Archives :: Research :: Citing Records

Research Room

Citing Records at the Missouri State Archives

The primary purpose of a citation is to document your sources well enough so that you (and others) can retrieve them at a later date. Because archival materials are unique and rarely cataloged at the item level, special care is needed in citing records; otherwise, archives staff may not be able to locate the item again. When you are at the archives, note down information from the finding aid and from labels on the folder and box or volume, even if not all the information is required in the citation itself. Our suggested citations follow the format of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). See NARA's General Information Leaflet 17 for a detailed description of their citation format.

The particular style you use for footnotes, endnotes, bibliographies, dates, page and volume numbers, punctuation, and capitalization will depend on the style manual (e.g., Modern Language Association or Chicago). We are more concerned that all the needed elements are included in the citation. Generally, the more information you include, the better. Work from the specific to the general, the item to the record group, with as many steps in between as given.

General citation format:

Item; File (or Volume, Roll); Series; Subgroup; Record Group Title, Record Group Number; Repository, location.

Not all records will have all the elements above and a few may have additional elements. Descriptions of each element can be found in NARA's General Information Leaflet 17. If a series or subgroup name has a more commonly known name, you might put it in parentheses after the official name. Associated finding aids should give the necessary information; however, if it is not readily available, ask archives staff. Although NARA discourages listing folder and box numbers because they can change, we allow them in our citations if they are deemed critical to retrieving the item. Place this information in the file element, with folder number preceding box number.

Common situations where folder and box numbers might become necessary are if records are disordered or unprocessed, an item is filed out of order, or a file is very large. Most records follow a chronological or alphabetical order (or both) to help locate specific items but not all records are so easily arranged. Even when there is a detailed finding aid such as the item-by-item listing of early Governors' papers or Constitutional Conventions, if it is a very long one, folder and box numbers will help staff locate the item more quickly. A general rule of thumb is that if you had to search item by item through several folders in a box or even through several boxes to find the cited item, then you should use folder and box numbers. Folders often have this information on the upper left-hand or right-hand corner with a number such as 49/3, the first being the box number and the second being the folder number.

Example of a citation with folder/box numbers and with the elements in brackets:

Amendment "Amend Section 13 by striking out in line 15 the words 'or less'…" (no date) [ITEM]; Amendments to the Missouri Constitution (unarranged) (Folder 8, Box 1) [FILE]; Papers of the Constitutional Convention of 1875 [SERIES]; Constitutions and Constitutional Conventions [SUBGROUP]; Office of the Secretary of State [RECORD GROUP TITLE], Record Group 5 [RECORD GROUP NUMBER]; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City [REPOSITORY].


Loose records can be of almost any type but are generally individual documents found within folders. The better the description of the individual item, the better the chance you will have in retrieving it, especially if there are several copies or versions of a document or several of the same type of document in the folder. Also, if the item comes from an unprocessed collection, you can use descriptive notations in parentheses to help identify its location.


Plat of survey for 4700 arpents on Big Mucklemurry's Island in Mississippi River in district of Cape Girardeau, February 27, 1806; Decision #90, Bartholomew Cousin; Papers of Original Claimants, 1785-1857; Second Board of Land Commissioners (French and Spanish land grants); U.S. Recorder of Land Titles, Record Group 951; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.

Contract between Carl C. Morse, Sculptor, and John J. Pershing Memorial Commission, February 26, 1955; "John J. Pershing Memorial File" (manila envelope), Box 38-3 (unprocessed); Missouri Army National Guard; Adjutant General, Record Group 133; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.


Volumes are bound (or formerly bound) materials usually having numbered pages, though not in all cases. It is important to specify the volume title, volume number or letter, or other unique identifiers to help staff locate it. Remember that if it is a microfilm publication, you need to cite it as such, rather than as an original record held by the archives (many original court records are still held by counties).


Entry for inmate George Staley, aged 21 years, native of New York (no date); Vol. B, November 26, 1841 - July 18, 1865, p. 110; Register of Inmates Received, 1836-1931; Missouri State Penitentiary, Record Group 213; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.

Survey No. 3287 of 4700 arpents on Powers' Island in Mississippi River in townships 28 and 29 north, range 15 east of the 5th principal meridian, granted to Bartholomew Cousin; Vol. C, pp. 478-82, Box 3167 (unprocessed, Rare Documents Vault); Private Surveys (French and Spanish land grants); U.S. Surveyor General of Missouri, Record Group 952; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.


If you are citing a microfilm, it is critical that you cite it as such, as the archives may not own the original records, particularly if they are county records. Include the Missouri State Archives roll or fiche number in the file element in parenthesis. If the roll or fiche has several numbers on it, check with the archives staff as to which is the correct one to cite; generally, microfilm numbers begin with "F" for federal, "S" for state, or "C" for county. Most federal microfilm comes from the National Archives and will have its own roll number, which you should cite along with the Missouri State Archives roll number. It may be helpful to note in parentheses the repository of the original records, if known. Although the NARA microfilm citations use subgroups and record groups, these elements are often difficult to discover, so we allow a shorter citation ending at the series element when the rest is unknown.


Marriage of John M. Scott and Mollie A. Broome, August 12, 1903; Vol. 12, 1901-1905, p. 285 (Missouri State Archives microfilm roll C5347); Marriage Licenses, Pike County, Missouri.

Homer Hicks, Card No. 4305, Claim No. 150,191; Hibbets, Hallie, 4305 - Hulsey, Carrie, 4602 (Missouri State Archives microfilm roll S1349); World War I Back Pay Claims, 1922-23; Adjutant General, Record Group 133; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.

Private Adam Kneedler, Co. C, Searcy's Battalion, Missouri Sharp Shooters; Kn-Ma; Index to Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Missouri (Missouri State Archives microfilm roll F1440, National Archives Microfilm Publication M380, roll 9, originals held at National Archives Building, Washington, DC).


In citing court records, it is particularly important that you note the case file number, as well as the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s) in a criminal or civil case or the name of the deceased or minor in a probate or guardianship case. In some unprocessed, unnumbered, disordered, or large case files, you may also need to cite folder and box number. Remember that if it is a microfilm publication, you need to cite it as such, rather than as an original record held by the archives. Generally, the only court records kept on permanent retention at the archives in Jefferson City are state supreme and appellate courts. County records are sometimes kept temporarily at the archives for microfilming but are then returned.


Rebecca Hawkins vs. State of Missouri, 1841; Case No. 22; Judicial Case Files; Missouri Supreme Court, Record Group 600; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.

Mary Alice Heinbach vs. Jesse Heinbach, Edith Britton and Naomi Summers, and William F. True, Administrator of the Estate of Samuel Heinbach, Deceased, April Term, 1914; Case No. 14178, Trial Transcript, pp. 181-82, 388-91; Judicial Case Files; Missouri Supreme Court, Record Group 600; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.

Cross-examination of Lenore Walker by Ms. Ziegler, March 16, 1994; Faye Della Copeland (Appellant) vs. State of Missouri (Respondent), May Session, 1996; Case No. 73774, "Record on Appeal - Transcript," Vol. V of IX, pp. 874-916, in Vol. 17 of 17 (accordion folder), Box 8 (unprocessed); Judicial Case Files; Missouri Supreme Court, Record Group 600; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.


Most records of the General Assembly of Missouri (House and Senate) are arranged by session. Each session of the General Assembly lasts two years, with a 1st and 2nd regular session with possible interim or special sessions. The 1st session of the 1st General Assembly of Missouri began in 1820 (before official statehood) and the 1st session of the 91st General Assembly began in 2001.


House Bill 25; Records of the House of Representatives; 12th General Assembly, 1st Session, 1842-43; General Assembly, Record Group 550; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.

Joe Maxwell, State Senator, to Representative Marilyn Williams, Chair, April 1, 1999; Agri-Business; House Committee Books; 90th General Assembly, 1st Regular Session, 1999; Standing Legislative Committees, Record Group 560; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.


Photographs are often difficult to cite, especially if they have no unique identification number or caption. The file element (physical form and file number) should be the initial citation element followed by the title (caption) and then the rest of elements, as applicable. If there is no caption or number, list any individuals, places, dates, or other identifying information, and, if available, folder and box number.


Photograph Negative No. 288; "Interior of Concrete Laboratory Showing Testing Machine and Permeability Apparatus," August 27, 1930; Bagnell Dam Construction Negatives; AmerenUE; Manuscript Collection No. 285, Record Group 998; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.

Color Slide "Casting-Big Oak Tree State Park" (no date); 2nd sheet protector, "8/A Sports/Fishing, Sports/Golfing" (blue binder), Box 9 (unprocessed); Color Slides; Missouri Division of Tourism; Department of Economic Development, Record Group 104; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.


Digitized records found on our website should be cited just as if they were the original record with the addition of a note in brackets giving the date accessed and the URL:


Plat of survey for 500 arpents on White Water in district of Cape Girardeau, February 27, 1806; Decision #219, Joseph Niswanger, Jr.; Papers of Original Claimants, 1777-1851; Second Board of Land Commissioners (French and Spanish land grants); U.S. Recorder of Land Titles, Record Group 951; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.