Friday, April 07, 2006

Research Note: Missouri Puts Death Certificates Online

Kudos to Secretary of State Robin Carnahan for Job Well Done!

I've had the opportunity both to praise and chastise officials in my native state of Missouri for their handling of public records of genealogical value. Last year, for example, I was peeved when the Legislature passed a bill that some local officials said would require removing most online records that might contain personal information. But I've long been a fan of Jackson County's outstanding online database of public records. Likewise, I expressed my great pleasure about the way then-Secretary of State [and now Governor] Matt Blunt (R) had implemented a program of the Missouri Archives to place online pre-1910 birth and death records. Now, I'm able make the praise bipartisan: Blunt's Democratic successor as Secretary of State, Robin Carnahan, has continued the state's openness about vital records.

Carnahan has placed online a searchable index of death certificates covering the years 1910-1955. The index is complete for that period, and so far, images are available for the years 1910-1920. More images are being added. For death certificates not yet digitized, Missouri makes it simple to order a photocopy [for the extreme price of one whole U.S. dollar per copy!]. Since its launch a few days ago, the site has been slowed by the volume of visitors.

I've spent some time on the site and found records for several relatives about whom I was missing complete information, particularly my great-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Johnson Long [1871-1946] and her daughter, my great aunt, Mary Beatrice Long [1905-1921].

The one thing that could make this site better would be the ability to order and pay for copies online. A simple pay-per-image system, like this one used in several Texas counties, would be just fine.

Thanks to Dick Eastman for first noting the press release on this project.

Genea-political trivia: Both Robin Carnahan and Matt Blunt come from political families. Carnahan's late father served as Governor of Missouri and died in a plane crash while campaigning for the U.S. Senate. Mel Carnahan was posthumously elected. Her mother Jean then was appointed to that seat. Robin's brother, Russ, represents parts of St Louis County as well as Jefferson and Ste Genevieve counties in the U.S. House of Representatives. Blunt's father, Roy, also serves in the U.S. House, representing an Ozarks district which includes Springfield and Joplin. He is also the House Majority Whip. Roy Blunt preceded his son as Missouri's Secretary of State.

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