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Archivists find new insights in old records

Missouri’s state archives hold nearly 80,000 rolls of microfilm.
Friday, April 20, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:24 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
Patsy Luebbert, far left, questions James Rienkemeyer, left, Jacob Rueckenhoff, center, and Cassey Lambert, right, who are part of a group of third- and fourth-graders from St. Thomas the Apostle School in St. Thomas on a field trip to the State Archives on Wednesday in Jefferson City. Luebbert has worked at the archives for 31 years. “I learn something new every day,” she said. “Earlier today, I learned a tornado hit St. Louis in 1929. I didn’t know this happened.” To learn more about how people use the archives, see the story on page 8A.

The Missouri State Archives, in Jefferson City, are like a treasure chest. Visitors can discover family documents and photographs they don’t know exist. And although traveling back in time to meet distant family members is impossible, looking through archived records may give you that sense of connection.

The archives, the official repository for state and local documents of permanent historical value, offer a wealth of personal information for the curious.

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If you have ever wondered what your great-great-grandparents were doing when they were your age, or the extent of your heritage, these archives may unravel more answers than you have questions.

For some, the search for authentic documents and photographs is a passion. Hartsburg Mayor Nancy Hunt Grant and her husband, Mike Rodemeyer, are two such people.

“I found my grandmother’s old grade book with all the students’ names and her signature in it,” Rodemeyer said. “If you have relatives here, you can look them up and see what you can find in the archives.”

Rodemeyer is currently searching for clues that might suggest his relatives are related to any famous people.

The couple has been archiving for years, but desire rather than experience is necessary for archiving. New enthusiasts coming into the archives can talk to senior reference archivist Patsy Luebbert, who helps visitors find archives.

She says some people come in with specific questions, such as “In what year did my relative win a medal for a sporting event?”

Others are looking for information on the Civil War.

For specific inquiries, Luebbert uses a finding aid, such as a database or catalog, to direct visitors toward a collection of interest-specific archives. It’s best to come in with a narrowed topic of interest, Luebbert says. If searching for family records, such as marriage certificates, she suggests knowing the county in which the relative lived. Family records are organized by county rather than city and state.

The services are free. The only charge is for copies of documents.

The current location of the archives is about 16 years old. It moved from a warehouse to a new building in Jefferson City in 1991. However, the archives hold documents dating as far back as 1770.

The oldest describes Martin Duralde’s appointment as surveyor of St. Louis when the city was established by the French government.

Visitors can find more than 50,000 rolls of county records on microfilm, including original marriage announcements and wills.

All together, there are nearly 80,000 rolls of microfilm, as well as 40,000 cubic feet of local, original government records available in the reference room. Besides family records, visitors can find information on Missouri government, including voting records in the state’s legislature.

Each month, the archives receive new rolls of microfilm from the municipal government.

For more information on the Missouri State Archives, go to sos.mo.gov/archives/.


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