JOPLIN, Mo. —
Families with African-American ancestry have an especially difficult task in researching family history, because many of their ancestors were slaves who were not allowed to read or write before the Civil War. Consequently, letters, diaries and similar records are scarce.
Fortunately, black families in Missouri have several archives and museums that will be helpful.
Before visiting these sites, however, researchers should first digitize old photos and documents and have older relatives tell what they know about them. Families should also record the stories of the older family members. Even distant cousins need to be contacted.
Places to start your research
- For local records, check the Jasper County Record Center at 125 Lincoln Street in Carthage. For hours and directions, call 417-359-1100.
- The Greene County Archives and Records Center in Springfield also has many records that pertain to black history in Southwest Missouri. For hours and directions, call 417-868-4021.
- A great place to take the family is George Washington Carver National Monument. The 210-acre park includes an exceptional museum, as well as a serene nature trail where the world-famous botanist often walked when he was a child. His birthplace is part of the park. CarverÕs life is an extraordinary example of how one can overcome great adversity. For hours and directions, call 417-325-4151.
- The Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum in Ash Grove is small but power-packed. Father Moses Berry, the curator, has created the museum using hundreds of artifacts that his family saved. Each item has been thoroughly researched. The tour gives an insight into the black history of Southwest Missouri in the 1800s. For more details, call 417-672-3104.
- To learn about ancestors who served during the Civil War, visit the Hulston Research Center at WilsonÕs Creek National Battlefield, located between Republic and Springfield. It is one of the best Civil War research centers west of the Mississippi River. For hours and directions, call 417-732-2662, ext. 227.
- The Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence has one of the largest genealogy collections in the Midwest. For hours and directions, call 816-252-7228.
- The State Historical Society on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus has more than 41 million pages of newspaper microfilm. The microfilm can be used at Columbia or obtained by interlibrary loan at other Missouri libraries. For hours and directions, call 800-747-6366.
- Life-size figures of African American leaders are part of the exhibits at the Griot Museum of Black History in St. Louis. For hours and directions, call 314-241-7057.
Suggestions or queries? Contact Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.