Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Searching for marriage and death notices in Missouri Newspapers

In my last post I published the marriage certificate of Robert KING and Tabitha HOUSE that I downloaded from Ancestry.com. Robert KING and Tabitha HOUSE were married on July 28, 1870 in Howell County, Missouri. They had two children, Dora and William Fletcher King, and then Robert King died in 1876 according to Tabitha’s obituary.

From watching Who Do You Think You Are? and from setting a new goal this year of going “outside the box,” I’m trying to learn how to find and use newspaper articles in my research. I would therefore like to find both a marriage notice for Robert King and Tabitha House and a death notice for Robert King from a Missouri newspaper. It’s just never as easy as it seems. The marriage notice might be the easiest to tackle because I have an exact day, month and year. The death notice, not so much.

I started off my search by getting a sense of what newspapers were local to the area during the time of these events.  

I went to the Chronicling America website at the Library of Congress and did a search in their US Newspaper Directory for Newspapers in Howell County, Missouri from 1870 to 1880 and it returned two newspapers: The South Missouri Journal (1870-18??) and the West Plains Journal (1870-1898). The South Missouri Journal is only available for the year 1873.

The West Plains Journal is available as the following:
1876 (6:23) – from American Antiquarian Society, Newspaper Project, Worcester, MA
1874 (10:1) – from the Boston Public Library, Boston, MA
1926 (2:25) – from the Kansas State Historical Society, Newspaper Project, Topeka, KS
1896-1898 (1:2 - 9:22) – from the State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia, MO
1896-1898 (1:2 - 9:22) – from the West Plains Public Library, West Plains, MO

I checked out the American Antiquarian Society’s website and they do have this journal, though no specific volume, year, or date information is provided on their website. I created a free account and I submitted an order for a PDF copy of the newspaper, I guess in whatever format it turns out to be in.

**Update 5/13/12: I waited a few days and didn't hear anything from them regarding my order, so I sent them an email. They processed my request the next day. I was sent JPG copies of the 4 page issue of the newspaper. It was the June 23, 1876 issue. I paid $15 via credit card to their site over the internet. The cost was quite steep for a paper that I did not even know contained any references to my ancestor, but sometimes that's the price we pay for information. 

It wasn't a bad first experience with the American Antiquarian Society. I did not find any references to my ancestor, Robert King, in this issue, but I did find, and write about the B. C. Thomas & Co Store which was in business in Howell Co during the time that my King ancestors were living there. I also posed the question of whether Mr. Blackman C. Thomas was related to Robert King's mother-in-law, Millie Thomas. 

Since there were no newspapers for the year 1870, when Robert and Tabitha were married, I changed my county search from Howell to Oregon. This resulted in the South Missourian (Alton, MO) and the South Missourian (Thomasville, MO), however they did not start until 1871 and 1873 respectively, so would not help me find a marriage notice, but might help me find a death notice for Robert KING.

The year 1876, in which Robert King died, is held by the following:
·         Chicago Historical Society Library in Chicago, IL (Vol 7, issue 22)
·         The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. (Vol 8, issue 5)
·         The State Historical Society of Missouri in Columbia, MO (Vol 7, issue 8).

It might be difficult to narrow down the exact date of death for Robert KING if these newspapers are not digitized and cannot be searched easily and quickly. I would probably have to hire a researcher to go through each issue at each repository to look for a notice of his death, unless these repositories offered a reasonable search fee.

As far as online historical databases go, I have checked the following:
·         America’s Historical Newspapers which includes Early American Newspapers, Series 1, 1690-1876 by Readex
·         Newsbank which my university subscribes to but which only goes back to
·         GenealogyBank, via their list of publications

I went on the Missouri Digital Newspaper Site and found the Doniphan Prospect newspaper that was put out weekly. Doniphan was in neighboring Ripley County and had some news associated with Oregon County as well. I scanned through the issues for the year 1876 which took me several hours. I found a mention of a Mr. King fromAugust 4, 1876. He was mentioned as a neighbor to a gentleman who was called upon in the middle of the night to marry a young couple who had come up from Arkansas. I did not, however, find a death notice for him in 1876 or in January 1877. I did find at least one death notice for a man from Oregon County, so I’m fairly confident that a death in Oregon County would have warranted notice in the Doniphan Prospect.

So either my Robert King did not die in 1876 like his wife’s obituary some 60 years later said, or he died in Howell County which was too far away to be mentioned in the Doniphan Prospect. (Howell County is only one county west of Oregon, which is only one county west of Ripley for which the Doniphan Prospect was written).

I’m not sure where to go from here. I need papers from South Missouri for the year 1870 and 1876. When I did a search on the Chronicling America website for all of Missouri, it came up with over 300 results. There really isn’t an option for “South Missouri” on that site.

I guess I will have to start asking around and inquiring with the local genealogy societies and libraries. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave in the comments below. 


  1. Ginger did you check the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence MO? They have a good newspaper collection on microfilm. Let me know what you find and I will look for you if they have what you need.

    1. Hi Jenna, thank you for the suggestion. I will check with them.