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Brief History of Vital Records in Missouri

Source: Missouri State Archives

In 1883, the Missouri General Assembly enacted legislation providing for the Board of Health to have supervision of the statewide registration of births and deaths. This supervision amounted to prescribing “such forms and recommend[ing] such legislation as shall be deemed necessary for a thorough and complete registration of vital and mortuary statistics through the state.” (Laws of the State of Missouri, 1883, page 96/section 7) The State Board of Health was charged with preparing printed forms of certificates of births and deaths; these were to be provided to the clerks of the various counties and it was the duty of the county clerks to furnish the printed forms to the persons required to file birth and death reports.

This law did not make the reporting of all births and deaths mandatory. Due to non-compliance, the General Assembly repealed the statutes relating to the registration of births and deaths in Missouri in 1893.

It was not until 1910 that the General Assembly again provided for the registration of births and deaths on a statewide basis. Approved May 6, 1909, the act was to “provide for the immediate registration of all births and deaths throughout the state of Missouri by means of certificates of births and deaths and burial or removal permits; requiring prompt returns to the central bureau of vital statistics at the capital of the state, as required to be established by the state board of health, and to insure the thorough organization and efficiency of the registration of vital statistics throughout the state, and providing certain penalties” (Laws of the State of Missouri, 1909, page 538). Pursuant to this 1909 law, all births and deaths that occur in Missouri are reported to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The Bureau of Vital Records maintains these birth and death records. 

Birth And Death Records, Pre-1910

Over 250 reels of microfilm containing birth and death records from 1883 to 1893 are available at the Archives for research. Researchers should note that the records vary from county to county during this period because there was no requirement for mandatory reporting from parents or professional attendants. For example, Bates County birth records are only available from 1883 to 1886. To learn more about researching birth and death records from this period, contact the Archives at

Death Records, Post-1910

House Bill 1634 (2004) made changes to RSMo 193.225 and 193.245 (4), the Missouri statutes that govern the reproduction of vital records and the information contained in them. The legislation, effective August 28, 2004, states that death records over fifty years old will be transferred to the Missouri State Archives, and copies of death records over fifty years old may be disclosed upon request. For more information about access to this collection, please contact the Archives at or see our Frequently Asked Questions about the Death Records Project.

Certified Copies of Vital Records, Post-1910

In order to obtain certified copies of birth and death records filed after 1909, researchers must contact the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Vital Records.

The Bureau of Vital Records has certificates of Missouri births from 1910 to the present. The Bureau also maintains certificates of Missouri deaths that are less than fifty years old. The Archives maintains death certificates more than fifty years old, but cannot issue certified copies.

A certified copy of a birth or death certificate may be obtained by contacting:

Bureau of Vital Records
930 Wildwood
P.O. Box 570
Jefferson City MO 65102
Telephone: (573) 751-6400


This page was last updated October 23, 2006.