Missouri Court Records

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This entry was originally written by Marsha Hoffman Rising CG, FUGA, FASG, and Pamela Boyer Porter, CGRS, CGL for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Missouri Family History Research series.
History of Missouri
Missouri Vital Records
Census Records for Missouri
Background Sources for Missouri
Missouri Maps
Missouri Land Records
Missouri Probate Records
Missouri Court Records
Missouri Tax Records
Missouri Cemetery Records
Missouri Church Records
Missouri Military Records
Missouri Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Missouri Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Missouri Territorial Records
African Americans of Missouri
Missouri County Resources
Map of Missouri


Clerk of the County Court. In this office in each county is located an index to common pleas, records of all extant proceedings, chancery minute books, records of births and deaths, county court records, right-of-way and road records, as well as surveyor’s records (including field notes and plats made by the county surveyor). This office usually holds the county treasurer’s notes, bonds and commissions, records of marks and brands, wolf scalps, stray notices, real estate assessments, and tax books. The researcher needs to be aware that in some counties, early terms for this court included “Chancery” or the “Court of Common Pleas.”

Clerk of the Circuit Court. This office holds the direct index to records such as divorces, debt, dissolution of partnerships, adoptions, judgment, and tax fee books, including direct and indirect indexes. It also retains the index to criminal records and criminal files of the circuit court. Adoptions are under the jurisdiction of the circuit court. Naturalization records, including petitions, declarations of intention, certificates, certificates of allegiance, and granting of citizenship are also located in the clerk’s office, as well as an index to civil case files. Some naturalization records have been found with the deeds.

The strategic location and history of St. Louis make it truly a gateway to many American families. To aid researchers in locating specific cases or subjects, the Missouri State Archives and the American Culture Studies Program at Washington University in St. Louis cooperated to produce an online searchable database of all St. Louis Circuit Court cases—civil, criminal, and chancery actions—that have been archivally processed (currently 1808–32, with a few selected cases after 1832). To read about the St. Louis Circuit Court Historical Records Project or search its database, see the website at www.stlcourtrecords.wustl.edu.

Federal records that pertain to Missouri citizens are located at the National Archives—Central Plains Region. The U.S. circuit and district court records beginning as early as 1822 include case file indexes, records books, dockets, and judgment books that have been microfilmed.

UPDATE 3 August 2012 Some Missouri Judicial Records are now available on line here - [1]

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