Crawford County Missouri
Research Suggestions


This page contains information helpful to the beginner genealogists, to get you started in the right direction.  Any of your own experiences you would like to share in reference to this, please do so.  We can all help each other.
Joe L. Miller

[ Getting Started | Gathering Your Information | Interviewing Relatives | Libraries | Birth, Death, Marriages | Cemetery Searches | Obituaries | Probate Records | Deeds | Census Records | Other Sources ]

Getting Started

Before you begin your research you need to know how you are going to organize your work.  You can do this in many ways.  A computer program for genealogy is the best; there are several to choose from.  I use Personal Ancestral File from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I also use colored three-ring notebooks with document protectors to file my work.  Each main line being a different color with floppy disks to match.  You can use any file system, but please don't use a box.

Gathering Your Information

To start with, gather information on yourself.  It is easier to trace you back than to find a possible ancestor and trace down to you.  This will be done by going through your own family records:  birth, death, marriage, obituaries, baptismal, military, letters and other important records you have on hand, then recording.  For this you will need to use Family Group Sheets and Pedigree charts.  The genealogy program will do this for you.  Then we go to other family members for the information that they have.  If at all possible, get copies of what others have, including any pictures.  Be sure to reference your documents so you know where you found them.

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Interviewing Relatives

When visiting relatives, it is important to ask the right questions to find the information you need.  They do not know what you are looking for and may not volunteer information.  Many times they will tell stories of the "olden days" which can provide valuable clues, especially if you plan to publish your work.  By all means let them talk, and if they will allow it, bring along a tape recorder.  If they do not know or remember all the vital statistics (dates and locations) some prompting from you with the right questions could spark their memory.

If they do not know birth and death dates and places, ask where they are buried.  I have found they usually know this because they remember their parents visiting the grave on Memorial Day, and you can then get the dates from the cemetery markers.  If they do not know marriage dates, ask where they were married and look it up in the county courthouse.  Ask for other births, including stillbirths.  Many times the child was named and buried.  If they do not know a death date, ask where they were living, even if the death occurred in a hospital in a different town, you can look up the obituary.

Libraries

There are many genealogy libraries across the country.  One famous one is the Mormon (LDS) library in Salt Lake City, UT.  You can try your local phone book to see if there is a branch near you.  Presently they are on the internet and you can search for records.  Mid-Continent in Independence, MO, is a very good one and my personal favorite.  It has census records for all states and county histories for many.  It too is on the internet.  At your local library ask for the genealogy and local history section.  It may be a few books, an entire room or an entire floor in the facility.  Ask if they have obituaries or newspapers on microfilm.  Some have a card catalog or information on computer.  If it is a large facility, ask for a tour.  Always ask for help because in most cases it will not be offered and you will not know what is there unless you ask.

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Birth, Death & Marriages

Many county courthouses will allow you to look up records yourself.  Be sure to get copies of everything.  In many states some Birth and Death records are available at the State Department of Vital Records and not from the county.  Many states charge a search fee ($10 in MO) to do a search.  Remember it is the search you are paying for.  The more information you put on the application increases your success.  In Missouri they began in 1910.  Some prior to that time are available at the county courthouse.

Cemetery Searches

This is a big one.  You can save time by looking at your local library to see if they have any cemetery books others have written.  But, I highly encourage visiting the cemetery to see for yourself.  If it is a small family plot record all the markers.  You can put your cemetery records in a database file which will alphabetize them for future research.

Can't read that old worn out piece of rock?  A few tricks I have learned will help you with this.  First, clean the marker off.  If it is a standing upright, try dropping some talcum powder lightly over the face, being careful not to get it into the engraving, and the lettering will magically appear.  If it is on private property, I always like to let the tenant know what I am doing there; many will help you find the cemetery.  I have found some that even take care of the cemetery.  In Missouri it is illegal to deny access to a cemetery that is on private property.  I like to take pictures of stones.  If you don't have time to record a large cemetery, you might take a camcorder and record the stones and document them later.

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Obituaries

A valuable source is the local newspaper.  This includes obituaries.  The Missouri State Historical Society is the place to go if you have a lot of research to do in Missouri.  They have the largest collection of the newspapers in the country.  When looking up obituaries, look for the next publication following the date of death.  If nothing is found, look through the next several publications.  If you do not find it, try another paper that was nearest the town where they lived.  If still no success, look before the death date as the date you have may be incorrect; I found a notice for a grandmother being "sick and may not live long", but no death notice or obituary.  In many papers, obituaries were in the obituary section, but not always.  It may be found in the local happenings area of the paper.  So, it is best to check the entire paper.  You may find information under Sheriff's Sale, especially if they had no living kin.  If you do, you know a probate was filed.

Probate Records

Probate records include Wills, Real Estate Sales, Guardianships, and much more.  These records are a must see and are located at the county courthouse.  You are not guaranteed to find one, but worth a try.

Deeds

Deed records for the transfer of land is also a valuable resource.  Where your ancestor lived may indicate where they are buried, if they died on the family farm, or in the home of a relative.  Many times children are named in these.  Once again, these are at the courthouse.  Grantee is the buyer and Grantor is the seller.

Census Records

These records are available at libraries through inter-library loan, or you can purchase your own.  Remember, not all information may be correct.  Children living in the household may be "farm help", or cousins, nephews, etc. and not all immediate family may be listed, since they may be hired out as "farm help" or "domestic servant."  Be sure to reference the date, location, page number and line number.

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Other Sources

Social Security Death Index.  This is a valuable source especially if you do not know what state the person died in and the death occurred recently.  This source you can check yourself right here on the internet.  With that information, you can order the SS-5 from the Department of Social Services.  The SS-5 cost $7.  This is the application for a Social Security card.  This should have the birth date, location, and parents names.

Military Records.  Civil War Pension records may have a death certificate.  At the least, spouse and children and maybe even marriage information should be included.  For these you have to write to the National Archives, Washington D.C. and cost $10. 

Church, Parish, School, Civic Groups, Funeral Home Records.  All can be valuable resources if they are available.  Letters can also be a valuable piece of history.  I file mine alphabetically in a cardboard chest of drawers by name and date.  The internet can be a valuable source.  I have some links you can try, but try the search engines for your family name.

Homepages.  You can also put up your own homepage and let others contact you.  It will be easier for others to find you than trying to find them.  You can get a free one, email me and I'll tell you more about it.


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