Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Classes listed are all sponsored or co-sponsored by St. Louis Public Library. All are free and open to the public. Please note that locations may vary.

Thurs, Feb 24, 7 PM-8 PM—Black Codes and Fugitive Slave Laws. Join us as Tom Pearson discusses the numerous restrictions placed on slaves and free black persons in the antebellum and post-Civil War periods. Buder Branch. Pre-registration recommended but not required.

To register or for more information: tpearson@slpl.org.

Thurs, Mar 17, 10 AM-Noon--Citizen Soldiers: Researching Revolutionary War Ancestors. Join us as Tom Pearson discusses print, microfilm, manuscript, and Internet sources of info on our patriot ancestors. Buder Branch. Pre-registration recommended but not required.

To register or for more information: tpearson@slpl.org.

Thurs, Mar 24, 7 PM-9 PM—Thirteen Dollars a Month: Civil War Recruitment, Enlistment, Conscription, and Desertion. Join us as Tom Pearson discusses how our ancestors were recruited by, enlisted in, drafted by, and deserted from Civil War armies. Highland Civil War Roundtable (meets at First Congregational Church), 801 Washington St., Highland, IL 62249. Pre-registration recommended but not required.

To register or for more information: tpearson@slpl.org.

Click for SLPL branch library locations and hours


Patriotic Organizations: Some patriotic organizations and lineage societies, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, require that their members prove their line of descent from a man who fought in one of America’s wars. Such proof can exist in the form of a lengthy application form and numerous supporting documents, one of which could contain notice of a person’s death.

Pension Records: If a person died while receiving a pension, a record of the person’s death may exist in the pension file, because any survivors would have been required to notify the pension issuer of the death of the pensioner. Pension files of Civil War soldiers often contain a copies of death certificates, or the death certificates of widows who could draw pensions based on the service of their husbands. If death certificates were not issued at that time, a file may contain a letter from the man’s widow or physician reporting the death.

Police Reports and Court Records: If a person was murdered, killed in a brawl, or otherwise died violently, there is probably a police record of the arrest and a court record of the trial of the perpetrator. There is probably also a record of a coroner’s inquest, and a prison or execution record for the guilty party.

Probate, Estate, and Will Records: There is a good chance that a well-to-do ancestor left a will or probate record (there may also be a will or probate proceeding for a soldier who died while in service). There is also a good chance that such a record exists even if that state did not require the keeping of vital records at that time. These records also are usually indexed. Such records can provide an exact (sometimes approximate) date of death.

Copyright 2000 by St. Louis Public Library. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Hospital Records: If your ancestor died in a hospital, there is a fairly good chance a record of the event still exists. This is especially true if the ancestor died in a city hospital, quarantine hospital, or other government-run health-care facility. Such a record may exist even if the state did not require the keeping of vital records at that time. A hospital that did not maintain a special register of deaths may have made note of patient fatalities in the its register of admissions and discharges.

Institution Records: If an ancestor was detained in an almshouse, old age home, soldiers’ home, insane asylum, prison or other criminal detention facility, a record of the ancestor’s death may exist in the records of that institution. This is true even if the state did not require the keeping of vital records at that time.

Military Records: If an ancestor died while in the military, it is possible that a record of the death exists, even if the keeping of vital records was not mandated at the time. Depending on the circumstances of your ancestor’s death, more than one record of death may actually exist. Your ancestor’s death could be recorded on the muster roll of his regiment, most of which have been microfilmed by the National Archives. If he was killed or wounded in action, or died while a prisoner, or died in a military hospital, or was executed by the enemy or by his own side, there may be a record of that event in addition to the muster roll.

Newspaper Obituaries, Death Notices, and Burial Permit Notices: Newspapers in the 19th century sometimes printed these notices, although the availability of these records will vary greatly by locality, as will the availability of indexing for these notices. A state historical society is often a good source of 19th century newspapers.

Organization Membership Lists: Nineteenth century people, male and female, were likely to be members of several organizations. Such memberships could provide amusement and companionship, and in some cases membership could provide medical care and burial privileges in the organization’s cemetery. Even if the organization did not provide burial services for its members, deaths of members were often recorded in the organization’s record books or in published annual reports. If an ancestor is buried in a cemetery such as an Odd Fellows or Masonic cemetery, then there could be some record of the person’s death in the organization’s archives.

Copyright 2000 by St. Louis Public Library. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


St. Louis Cemetery Lists and Death Registers, 1764-1999: a Selected, Annotated Bibliography of Materials in the Collection of St. Louis Public Library



Genealogists are often told that no death records exist for the date prior to which a state began the mandatory collection of such records. But all such a statement really means is that the keeping of death records by that state’s Office of Vital Records was not mandatory in that state prior to that date. Obtaining a death certificate from a state Office of Vital Records is certainly not the only way to determine when an ancestor died. Following are some other sources that can be used to determine dates of death.

Office of Vital Records: Before they elected to require statewide keeping of vital records, many states had a period when keeping of vital records (usually by county clerks) was discretionary. Compliance was often low, but some county clerks did keep vital records during this trial period. Sometimes copies of such records were sent to a state office; often, however, copies were kept only by the county office. You should check with the county clerk in the county where a person died to see if there is a death certificate, even if there are supposedly no death records for that period for that county (trial periods for vital record keeping often started ca. 1850 and continued for varying periods of time; mandatory keeping of vital records usually begins ca. 1900-1910).

Bible Records: Many families in the 19th and early 20th centuries kept records of births and deaths in the family’s Bible, usually in a section of blank pages that was located between the Old and New Testaments. For many years, courts were required to accept such records as proof of birth or death. If you or another person in your family has an older Bible, you might check to see if
it contains such a section.

Cemetery Records: Cemeteries in most cases were recording information on their occupants long before the states in which they are located mandated the keeping of vital records. If you know where an ancestor is buried, you may wish to check with the sexton of that cemetery or the denomination or organization that maintains it to see if it has burial records for the cemetery. It is also possible that the city or county where the cemetery is located required a burial permit.

Coroner Records: If an ancestor died an unnatural death, especially in a big city or well-established county, there is a chance that a city or county coroner held an inquest to determine cause of death. This may be so even if that state at that time did not mandate keeping of vital records. Coroner case files are usually well organized and indexed.

Funeral Homes: A funeral home (especially one that has been in business in one location for a long time) may have useful and informative records on past interments. They are sometimes willing to share information in their files with genealogists.

Copyright 2000 by St. Louis Public Library. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 4, 2011


The following is a selected bibliography of materials in the SLPL collection of interest to the Revolutionary War ancestor researcher. You can find many other items in our catalog by searching this subject entry:

United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Registers.

SLPL Catalog: http://www.slpl.org/

IV Casualty Lists and Burial Records

36. Daughters of the American Revolution. Revolutionary Soldiers Buried in Missouri. Kansas City: DAR, 1966. (Central-HG 973.74)

37. Hatcher, Patricia Law. Abstract of Graves of Revolutionary Patriots. Dallas: Pioneer Heritage Press, 1987-1988. (Central-HG 973.74)

38. Illinois State Genealogical Society. Soldiers of the American Revolution Buried in Illinois: a Bicentennial Project of the Illinois State Genealogical Society. Springfield: The Society, 1975. (Central-HG 929.3773)

39. Peterson, Clarence S. Known Military Dead During the American Revolutionary War, 1775-1783. Baltimore: C. S. Peterson, 1959. (Central-HG 973.74)

V Patriotic & Hereditary Organizations

40. Daughters of the American Revolution. Index of the Rolls of Honor (Ancestors Index) in the Lineage Books of the NSDAR. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1972. (Central-HG 929.373)

41. Daughters of the American Revolution. Lineage Books of the NSDAR. Washington, D.C: The Society, 1890-1939. (Central-HG, ST 929.373)

42. Daughters of the American Revolution. Directory of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Washington, D.C.: Memorial Continental Hall, 1911. (Central-ST 369)

43. Davies, Wallace Evan. Patriotism on Parade: the Story of Veterans’ and Heredity Organizations in America, 1783-1900. Cambridge, MS: Harvard University Press, 1955. (Central-ST 369)

44. Sons of the Revolution. Missouri Society. Register of the Society of Sons of the Revolution in the State of Missouri. n.p., 1910. (Central-HG 369)

45. Sons of the Revolution. New York. Year Book of the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York. New York: Francis E. Fitch, 1896-1898. (Central-ST 369)

Tom Pearson
Special Collections Department
St. Louis Public Library
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