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Missouri State Archives
Missouri's Judicial Records

Historic court records offer tremendous insight into the daily lives of Missourians throughout society.

Family historians have long recognized the value of probate files for tracing ancestry, but probate files also offer insight into lives, family relationships and local society through wills, inventories, settlements, and even debts and credits. Guardianships reveal details about a minor’s education, what they wore and ate and even apprenticeship information.

Researchers often overlook the immense value of circuit court files. These files often offer a clear snapshot of daily life in a time period. In an era when reputation was the basis for social standing, the only legal recourse was litigation. The opportunities for research into social history, commerce, freedom, race, gender, architecture and other topics are tremendous. Missouri’s circuit courts heard cases dealing with everything from fur trade to the Civil War, steamboats to railroads and agriculture to urbanization.

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