Missouri Genealogy and Ancestry Research

This page will provide you with information that will help you in your genealogy and ancestry research for the state of Missouri. It includes a timeline for the state, when the state began recording vital records, what US and State census records are available, a map of the counties in the state and link to page showing when counties were formed, and links to a variety of genealogy and ancestry resources for the state of Missouri.

Missouri State History Timeline

1673 – During their voyage down the Mississippi River, Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet were the first Europeans to set foot on land that would later become Missouri

1682 – Explorer Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle took possession of the Louisiana Territory area for France (Apr. 9) Jean Baptiste Valle Home 1724 Fort Orleans built on the north bank of the Missouri River by Etienne de Bourgmont in today’s Carroll County; it was abandoned six years later

1750 – Approximate date of the founding of Ste. Genevieve, the first permanent white settlement

1762 – Spain gained control of the Louisiana Territory in the Treaty of Fontainebleau (Nov. 13)

1764 – City of St. Louis was founded by Pierre Laclede Liguest (Feb. 15)

1769 – City of St. Charles was established by Louis Blanchette as a trading post

1770 – The Spanish government officially assumed control of the Territory of Louisiana (May 20) 1773 Mine au Breton (later Potosi) founded

1789 – Colonel George Morgan established the city of New Madrid (Feb. 14)

1793 – Louis Lorimer received trading privileges and authority to establish a post at Cape Girardeau (Jan. 4)

1798 – Lieutenant Governor Zenon Trudeau of the Spanish government offered Daniel Boone 1000 arpents to settle in the Louisiana Territory

1800 – Moses Austin made the first sheet lead and cannonballs manufactured in Missouri

1800 – Spain returned the Louisiana Territory to France (Oct. 30) Fort Osage

1803 – The Louisiana Purchase was signed (Apr. 30)

1804 – The Lewis and Clark Expedition set out from St. Louis (May 14)

1805 – The Territory of Louisiana was established; the seat of government was St. Louis (Mar. 3)

1808 – The city of Ste. Genevieve was incorporated (June 18)

1808 – Joseph Charless founded the first newspaper in Missouri, the “Missouri Gazette”

1808 – Fort Osage was established on the Missouri River

1809 – The Missouri Fur Company was organized in St. Louis. The abundance of animal pelts in the Mississippi Valley region played a key role in the development of the Upper Louisiana territory. Prominent members of the Company included fur trader Manuel Lisa, Auguste and Pierre Chouteau, and William Clark

1811 – The first shocks of the New Madrid earthquakes, the worst in US history, occurred (Dec. 16)

1812  -A portion of the Territory of Louisiana became the Territory of Missouri (June 4)

1812  – The first general assembly of the Territory of Missouri met (Oct. 1); the five original counties were organized: Cape Girardeau, New Madrid, St. Charles, St. Louis, and Ste. Genevieve

1816 – Mid-Missouri’s first circuit court opened at Cole’s Fort (July 8)

1817 – The steamboat Zebulon M. Pike reached St. Louis, the first steamboat to navigate the Mississippi River above the mouth of the Ohio River (Aug. 2)

1818 – The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives presented the first petition to Congress from Missouri requesting statehood (Jan. 8)

1821 – President James Monroe admitted Missouri as the 24th state; the state capitol was located in St. Charles until a permanent location was designated (Aug. 10)

 1821 Governor Alexander McNair signed the bill designating the site for the City of Jefferson (Dec. 31)

1826 – Jefferson City was designated Missouri’s permanent seat of government; all state records, equipment, and the Great Seal were moved to Jefferson City on October 1st 1829 Missouri State Library established by law (Jan. 22)

1837 – President Martin Van Buren issued a proclamation which completed the annexation of the Platte Purchase area to Missouri, establishing the northwestern border of the state (Mar. 28)

1837 – Missouri’s first capitol in Jefferson City was destroyed by fire (Nov. 15)

1850 – The town of Kansas (later Kansas City) was incorporated (Feb. 4)

1861 – President Abraham Lincoln revoked John Fremont’s emancipation proclamation for Missouri (Sept. 11)

1861 – Missouri’s “Rebel Legislature” adopted an Act of Secession (Oct. 28)

1865 – Slavery was abolished in Missouri by an ordinance of immediate emancipation, making Missouri the first slave state to emancipate its slaves before the adoption of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution (Jan. 11)

1865 – Missouri’s second Constitution (Drake Constitution) was adopted. A group of politicians, known as “Radicals,” favored emancipation of slaves and disfranchisement of persons who were sympathetic to the Confederacy during the Civil War. The Radicals included an “Ironclad Oath” in the new constitution to exclude former Confederate sympathizers from the vote and certain occupations, severely limiting their civil rights (Apr. 10)

1911 – Missouri State Capitol was completely destroyed by fire after being struck by lightning (Feb. 5)

Missouri Vital Records

No vital records were kept on the state level before 16 August 1909.

A non-compulsory birth registration law was adopted in Missouri in 1863 and provided that county recorders of deeds could record births upon request. These births are recorded in the regular deed books (or in marriage books) and are not indexed. Registration was sporadic.

In the city of St. Louis, deaths were recorded from 1850’1910 and births from 12 July 1870 through 1910. It is estimated that only about 60 percent of the births and deaths that occurred during this period were recorded.

In 1883 Missouri passed a state law requiring the recording of births and deaths at the county level. Ten years later this law was inadvertently repealed. At any rate, compliance was poor. Most counties do have these registers, but there is enormous variation as to how complete and/or comprehensive they are. ‘A Guide to Public Vital Statistics Records in Missouri’ (deaths) was published in the Missouri State Genealogical Association Journal in the fall issue of 1984. The Historical Records Survey, Guide to Public Vital Statistics in Missouri (St. Louis: Historical Records Survey, 1941), will also aid the researcher.

You can read more about Missouri Vital Records here.

Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org have a variety of onlline collections. I’ve included many in the links below.

Missouri Census Records


Population Schedules

  1. Indexed’1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  2. Soundex’1880, 1900, 1910, 1920

Industry and Agriculture Schedules

  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Mortality Schedules

  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Slave Schedules

  • 1850, 1860

Union Veterans Schedules

  • 1890 (all except Daviess and Dekalb counties; some inadvertently included Confederate veterans)

The censuses for the years 1810 and 1820 are lost for all districts. All the remaining population censuses (except for 1890) have survived.

Territorial and State

See Census Records for Missouri for information regarding Territorial and State Census’.


Missouri Counties

Missouri Counties Map
Missouri Counties Map

You can find County details at Missouri County Resources that include placement on map, address, date formed, parent County(ies), dates first began recording birth, marriage, death, land, probate and court records.

Missouri Genealogy and Ancestry Links

Missouri State History Timeline Links

Missouri Secretary of State – Timeline of Missouri History

eReference Desk – Missouri History Timeline

Ducksters – Missouri State History

Dates and Events – Missouri History Timeline

Missouri Southern State University – Missouri History Timeline 1673-1849