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From the Green Valley News, Wednesday May 12 2010, page C5

Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG

Missouri Digital Heritage Collection

Last month I asked readers to suggest some free websites that you found useful. I have had three responses thus far and hope more of you will submit your favorites. Adele Wirkus is the first I heard from, so we'll start with one of her suggested sites.

The Missouri Digital Heritage Collection, at includes 1000s of historical Missouri records. While not all are genealogical in nature many would provide excellent background material to fill in the blanks about your family's lives in Missouri pioneer days. Click on the Collections tab to see a lengthy list of historic Missouri databases. The following are two collections of databases specific to family research, but be sure to explore some of the other headings for maps, diaries, histories, atlases, newspapers, military records, photographs, etc.

Under the heading "Government and Political Records" are numerous databases, among them territorial, state and federal records from the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government such as Missouri Land Records 1820-1969.

Under "Family and Faith" you will find genealogical resources including birth, marriage, death, church and cemetery records and family papers. For instance The Missouri Death Certificates and Missouri Naturalization Records Databases (1816-1955) are contributions from the Missouri State Archives.

The Missouri Death Certificate Database is a treasure with death records created after 1910 and over 50 years old. The information is available online through a searchable index that links to a digitized image of the original death certificate. The index can be searched by first name and last name, county, and by year and month from 1910 through 1959.

The search does not require all data be entered - just a surname will produce applicable records - perhaps many more than you want to sort through. According to the website, this is an ongoing project with additional records added as they are transcribed and imaged. If an image of a certificate is not yet available, researchers can request a photocopy by contacting the Archives Reference Desk. A separate database includes death records prior to 1910; these latter records are incomplete as some counties did not require death reporting as early as others.

It took me only a few minutes to find death certificates for the son, wife, and grandson of my great grandparents. While my grandfather's family remained in Pennsylvania, this older brother moved to Michigan in the 1870s and on to Missouri in the early 1900s. I had never tried to obtain death records for his family. While I knew the brother's date of death, I had no information about his wife or son. Now I know her parents' names and the name of their son's wife as well.

A search in the Naturalization records for "John Smith" produced 48 records of men primarily from England, Ireland, and Germany. Digital images of these records are not online, but you may request a copy by printing the search results page for the desired person and mailing it with a check or money order for $1.00 made payable to the Missouri State Archives in Jefferson City, MO. Include a #10 business size, stamped, self-addressed envelope with each request. This database was compiled with the help of members of the St. Louis Genealogical Society.

If you have Missouri ancestors, the Missouri Digital Heritage Collection is well worth your time.

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