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Missouri's Judicial Records

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Historic court records, both circuit and probate, offer tremendous insight into the lives of Missourians throughout society.   Probate court records reveal specific information about an individual life and provide general evidence about the economy and society of an era.  Circuit court records, especially those from the nineteenth century, provide an even greater window to the past because people found themselves in court more often and for a wider range of issues than modern Americans.

Family historians have long recognized the value of probate files for tracing ancestry, but probate files also offer insight into lives, family relationships and local society through wills, inventories, settlements, and even debts and credits.  Guardianships reveal details about a minor’s education, what they wore and ate and even apprenticeship information.  These rich details make probate records invaluable to researchers.

Researchers often overlook the immense value of circuit court files.  These files can be challenging to researchers, but they offer a clear snapshot of daily life in a time period.  In an era when reputation was the basis for social standing, the only recourse available to those who had been wronged was litigation.  The opportunities for research into social history, commerce, freedom, race, gender, architecture and other topics are tremendous.  Missouri’s circuit courts heard cases dealing with everything from fur trade to the Civil War, steamboats to McCormick Reapers and agriculture to urbanization.

For many years, the Missouri State Archives has worked with local court officials to help preserve, index and microfilm their records.  Now, through the Missouri Digital Heritage Initiative, digitized collections of court files are available to researchers online.  Records are available by county, court and year; and are searchable by name and keyword.  At this time, the digital collections include:


Missouriís Judicial Records


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