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Foreign-Born in the Ozarks Immigrants to Southwest Missouri


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This project was started by the Greene County Archives & Records Center about a dozen years ago. Four filing cabinets of information were collected and then the project, which seemed overwhelming at the time, just stalled.

Almost a year and a half ago this project was taken up again. Now, in addition to the collected information, new sources were available; specifically online sites. The Missouri Secretary of State’s office digitized and put online death certificates from 1910 to the 1960s. These provided places of birth, names of spouses and parents and birth and death dates. Burial locations were also usually listed. On the same site are some military records from the Civil War and World War I. Other military content was gleaned from the Federal Civil War Soldiers & Sailors website [www.nps.gov] . Familysearch.org provided census and genealogical background. Heritagequest [heritagequestonline.com] is also very useful in checking census records. Various USGENWEB sites were also very informative, particularly Barry and Christian Counties. Mabel Phillips and Wayne Glenn have produced a tremendous amount of material on Christian County, some also online. Other internet sites include Rootsweb.com, findagrave.com and the social security death index.

A number of people have contributed to this effort. Greg Pentecost did a lot of early research for this work. David Rauch provided access to St. Peter’s Evangelical Church records in Billings and was helpful getting copies of St. John’s Evangelical Church records in Springfield. Joan Hampton-Porter of the History Museum for Springfield/Greene County scanned the Springfield Swedish Church records. Steve Weldon, Marjorie Bull and Doris Carter Wardlow of the Jasper County Records Center copied naturalization and declaration of intention papers from that county. David Jones of the Harold Bell Wright Museum in Pierce City has researched and published a great deal on that town and Lawrence County which provided clues to foreign-born residents of that county. For Wright County Gloria Bogart Carter has put forth a great effort as Mary Bean Cunningham has done in Webster County. Susan Sparks and Bob Phillips and Polk County Genealogical Society in Bolivar are excellent resources on Polk County and Cedar County.

Early platbooks have been reprinted by the Greene County Archives with the help of many people. They provided settlement locations for a number of immigrants and even some photographs of them and their families. Carolyn Snider, an Archives volunteer, has indexed most of these.

Other joint projects which contributed to this work include Betty Nelson and the Dade County Genealogical Society’s 2006 reprint History of Dade County and Her People, Margaret Owsley, Don Ginnings and the Hickory County Historical Society’s Cemetery Directory of Hickory County, Missouri Let Us Remember II, published in 2004, and the Forsyth Library with Jerry Gideon and Bob Miley Taney County Land Sales and Taney County Plat Book 1926, reprinted in 2001.

A number of southwest Missouri county and city histories have been searched and are cited and included in the bibliography which has been compiled by Steve Haberman of the Archives staff. There are also city directories for Springfield, Joplin, Carthage, Bolivar and other towns.

With the time available it has not been possible to check many sources on site in other counties. In those public records there are marriages, probate files, naturalization papers and discharges books. Church and cemetery records exist that are also probably useful. Sally Lyons McAlear has written an excellent history of St. Agnes Parish in Springfield and I saw a reference to Sacred Heart Catholic Church records of Mt. Grove, Wright County, 1893 – 1954. There are a number of Catholic and Lutheran cemeteries in southwest Missouri. Many newspapers have been microfilmed by the State Historical Society of Missouri and could contain useful information. There are a surprising number of places to search for information on immigrants including the Ellis Island [ellisisland.org] and Castle Garden [castlegarden.org] online sites along with passenger list resources.

Lastly, the Ozarks Genealogical Society has created and printed a number of helpful and extremely useful books, mainly on Greene County, but also some other counties. Their quarterly publication, Ozar’kin, does include contributions of all the counties of southwest Missouri.

A surprising number of immigrants settled in southwest Missouri. There was a Bohemian community centered around Karlin in Polk County. In Barry County, around Pulaskifield, many Polish settlers found new homes. There were clusters of Swedish families in Lawrence, Wright and Douglas counties and Germans and Irish everywhere. Near Monett was a Waldensian church and settlement developed with people arriving from the Piedmont Valley in Italy. Small numbers of other nationalities also found new lives in the Ozarks; English, Czech, French, Turkish, Dutch.

There are certainly a number of people who have been missed for both this listing, and in the thank you and acknowledgments list. Any omissions are by accident. Any one person or group, who has contributed to the history and documentation of southwest Missouri, has made possible Foreign-Born in the Ozarks.