893. So far I have checked the newspapers, Ancestry’s Index to the Death Registers, the Recorder of Deeds, and various cemetery materials. Didn’t there have to be a record?

Answer: Not necessarily. Registration of deaths was available, but compliance was low. Publishing a death notice in the newspaper cost money and not all families could afford it. Some deceased had no family members to arrange it. The Recorder of Deeds copies of Death Registers should match those available on film. If one does not have the record, theoretically the other shouldn’t either (though you might find it profitable to check the film, in case a significant misspelling of the name or variation in first name is to blame). Cemetery records can be very hard to find. In some cases, the person might not have had a headstone or it might have been moved or destroyed as cemeteries were moved. The same can be true of cemetery records. Although a burial permit should be available, there could be several instances where one might not exist. For instance, if the person was not buried in St. Louis City, or if he/she were cremated, no permit would have been issued. So, in short, it was completely possible to die in St. Louis in the late 19th century and do so without any record being made.

Question: I found an ancestor’s grave some weeks ago. His headstone was a great big ungainly thing made up of an upright stone tree stump resting on logs laid flat. What does this indicate?

Answer: It means that your ancestor was a member of the Woodmen of the World, a fraternal life insurance society. The organization is still in existence and can be contacted at Woodman Tower, 1700 Farnam St., Omaha, NE 68102. They also have a website,

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