Missouri Territorial 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


Many of the best sources for the early time period of Missouri history are inventoried in Genealogical Research: Methods and Sources, vol. 2, revised edition published by the American Society of Genealogists in 1983. Many of the colonial records are housed in the Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis. Most of the early civil records and manuscripts concerning early colonial and St. Louis families are also there. The Chouteau Papers, which include the records of the American Fur Trading Company, and the papers of the French and Spanish colonial archives are just two of the society’s major holdings. Real estate transactions from the St. Louis colonial archives were copied, in both French and English, into volumes maintained by the recorder of deeds in St. Louis. These volumes are indexed and microfilmed copies are available at the Missouri State Archives. The researcher may also be assisted by the three-volume Historical Records Survey publication, Early Missouri Archives published in 1941.

Original and microfilmed copies of the French and Spanish Land Grant papers are held at the Missouri State Archives. The papers have been partially indexed (see Missouri Land Records). A must for pre-statehood research is Index to the Minutes of the first and second Board of Land Commissioners, Missouri, 1805–1812 and 1832–1835 (1981; reprint, St. Louis: St. Louis Genealogical Society, 1998).

The Missouri State Archives holds microfilmed copies of the early court records of Randolph County, Illinois; the Kaskaskia Manuscripts (1718–1841); as well as the Randolph County Circuit Clerk papers. Copies of the Cahokia Parish Records, now St. Clair County, Illinois (1784–1809), are also held by the Missouri State Archives. Many of the early settlers traveled back and forth across the Mississippi River with great ease and may have recorded marriages and baptisms with whichever priest or county office was in the area in which they were trading or visiting. The researcher should check in both Missouri and Illinois for records of these early pioneers.

Two sources helpful to the genealogist working in this time period are The American State Papers: Documents Legislative and Executive of the Congress of the United States, 38 volumes, indexed in Grassroots of America, edited by Philip W. McMullen and published in 1972 by Gendex Corporation in Salt Lake City. The genealogist will be particularly interested in the section that pertains to public lands. The researcher should also consult Clarence Edwin Carter’s The Territorial Papers of the United States, vol. 13, Territory of Louisiana-Missouri, 1803–06, vol. 14 1806–14, Territory of Missouri, vol. 15, 1815–21 (Washington: General Services Administration, 1951). All are indexed. These publications are located in major genealogical and historical collections as well as most university libraries.

The Missouri Judicial Records collection at the State Archives includes case files and papers of hearings before the Territorial Court (1804–20) and the Missouri Supreme Court (1821-present). A microfilmed index is available at the archives. Most of the records have not been microfilmed but they are available for on-site use. The state supreme court database online at www.sos.mo.gov/archives/judiciary/supremecourt indexes and abstracts criminal and civil court cases that were appealed to the territorial and state Supreme Court of Missouri up to 1857, and a partial listing of cases to 1871. Other territorial records available at the Missouri State Archives are found in Record Group 1, Territorial Records of Louisiana and Record Group 2. These consist of some early tax lists, licenses for fur traders, and other miscellaneous records.

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