Missouri Probate Records

From FamilySearch Wiki
Revision as of 18:45, 31 August 2011 by DiltsGD (talk | contribs) (MO State Archives)

Jump to: navigation, search

United States  Gotoarrow.png  Missouri  Gotoarrow.png  Probate Records

Record Synopsis

Probate is the “court procedure by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid” and encompasses “all matters and proceedings pertaining to the administration of estates, guardianships, etc.”[1] Various types of records are created throughout the probate process. These may include, wills, bonds, petitions, accounts, inventories, administrations, orders, decrees, and distributions. These documents are extremely valuable to genealogists and should not be neglected. In many instances, they are the only known source of relevant information such as the decedent’s date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their places of residence. They may also include information about adoption or guardianship of minor children and dependents. For further information about the probate process, types of probate records, analyzing probate records, and to access a glossary of probate terms, see United States Probate Records.


There were four major waves of settlement in Missouri. As a result, to find the desired records, a researcher must be aware of the rapidly changing county names and boundaries and the time frame they fit in.

1. 1797 & 1798 - Settlers came with Moses Austin and Daniel Boone respectively.

2. 1803 - Acquisition of the territory by the United States brought new settlers.

3. 1820 to 1860 - Settlers arrived via the connection of the Cumberland Road to the Mississippi River and the Ohio-Mississippi-Missouri river system.

4. After the Civil War - the railroad facilitated further settlement.

  • Probate matters in Missouri have usually been recorded by the clerks of the probate courts, but in some counties the common pleas or circuit courts handled this function. The records include wills, administrator bonds, and estate inventories. They are frequently indexed.
  • A brief history of the settlement and boundary changes of Missouri and the resultant effects on record keeping can be found on Ancestry. ($)
  • A discussion of Missouri Probate Records written by Marsha Hoffman Rising and Pamela Boyer Porter in Red book: American State, County, and Town Sources can be found at Ancestry. ($)

State Statutes

Understanding the Missouri probate laws and how they changed over time can help us learn how the estate was administered, taxed, and distributed and might help to solve difficult genealogical problems.

Additional information about Missouri state statutes relating to probate matters can be found at law libraries. Online digital versions of state statutes can often be found by conducting a search engine search for the term, "Missouri statutes."



  •  Copies of probate records can be obtained by contacting the probate judge in each county.



  • The Family History Library located in Salt Lake City, Utah has Missouri probate records available on microfilm. For collection details see the Family History Library Catalog. Use the "Place Search" option to search for a specific Missouri county. Then look for topics labeled "Probate Records" or "Guardianship."

    The library's records generally date from the creation of the county to about 1925. For example, the library has 71 films for Jackson County that include:
Wills and other records (1828-1917)
Bonds (1868-1923)
Letters (1876-1955)
Guardians' records (1871-1898)
Inventories (1881-1915)
Real estate sales (1890-1918)
For many counties, abstracts of the earliest wills have been published, and copies are available at major archives and the Family History Library.

Statewide Record Collections

A statewide index to Missouri probate records has not been compiled.

  • The Missouri State Archives has made digitized collections of court files available online. Records are available by county, court and year and are searchable by name and keyword. At this time, the digital collections include:

•Greene County Circuit Court (1856-1873, non-inclusive)
•Jasper County Circuit Court (1860-1876, non-inclusive)
•New Madrid County Probate Court (1805-1830)
•Saint Charles County Circuit Court (1805-1835)
•Saint Louis City Probate Court (1876-1900, separated from county in 1876)
•Saint Louis County Probate Court (1804-1876).

  • Daughters of the American Revolution (Missouri). Miscellaneous Records of Missouri, 1820-1870. Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1971. FHL Film 893713 Items 1-2.

  • Daughters of the American Revolution. Osage Chapter (Sehalia, Missouri). Miscellaneous Records, 1605-1970. Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1972. FHL Film 893713 Item 4.

  • Woodruff, Audrey Lee Wagner.Missouri Miscellany: State-wide Missouri Genealogical Records by the Publishers of "Missouri Pioneers". Independence, Missouri: A. Woodruff, 1976-1984. FHL Book 977.8 D2w v.1-17.

  • Hodges, Nadine. Missouri Pioneers, County and Genealogical Records. Kansas City, Missouri: N. Hodges & A.L.W. Woodruff, 1967-. FHL Book 977.8 D2h v. 1-30. Digital versions of Vol. 2-11 can be viewed at this link.

Learn More

Published Materials

  • Kelley, Henry S., John B. Gage, and William Patterson Borland. A Treatise on the Law Relating to the Powers....of Executors....the Jurisdiction and Powers and Duties of the Probate Courts....adapted to the laws of Missouri....Kansas City, Mo. : Vernon Law Book Company, 1913. View at Internet Archive.

  • Coke, Jennifer A. Missouri Probate: Beyond the Basics. National Business Institute, 2001.
    WorldCat entry.

  • Nevins, Francis M. Missouri Probate: Intestacy, Wills, and Basic Administration. Harrison Co., 1983. WorldCat entry.


  • Missouri State Archives
    State Information Center
    P.O. Box 778
    Jefferson City, MO 65102
    Tel: 573-751-3280
    Missouri State Archives


  1. Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."