What to do in a county records office

+7 votes
I've tracked an ancestor, Frederick Stock, to Warren County, MO about 1850. He married, produced a son and the wife died in childbirth. He married again and had a couple more children before the family returned to Germany for a decade. Simple searches indicate the Warren County records are not online.

I may have a chance to visit the Warren County records office this summer. How might I make the day as productive as possible? How do I go about asking for records? What will the clerk do? What will I need to do? What information should I make sure I have with me? What hints might you supply?

As you might guess, I haven't done this sort of thing before. The database I have I inherited from my mother.
in Genealogy Help by

4 Answers

+11 votes
Best answer
Firstly, does the record office have an online catalogue? If it does, search through it and familiarise yourself with the records that are held there.

Tip: Write a detailed list of what information you are looking for and prioritise it...I can guarantee you, time will fly and you probably won't get through your list! Make notes of sources you search and whether successful or unsuccessful.

Assuming US record offices work in the same way UK ones do, there will be some sort of paper/electronic catalogue system where you search for the reference number for the documents you require, then fill in a form quoting the reference numbers dates & details etc, and this is given to the person at the desk who will then get the actual documents  (unless some are on a self-serve microfilm system).
by Michelle Wilkes G2G6 Pilot (144k points)
selected by Paul Kinney
Michelle gives good advice. In the United States, different states and different counties within a state have different recordkeeping arrangements and structures. Therefore, do some advance research to figure out which types of records the county might have and which county office has which type of record. For example, in my county (not in Missouri), I know that deeds are in the Register of Deeds office (some are also online), but I'm not aware of which office has vital records -- I'm guessing it would be the county clerk, but I imagine that the staff at the courthouse entrance might fumble around trying to figure out where to send you.
I already know this office has marriage records. Birth records are in a state office (and don't exist before 1900). I also already know which office suite to go to.

Please tell me more about the catalogue.
In the record offices I go to in the UK, the system varies from office to office. In general there are shelves of folders, arranged by type of records...so their may be a shelf of hospital records arranged by hospital in alphabetical order - then each folder will contain list of records for that hospital (often arranged chronologically) and will give the reference number allocated to each batch of documents.

Most UK record offices also have parish registers (baptisms, marriages and burials) on microfilm, and these are usually arranged alphabetically.

But the best thing to do the first time is to ask the person on the desk and they would usually show you where you need to look, and show you what to do.
Just a couple of points to add if going to a UK archives. Many use the CARN scheme and you will need identification to get a readers ticket. http://www.archives.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigns-sp-1351194270.html
The second, remember to take pencils as pens aren't allowed in document rooms.
+7 votes
by Bruce Veazie G2G6 Mach 5 (57.9k points)
Thank you! Alas, marriage records don't seem to be in the mix. Even so, I'll be perusing the 1850 census.
Not sure what you mean about marriages records. Could you elaborate?
A record that says this person married that person on this date, perhaps even adding the venue and parentage. Warren County, MO says they have such things dating back to 1833. Since I'm interested in 1850 I hope they have something.

Here's the situation. Frederick Stock came to Missouri from Germany. He married First Wife. She gave birth to a son (my ancestor) and died in childbirth. Frederick remarried. Second Wife gave birth to several more children. We know the name of Second Wife is Louisa Fosse (or Fasse). We don't know the name of First Wife.
I did find marriage records in this list -- they were hiding under vital records. I think I'm going to be busy for a while. Thanks for all the help and sorry for the confusion.
+9 votes
The best advice given was to do some research on the count records system. The do vary a lot. Next is to talk to the clerk. Ive found that most clerks will show you what is available where. Be polite and not be demanding. Ive been in count offices when someone come in very demanding that the clerk do this or that. Just gets them mad and uncooperative. Have your plan and talk to them.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (459k points)
+3 votes

For those interested in Missouri county records, the Missouri State Archives has a database listing available county records.  It can be found at  https://s1.sos.mo.gov/records/archives/archivesdb/countyinventory/ Once you find out a record type is available, you just need to determine how to access it, either electronically, microfilm, or paper, which is not included in the database.  The archives also notes:

To date, electronic inventories have been compiled for 107 of 115 county-level jurisdictions (including the City of St. Louis), however, the Missouri State Archives provides access to records from every county on microfilm.  Currently, there are no electronic inventories available for local government offices in the following counties: Atchison, Bollinger, Dunklin, Montgomery, Oregon, Pemiscot, Vernon, and Warren.

by Michelle Enke G2G6 Pilot (336k points)

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