Missouri Probate Records
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.” 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.
A brief history of the settlement and boundary changes of Missouri and the resultant effects on record keeping can be found on Ancestry.
- 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. You can obtain copies by contacting the probate judge in each county.
- Missouri State Archives has collections of Missouri's Judicial Records.
- 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)
Guardians' records (1871-1898)
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.
- Wills and other records (1828-1917)
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)
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."