Genealogy researchers, abstractors and lawyers have a new tool to peek into Cape Girardeau County's past.
The Cape Girardeau County Archive Center in Jackson recently released a new book that indexes every individual who passed through probate court systems from 1797 to 2002.
The index took nine people and three years to complete.
The book indexes 28,639 cases, from marriage licenses to wills to child and adult guardian cases.
Prior to the index and a new filing system in the archive building, researchers often had to look through numerous indexes and files to get all the information. Now, all of the names are indexed by alphabetical order. All a researcher has to do is look up the name to find the specific file.
"Any time someone comes into Cape County to research, we always suggest they look at probate," said archive director Jane Randol Jackson. "This will make it much easier."
Catherine Stoverink, an employee at the archive center, helped work on the book. She said the work was tedious but rewarding, especially when people discover something new about their family's past. The research for the book unearthed about 400 cases that were in files but not indexed for anyone to find them.
She said she found it interesting, and a little sad, to read about some of the children who were found in the files.
"So many people were forgotten, children forgotten and abandoned," she said. "But going through the records we can find that so-and-so were adopted."
Steven Pledger, another employee at the archive center, who got the project jump-started by writing a grant to obtain 816 special archive boxes, talks about three deaths. The first death when the soul leaves the body, the second one when the person is buried and the third when the person's name is spoken for the last time.
"We spoke a lot of names," Pledger said.
Local abstractor Dan O'Loughlin said the book will help immensely and that he'll buy a book soon.
Before the book, there would be "three or four places we'd have to look. With the book, you'll know right away if the file is here or in Cape. It's going to be a big, big time saver."
Six interns from Southeast Missouri State University and the Local Records Program of the Missouri State Archives contributed to the project. The names were transcribed from the early index books, note cards and individual probate files.
The 227-page book is on sale at the archive center for $35 per copy.
The center is at 112 E. Washington St. in Jackson.