Center for Archival Collections
Learning about Sources: County Records
What they are. Births and deaths were not recorded in Ohio until late in 1867. The records were held by the Probate Court until 1908. At that time, responsibility for creating these records passed to the Department of Health, where it remains today. Birth records include the name of the child (if any), the date of birth, sex, race, place of birth, father's name, mother's maiden name, and who reported the birth. Death records include the name of the deceased, the date of death, age, place of death, place of birth (if known), occupation, names of parents (for infants only until after 1908), cause of death, and who reported the death.
Marriages are found in the County Probate Court records from the time that the county was officially organized. Marriage records may include the name of the groom, the name of the bride, the date of the marriage, and the name of the person who performed the ceremony. If the bride or groom were under age, a parent's consent might be included. Later marriage records (after 1900) may include the ages of the couple and the names of their parents.
How to use them. The Center for Archival Collections holds a microfilm copy of the births, deaths, and marriages from nineteen counties in northwest Ohio from 1867-1908. Holdings for some counties may also include more recent records. For specific holdings, see the Guide to Local Government Records, select the county you are interested in and click the link for Probate Court. For more recent records, select the county of interest and click the link for General Health District.
Most volumes are indexed in the front, by the first letter of the surname. Numbers refer to the page of the given volume. Some later volumes are "self-indexing"--that is, all the "A" entries are together for a given year, sometimes grouped by the political subdivision. Some counties have compiled index volumes which list the name, date, volume and page on which a record can be found.
For births and deaths between 1908-1936, contact the Ohio Historical Society, 1982 Velma Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43211, +1-614-297-2510. OHS has developed an online Index to Deaths, 1913-1937. For births and deaths after 1936, contact the Division of Vital Statistics, Ohio Department of Health, G-20 Ohio Department Building, 65 South Front Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215. The Division of Vital Statistics also includes records of divorces after 1948 and marriages after September 1949.
- Look through the volume to see how it is organized.
- Be flexible about spelling
- Be flexible about handwriting
- Remember that the recorders sometimes made mistakes
- Remember that the recorders were sometimes given incorrect information
- Births and deaths occurring in the County Home may be recorded with Home records
- Check the marriage records in both the husband's and the wife's county of residence
- Check marriage records in nearby counties if the person lived near the border, or if the marriage is a very early one
- Check marriage records in nearby states or communities popular with those who eloped
What they are. Wills, estates, and guardianships deal with the family and property of the deceased. Wills are formal documents recording the how the deceased wanted his or her estate handled. The surviving spouse and all surviving children, including adults may be listed, as well as property and household goods. Estates record the court dealings for those who died without a will. Guardianships deal with the care of minor children and sometimes with surviving wives and handicapped adults. Records are located in the Probate Court of each county, though some information before 1856 may be found in the Court of Common Pleas records.
County Homes were established to care for the county's orphans, elderly, disabled, and indigent. Births and deaths were recorded in the Admissions Registers. For more information, see the Archival Chronicle article on the subject.
Cemetery Records may be held at the county level (e.g., the County Recorder's office) or the township level, depending upon whose jurisdiction the particular cemetery falls under. Cemetery deeds or interment records may provide further details about the deceased and their date and cause of death or next of kin. Many county genealogical societies have created indexes to cemetery inscriptions.
How to use them. Government record volumes are generally indexed in the front. Researchers can use wills and estate records to learn dates of death, married names of daughters, residences of surviving adult children, and family economic situations. Coroner's records, county home records, and cemetery records can establish the date and cause of death of persons who may not be listed in Probate records. Cemetery inscription books can pinpoint the cemetery where an ancestor is buried and record dates of birth and death prior to the existence of Probate records. Burial locations may also suggest names of related individuals. For a listing of local government records held by the CAC, go to the Guide to Local Government Records, select the county you need and click on the appropriate office.
- Look through the volume to see how it is organized.
- Be flexible about spelling
- Be flexible about handwriting
- Remember that the recorders sometimes made mistakes
- Remember that the recorders were sometimes given incorrect information.
- Check records in nearby counties if the person lived near the border
Naturalization Records document the date on which an alien went through the process of becoming an American citizen. Naturalizations could take place in any court of record, although almost all naturalization records in Ohio were held at the county level. Today, federal courts have assumed much of the responsibility for naturalizations, and the researcher should consult them first for naturalizations occurring after about 1930.
After an alien had resided in the United States for a minimum of three years, he could make a "Declaration of Intention" renouncing his allegiance to his native country and stating his intent to become an American citizen. Declarations of Intention are sometimes called "first papers." After two more years of residence, the alien could become a full-fledged citizen by taking an oath of citizenship in court. Thus, a minimum residence of five years was needed for a foreign-born person to become a citizen.
In Ohio, early naturalizations were handled through the Court of Common Pleas and are usually found as short entries in the Common Pleas Journals. When the Probate Court was established in the 1850s, many (but not all) counties moved naturalization proceedings to the Probate Court, where separate declaration of intention and naturalization volumes were kept. Major changes in the law covering naturalizations took effect about 1910, and the procedure was again handled in the Court of Common Pleas. Practices in other states may be different.
Because the laws regarding citizenship changed many times over the course of our nation's history, there is a tremendous variety in the amount and type of information researchers will find in naturalization records. The earliest records in the Court of Common Pleas Journals usually just list the names of the aliens taking the oath of citizenship and no other personal information (not even their country of origin is listed). Later records may mention the native country, but not the hometown or province. Still later declarations of intention may list the hometown as well as a brief physical description of the alien and the ship he sailed on. After 1906, prospective citizens were required to produce a certificate of arrival, and fill out an extended questionnaire on themselves and their families. The application for citizenship and "final papers" were on a single form which included much of this information as well as the names and birthdates (and birthplaces) of the alien's spouse and children. For more information, see the articles on naturalization in the Archival Chronicle.
How to use them. Even with no other information than the date of naturalization, the researcher knows that at least five years must have passed since the date of immigration. Passenger lists should be consulted to determine the point of embarkation, which is often the home nation. The Federal Census from 1850 onward will list the native country, and often the part of the country or province (e.g., Bavaria or Scotland). The International Genealogical Index may provide another means to determine the hometown. Researchers whose ancestors lived in the Toledo area may also wish to check the Lucas County Board of Elections records for naturalization-related records of registered voters. For a listing of the naturalization records held by the CAC, go to the Guide to Local Government Records, select the county you need and click on the appropriate office.
- Not everyone became a citizen.
- Some aliens waited decades before filing papers.
- Since the law required 5 years residence in the United States, if an alien moved during this time, his declaration may be found in a different location from his "final papers." Not everyone was required to file a declaration of intention.
- Not all documents may have survived.
- Women took the citizenship of their husbands and became naturalized automatically when their husbands did. Thus, there are very few naturalization papers for women until women had the right to vote (ca. 1920). Until about 1910, wives were never recorded on their husbands' naturalization papers.
- Children under 21 took the citizenship of their fathers. Thus, when the father became naturalized, so did his minor children. The expression "father's papers" refers to this situation. Until about 1910, children were never recorded on their fathers' naturalization papers.
- Other legislation may apply to an individual's situation. Consult American Naturalization Processes and Procedures, 1790-1985 by John J. Newman (Indiana Historical Society, 1985) CAC pOG 3445 REF for more information.
- Name changes.
- Some aliens chose to Americanize their names (e.g., Karl Schmidt becomes Charles Smith), or used birth names and Americanized names interchangeably throughout their lives. This was not always "forced" on them by immigration officials.
- A few aliens chose a completely different "American" name (often a translation of their birth name) at the time of their naturalization or selected from several different names they had used in their native country. After 1906, these name changes are recorded on the naturalization document.
- Spelling changes.
- Some aliens chose to simplify or Americanize the spelling of their names to make them easier to pronounce by other Americans.
- Other aliens retained the original spellings, and were willing to have the pronunciation change to fit the spelling.
- Not all aliens were literate or literate in English. The spelling on the document may represent the clerk's "best guess" about the native spelling of the name or his attempt to interpret a signature which could be using old-style German script or a non-Roman alphabet.
- Different nationalities or even ethnic groups may use different spelling conventions.
Land Records document the ownership of real property. These records can be found in the office of the County Recorder (e.g. Mortgage Records, Deed Records, Corporation Records, Cemetery Records) and are often organized by the parcel of land. Indexes by Grantor (seller) and Grantee (purchaser) are often available.
Road Records not only document construction planning and techniques but also tell us about those who settled and worked on the roads. Early residents of townships and counties were often obligated to donate their labor and equipment to road construction and maintenance. Thus, various road documents actually help place individuals in relation to their neighbors and early landmarks.
Road Files often contain Petitions and Orders for construction or improvements which list the names of people in a particular locality at a certain time. This type of information may help supplement census and enumeration data. In addition, the Road Files include descriptions of the proposed work, copies of bids, costs, and resolutions.
Road Plans and Plats contain profile drawings, plats, and sketches of the construction and improvement of roads. In addition to the names and boundary lines of roads, these records include the owners of property which runs on or is adjacent to each road. Road Records in the County Engineer's office often document lands to be appropriated for improvements, showing owner, acres owned, and quantity of land to be appropriated.
Road records are usually arranged chronologically by date of meeting, date road was established, or date of filing. Related records include Ditch, Survey, and Turnpike Roads. For a listing of the types of records held by the CAC, go to the Guide to Local Government Records, select the county you need and click on the appropriate office.
Military Records The County Auditor kept a variety of records regarding the military service of county residents. Civil War Bounty Records containing a list of volunteers' names filed with the auditor for payment of the county bounty. This list includes the volunteer's name, company enlisted, age, names of dependents, date of enlistment, sworn statements and an abstract of county payments. Commutation Records concern those men drafted for service in the Union Army and contain a list of conscripts, township of residence, and amount of commutation paid.
The Militia Roll is a list of males subject to the military draft and includes all male residents with their name, age, and place of residence. The Enumeration of Soldiers and Sailors is an alphabetical list by political subdivision and then by the names of the soldiers and sailors. Included in this record are the names of living veterans of the Mexican, Civil War, Spanish American and Philippine Insurrection, their branch of service, war, company regiment, battery, vessel, rank, and address.
Indigent Soldier Burial Record contains the name of the deceased, last residence, rank, date of death, burial costs, place and date of burial for the post-Civil War era. For more information about military records related to Civil War veterans, see the Archival Chronicle . For a listing of the types of records held by the CAC, go to the Guide to Local Government Records, select the county you need and click on the appropriate office.
Board of Education Minutes contain a record of business transacted at the meetings, including salary appropriations, contracts, building construction, and any other business which might have come before the board.
Enumerations of School Age Youth (maintained by the county auditor's office) show the date, school district number, number of youth, name of youth, age, and sometimes the names of parents.
Records of Teachers Examinations (maintained by the board of education) include the name of teacher, branches of study, test scores, and date.
Teachers Term Records/School Registers/Pupil Records contain the school number, term, date, name of pupil, age, attendance record, branches of study pursued, name of teacher, and sometimes grades. Some of these records include a Visitor's Register which gives the date, name of visitor, and remarks.
Personnel and Budgetary Records include the terms and salaries of school teachers, receipts and disbursements, school tax rates, and maintenance and operation of the school buildings. For a listing of the types of records held by the CAC, go to the Guide to Local Government Records, select the county you need and click on the appropriate office.
- Records may be found in a variety of government jurisdictions
- Records may sometimes be found in private hands
- Not all documents have survived
- Some records are abstracts or summaries of statistics and do not include information about individual pupils or teachers
- For further information about Ohio's school records, see the article in the Archival Chronicle
What they are. The County Auditor maintains duplicate Lists of Taxable Property within the county, including real estate. Arranged chronologically and by locality, the lists show the owner's name, property description and value, and the amount of tax assessed.
Abstracts of Tax are statistical summaries of taxable property within a county and do not record the names of individuals.
- Records are usually arranged by date and then by locality, not by the owner's name
- No family relationships are recorded on tax records
- The names of renters do not appear on real estate tax records
- Ownership of land is not proof of residence
What they are. Children's Home Records can often provide help for those looking for 19th century adoptions, or children who "disappeared" after the loss of a parent. While some of these children were taken in by relatives and friends, other cases were handled through a local government agency. Prior to 1866, Ohio townships appointed Overseers of the Poor to take responsibility for children whose families were having difficulty supporting them. These children were often indentured to insure their support. In 1866, the Ohio General Assembly authorized the establishment of orphan asylums at the county and district level. These children's homes accepted children who had been orphaned, abandoned, neglected, or otherwise poorly supported. Records of these homes are open to the public except for those pertaining to "physical or psychiatric examinations, adoptions, probation, and parole proceedings." Records with restricted access are so marked. Researchers should also check the County Home and County Infirmary records, as many counties did not have separate facilities for children. See More about Township Records for more information about records prior to 1866.
Admittance Records are arranged alphabetically, then chronologically by admission. The name of the child, admittance date, names and addresses of parents (if known), birthdate, race, sex, and a statement about the child's physical and mental condition upon admission may be found here. The record may also include lists of adoptions. Earlier Admittance Records may also include "remarks" which give useful family information. Births are usually noted as well.
Children's Home Death Records are arranged chronologically and are usually indexed. They contain the record of deaths at the home, showing the name, sex, age, death date, grave location, and parents' names. Sometimes deaths were recorded in the Admittance Record in the "discharge" column. Children's Home Indenture Records are arranged chronologically by indenture. Included are the name of the child, date indentured, age, sex, name of the person to whom the child is indentured, and the conditions of the indenture (length, purpose, etc.)
Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the Children's Home include reports from the superintendent which may give information on the children cared for by the home. The Minutes of the County Infirmary Trustees should also be examined for similar information. For a listing of the types of records held by the CAC, go to the Guide to Local Government Records , select the county you need and click on the appropriate office.
Court of Common Pleas in its various divisions of civil, criminal, and juvenile courts can be an important source of information. Much the same information can be found in the Civil Journals as in the Chancery Records (Order Books or Minutes). Nineteenth century volumes may contain tavern, ferry and peddler licenses. Prior to 1851, they may contain estate and guardianship settlements, appraisals, indentures for apprentices, wills, and naturalizations. License records can be found for auctioneers and for embalmers. Those researching African-American history may be interested in the Manumission Records which show the age, occupation, and physical description of the person as well as the state, county, and former owner of the freed person.
Poll Books contain a list of eligible voters, which in the 19th century would be a yearly list of adult males who were voting. These can aid researchers in pinpointing the date of immigration to a county even before property was purchased, approximating birthdates by the appearance of sons on the list, and also possible approximate death dates or migration out of an area by the disappearance of a name. A very similar list is the Quadrennial Enumerations or the Enumerations of White Male Inhabitants, a list of all males over 21 years of age showing name, address, race, occupation, and freeholder status.
In the Juvenile Court Division, the Mothers' Pension Record is a transcript of all actions regarding the granting of a pension to a widowed or deserted mother with minor children. The record includes the mother's and children's names, their birthdates and residence, and an investigator's narrative report. For a listing of the types of records held by the CAC, go to the Guide to Local Government Records , select the county you need and click on the appropriate office.