Reference Collection

Society's Reading Room ca. 1900


The Reference Collection houses resources ranging from family histories and printed minutes kept by local literary societies to Missouri official publications and scholarly monographs on the history of the state and the lives of its citizens.

Local historians and genealogists can find a multitude of sources such as county and town histories, city directories, compiled cemetery records, and indexes to local records.

Primary and secondary sources on many aspects of the state’s and the nation’s history and culture await the specialized researcher.



Missouri Education and Research Libraries Information Network

  • Surname Index
  • Vertical Files
  • Special Collections

The Reference Collection contains several card catalogs to assist patrons and staff in accessing the holdings. SHSMO houses other smaller, unique finding aids. Patrons can use these card catalogs when they visit SHSMO's Reference Collection, and staff members routinely use them to answer correspondence and to reply to telephone calls.

The Missouri Surname Index provides citations to biographies in early Missouri county histories and to selected biographical items in newspapers, periodicals, vertical files and books. Although this index is not an "every name file," the Missouri Surname Index is a good place for historians to begin their research on an individual.

The vertical files contain magazine and newspaper clippings, handwritten information donated by patrons, bibliographies, programs, brochures, flyers and other materials that, by reason of their physical formats, cannot be placed on the shelves with books. Patrons locate these files through subject cards in the card catalog and/or the Vertical File shelf list cards. The files are not open to public browsing; Society staff retrieves folders upon request.

Surname Vertical Files

Although the Surname vertical files are primarily Family Surname Files, they include files on individual Missouri politicians, pioneers, past and present celebrities, outlaws, and architects. Examples of individuals included are Daniel Boone, Jesse James, Harry S. Truman, Morris Frederick Bell, Sheryl Crow, and Brad Pitt. Within this collection are purple vertical file folders for Missouri Military Personnel Deaths occurring during the past twenty-five years.

Missouri Artists Vertical Files

The Missouri Artists vertical files are orange files containing information about native Missouri artists or artists who have focused on Missouri for inspiration in their work. Included are multiple files on well-known Missouri artists Thomas Hart Benton and George Caleb Bingham. There are also files on artistic organizations and galleries throughout the state.

Missouri Author Vertical Files

The Missouri Authors vertical files are green files containing information about native Missouri authors or authors who have focused on Missouri in their writings. This includes multiple files on author Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and poet Eugene Field.

Missouri Law Enforcement Memorial Vertical Files

In the early 1990's, the Missouri State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of the Police and the Missouri State Trooper's Association established a memorial to Missouri Law Enforcement personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty. Society staff members helped in this project by researching and documenting line-of-duty deaths. A large set of blue vertical files containing information on the service and deaths of these law enforcement personnel grew out of the project. Society staff members still help to document and verify the eligibility of past law enforcement personnel whose names are added to the memorial in Jefferson City. Information concerning the deaths of current law enforcement personnel is also gathered, and each individual's name is added to the collection of blue vertical files.

Missouri Fallen Firefighters Memorial Vertical Files

In 2003, the Reference Library staff began the Fallen Firefighters Memorial vertical files as a companion to the Law Enforcement Memorial vertical files. The Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Kingdom City, Missouri, was the inspiration and starting point for this collection. Information has been located on almost all of the firefighters listed on the memorial, and additional red folders are added to the collection when new information becomes available about past or present line-of-duty deaths. The collection also includes the names of emergency medical personnel who have been killed in the line-of-duty.

The Reference Collection holds several collections of rare and special interest books. Included among these are:

  • the J. Christian Bay Collection of Middle Western Americana
  • the Mahan Memorial Mark Twain Collection
  • the Eugene Field Collection
  • the Paul D. Higday Civil War Collection
  • the Alice Irene Fitzgerald Collection, which contains books for children and youth written by Missourians or about Missouri.

Also in the regular collection are some interesting and useful sub-groups:

County Atlases/Plat Maps

The Reference Collection houses the Missouri County Atlases/Plat Maps, while the Newspaper Collection maintains the microfilm that is used to make copies of the plat maps. These atlases/plat maps are a wonderful resource for researchers seeking to locate the land their ancestors owned or the location of historic towns, roads, water bodies, and railroads.

County Record Indexes

The Reference Collection has a large collection of Missouri County Record Indexes, which are cataloged under call number F508.3. The majority of these indexes are to county birth/death registers, marriage licenses, and cemetery transcriptions. There are additional record indexes, including probate/will, taxes, and other county government records. These indexes refer to records held by individual counties. SHSMO does not have these records in its collection; instead many of these records are available on microfilm at the Missouri State Archives in Jefferson City. The availability of county records varies greatly by county due to courthouse fires, neglect, natural disasters, and economics. A portion of these county record indexes can be found online through the online catalog.

Official Publications

The Reference Collection of official Missouri state publications is catalogued under the letter "M." Since SHSMO is a state depository library, this collection grows constantly, with additions from all branches and departments of Missouri state government. Many researchers use the rosters, pictures, and laws within these official state manuals to find current and historical information. The Missouri Official Manuals, nicknamed "blue books," include a wealth of information about Missouri and its government officials. The biographical sketches in these "blue books" are cited in the Missouri Surname Index. The Missouri Official Manuals are accessible to the public in the reference collection. The majority of the Missouri official collection, excluding the Missouri Official Manuals, is not browsable by the public and must be retrieved from closed stacks by the reference staff.

Missouri Society Daughters of the American Revolution Library

While the MSSDAR maintains this collection, it is housed in the Reference Collection room at the State Historical Society and is available to everyone.