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Dead Missourians, Now in a Convenient Online Database

Categories: History, Missourah
wilder.jpg
Maybe she'd have lived longer if she'd laid off the home-churned butter.
Plenty of interesting people died in the great state of Missouri. And now, thanks to the work of 275 volunteers -- no word on what percentage of them identify as goths -- and the Missouri State Archives, you can cruise their death certificates online, 50 years after they shuffle off this mortal coil.

The site, Missouri Digital Heritage, hosts more than  2.26 million Missouri death certificates, from 1910 to the just-released batch from 1960. State statutes dictate that death certificates are sealed to anyone but relatives for 50 years.

"They have a wealth of information on them," says Abe Rakov, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's office. "You can find parents' names, where people grew up, the cause of death."

And, because the information on the handwritten certificates is also digitally indexed, you can play around with the data, searching by full or partial last or first name, dates and counties. Rakov says people have used this to pick up on trends or causes of lots of deaths, like a plane crash or other disaster.

Most of the interest in the certificates, Rakov says, comes from history buffs and genealogists. That extends to the volunteers -- 275 this year, from Missouri and around the world.

Last year, it took the staff and volunteers 48 days to get the digital images of the certificates online and the information on them indexed. This year, the info was ready to go after only 3 days. Rakov says that's because this year volunteers worked from home.

The actual certificates themselves were scanned from Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's offices in Jefferson City, but entering the handwritten information from the certificates into the database was done by a small army of volunteers working remotely.

Information from the certificates has been online and searchable since April 2006 and has included digital images of the certificates since March 2008. Today, the state released all 49,000 of 1960's statewide deaths.

Among the most interesting in this batch: Walthall Moore Sr., the state's first black member of the Missouri General Assembly. Of particular interest to former nerdly bookish teenage girls is the 1957 death certificate for Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House series of books. (A cerebral hemorrhage caused by high blood pressure ultimately took her out.)


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11 comments
Mdjab57
Mdjab57

Here's My 2 cents. I agree that the other state should put more records on online. Instead they are all interested in making money for uncertified copies. And Yes I am also one of the 275 volunteers. This way we can help the ones that have no way of going and getting the information or have too stop someone from doing there job to do it for us.

Leslieslineages
Leslieslineages

The hint of irreverant tone of this article is really misplaced. Not necessarily bad, the humor is rather lost the subject matter being what it is. Perhaps saving the irreverance for wayward actors or politicians, or funny happenings along the way would be best. Congratulations are indeed in order to the volunteers who helped all of us who use this database! THANKS!

Anquestor_1
Anquestor_1

I am proud to be one of the volunteers who has helped with this project! It's a goldmine for we genealogists to be able to access the death certificates of our ancestors!

Connie S
Connie S

I'm another of the volunteers and like many others, am interested in genealogy. My curiosity often got the best of me while assisting in the project. When the subject died before the age of 50, I couldn't help but scroll down and read more. I discovered that even back in 1960, most Missourians who died prematurely did so as a result of cardiovascular disease. Looks like we haven't learned much about staying healthy in the past 50 years.

MyTwoSenseWorth
MyTwoSenseWorth

I am one of the 275 volunteers that work from home inputing the information. This database is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in putting together their family tree. Looking at the causes of death also helps pinpoint potential health issues we may to which we may be prone. More states should follow Missouri's example in making these type of records available to the public.

KittyLitterKing
KittyLitterKing

On a related note, the City of St. Louis just added 49,000 voters to its rolls.

Geewalsh
Geewalsh

Not a funny topic, but I couldn't resist: Was the City of St.Louis death list tranferred to the registered voter list?

MyTwoSenseWorth
MyTwoSenseWorth

I have also found trends of inherited conditions. One member of our family tree lost her husband to a heart attack at age 37. It spurred me to check on other male members of his family. I found his father, grandfather and an uncle who all died of heart attacks either before or shortly after their 40th birthdays. That history leads me to believe that there was an undetectable genetic heart defect passed from generation to generation.

MOvolunteer
MOvolunteer

I also am one of the 275 volunteers. As our family's go-to person for family research, this information has come in very handy a couple of times for researching causes of death when someone in the family needed the information. It's not just for fun and games...it can help in other ways. I agree with MyTwoSenseWorth in that more states should follow in Missouri's footsteps on these records being made public. The more they put online (and if volunteers are willing to help for free), the fewer employees they need to look this information up for queries at taxpayer expense.

Lazycowgrl
Lazycowgrl

I am also one of the 275 volunteers that worked from (California) home. I have used the data base for my genealogy research in the past and thought it was about time I repaid the kindness of others.

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