Ohio Courthouse records change extensively from county to county in both level of quality and volume. You will find different kinds of court records that are most likely to possess information related for your genealogical research below.
Ohio Court Records
Only three judges served from 1787 until 1802. However, few records of their courts remain. One year after Ohio became a state, the territory was redrawn under one district court at Chillicothe. Considerable reorganization, divisions, and transfers have occurred since then.
Ohio county courts contain various types of records, such as Vital records, naturalizations (in probate court after 1851), and military pension applications. Transaction that occurred before 1851 can be found in the county court of common pleas. Later records will be in the state supreme court files. Court records can also include Land records, deeds, and other miscellaneous records.
For more information about what county court records are located at each county seat, consult Bell’s Ohio Guide to Genealogical Sources. Some records are available on microfilm through either the Ohio Historical Society or the FHL.
The Ohio Network of American History Research Centers may contain some court records.
The National Archives Great Lakes Region holds some records for the Ohio circuit court. Records are divided as follows:
- Northern division: Cleveland (1855–1962) and Toledo (1869–1962)
- Southern division: Cincinnati (1803– 1962), Columbus (1877–1962), and Dayton (1915–62).
See Also Guide to U.S. Court Records Research
- Ohio Court Record Books (amazon.com)
Ohio Land Records
The formation of the Northwest Territory required other states, such as Virginia, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, to give up their claim on portions of land. Previous royal charters had granted all of these stated partial ownership of the land. The cessation of ownership was proposed by the congressional committee in 1778. In 1781, New York complied, followed by a Virginia cessation in 1781, Massachusetts in 1785, and Connecticut in 1786 and 1800. However, a compromise gave Connecticut and Virginia reserved lands in the area.
The plan for the government to dispose of its lands north of the Ohio River, named The Land Act of 20 May 1775, was created by the first congressional committee in 1784. A rectangular survey system was developed, with one section in each township of thirty-six sections reserved for public school support. The plan also established a reserve for religious purposes in section twenty-nine in each township; however, the state was granted authority by congress to sell these sections in 1833.
Ohio’s land tracts were the basis of initial transfers of land from government to individuals. These tracts are listed below:
Virginia Military District – In order to satisfy its military bounty warrants, Virginia reserved Land in twenty-three Ohio counties from the Ohio River north between the Scioto and Little Miami rivers. While this district is One of the original nine major subdivisions in Ohio, it sets itself apart by not using a rectangular survey system. All unclaimed parts of this reserve were given back to the federal government in 1852, and the federal government gave these lands to the State of Ohio. The Virginia State Library in Richmond holds records of all Soldier applications. (see Virginia).
Connecticut Western Reserve – This compromise with Connecticut reserved fourteen northeastern counties starting at the Pennsylvania line. The land is bordered by Lake Erie to the north, and stretches west 120 miles, including the Fire Lands (see below).The Connecticut State Library carries these records (see Connecticut). You will also find a vast collection of records at the Western Reserve Historical Society.
Fire Lands – During the Revolutionary War, the British and their supporters destroyed nine Connecticut towns, devastating supporters of the revolution. The Fire Lands were given to those who suffered losses as a result. The land includes the west end of the Connecticut Western Reserve.
Seven Ranges – This collection of public lands were the first to be surveyed in the United States. They include portions along the Ohio River in southeastern Ohio.
Moravian Indian Grants – This land was granted in 1785 to Christian Indians as reparations for nine innocent Christian Native Americans who were killed after hostile raids occurred in Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. Located in Tuscarawas County, it consists of three separate tracts of 4,000 acres.
Refugee Tract – This central Ohio land was granted to Canadians and Nova Scotians who became refugees by supporting the American Revolution. stretching forty-two miles east from the Scioto River, the land was given to Canadians in 1783 and Nova Scotians in 1785.
Dohrman Tract – Arnold Henry Dohrman supported the Americans during the Revolution through humanitarian and other efforts. After some of his expenditures were disallowed, this tract of land was given to him as compensation. The land was reserved for him in 1787.
The Ohio Company – This southeastern land was negotiated from the federal government in 1787. It was originally supposed to hold 1.5 million acres. However, the company could only raise enough money for 750,000. It was able to add another 200,000 acres in 1792. The Marietta College Library contains records of this purchase.
Donation Tract – When the Ohio company Land was settled, a buffer settlement was needed in the one hundred thousand acres between its land and the population of Native Americans. As an incentive, any male who was eighteen or older was given a donation tract of 100 acres.
Symmes Purchase – This land was privately surveyed and acquired in 1794. The southwestern tract of land stretches between the Great Miami and the Little Miami Rivers, from the Ohio River twenty-four miles northward. It is sometimes known as the Miami Purchase. Although fire destroyed most of the records, two volumes remain at the Hamilton County Recorder’s Office.
French Grants – After the French were taken advantage of in a deal with the Scioto Company, this first grant of 24,000 acres were given to them in Scioto County on the Ohio River. In 1798, a smaller grant was added to this.
U.S. Military District – The Continental army officers and soldiers were given this 2.5 million acres of bounty land in 1796. containing The northern border was formed by the Greenville Treaty Line, the Seven Ranges bordered the east, the Refugee Tract and congress Lands formed the southern line, the western border was the Scioto River.
Zane’s Tracts – Ebenezer Zane cut a road, Zane’s Trace, that connected Wheeling, Virginia (present-day West Virginia) to Limestone (present-day Maysville), Kentucky. As compensation, he was given three 640-acre tracts of land.
Congressional Lands – These were the tracts of land that remained after all other grants and purchases. One was located east of the Scioto River, and the other was positioned west of the Miami River.
Records pertaining to transfers of land from the government to individuals can be found at The Auditor of the State, The National Archives, and the BLM Eastern States Office in Alexandria, Virginia. The state auditor and publisher also offer the following publications for free:
Ohio Lands: A Short History – a short information booklet* The Building of Ohio – a small map showing all the land grants in Ohio.
A searchable index of patents for Ohio can be accessed online at the website for The Bureau of Land Management: www.glorecords.blm.gov. This index will not contain credit purchases of federal land made before 1820.
An extensive resource on land records and boundary disputes in the state can be accessed at The Newberry Library in Chicago. This includes microfilmed Ohio Land Grant Records (1788–1820), works on the Scioto Land Company and the Ohio Company. Once the federal government grants land, any further transactions on that land are recorded in deed books at the county recorder’s office. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research
- U.S., Indexed Early Land Ownership and Township Plats, 1785-1898 (search.ancestry.com) The township plat maps in this database began with the Public Lands Survey in the United States initiated by the Land Ordinance Act of 1785. In order to sell or otherwise dispose of land in the public domain, the government first had to have the lands surveyed. The Public Lands Survey divided public lands west of the original colonies into a grid of townships and sections. A township was a square six miles to a side and contained 36 one-square-mile (or 640 acre) sections. These maps became the basis for property claims as public domain lands were transferred to private ownership.
- Ohio Land Records (search.ancestry.com) Information recorded in these records includes: Name, Land Office, Sequence, Document number, Total acres, Signature, Canceled document, Issue date, Mineral rights reserved, Metes and bounds, Statutory reference, Multiple warrantee and patentee names, Act or treaty, Entry classification and Land description
- Ohio Early Land Ownership Records (search.ancestry.com) Established as a part of the Northwest Territory in 1787, Ohio became a separate territory in 1799 and was admitted to the Union in 1803. This database, originally published in 1911 by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, is a collection of land ownership records from the state in the nineteenth century. Each record provides the landowner’s name, town of residence, and number of shares allotted. Additionally, it includes the agent’s name through whom the land was obtained. It reveals information regarding nearly 1,000 individuals. For researchers of Ohio ancestors from the 1800s, this database can be a helpful source of information.
- BLM Land Records (glorecords.blm.gov)
- Ohio Land Record Books (amazon.com)
Ohio Probate Records
Since 1797, the court of common pleas has been responsible for probate and estate records. Probate functions have been under the jurisdiction of the probate court since 1851. Each probate office holds indexes. The Ohio Historical Society and the FHL also have some records on microfilm. The county probate court holds guardianship, name changes, insanity proceedings, naturalization, marriage records from the beginning of the county, and birth and death records (1867–1908).
The probate court handles Adoptions in Ohio, but access to these records is restricted. You must petition the court for any records from before 1939. Descendants of those who were adopted between January 1, 1939 and January 1 1964 can get information from the supervisor of special records at the State Department of Health in Columbus (see Vital Records).
Each probate office has indexes, and some records can be found on microfilm at the Ohio Historical Society and the FHL. Some counties employ a county records manager or similar position. These offices can be checked for records generated by chancery courts, petition to partition land to settle an estate, probate journals, and probate case files. See Also Guide to U.S. Probate Records Research
- Ohio Probate Record Books (amazon.com)
Ohio Tax Records
Ohio’s tax records start as early as 1800. A listing of original Ohio tax lists from the state auditor’s office can be found at he Ohio Historical Society in the archives. The records include the organization of the county to the year 1838. Most of the time they are organized by county and township. Unfortunately, the records are not indexed. Various tax records have not been inventoried but can be located at the county courthouse. The best offices to check are the office of the county auditor and the office of the county records manager.
All known extant tax records (1800–38) for Ohio can be found on microfilm at the FHL. The National Archives Great Lakes Region also has a great number of Ohio federal tax records. Assessment books (1867–73) and corporate and personal records for District 10–Toledo, and District 11–Columbus are included in this collection. See Also Guide to U.S. Tax Records Research
- Ohio Tax Records, 1800-1850 (familysearch.org) This project was indexed in partnership with the Ohio Genealogical Society. Name index of tax records as recorded with the County Auditor of each county. Includes the following Ohio counties: Ashtabula, Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Guernsey, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Monroe, Trumbull and Washington. The majority of the tax records in this collection are for the years 1816 through 1838. Additional records will be added as they are completed.
- Ohio Tax Record Books (amazon.com)
Ohio Immigration & Naturalization Records
- Naturalization Records in Ohio (ohiohistory.org) Learn how to use ohio naturalization records to research your family history
- Ohio Immigration Record Books (amazon.com)
Ohio County & City Government Links
Ohio contains 88 counties. Each county is the local level of government within its borders. The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. Counties do not possess home rule powers and can do only what has been expressly authorized by the Ohio General Assembly. Elected county officials include three commissioners, a sheriff (the highest law enforcement officer in the county); prosecutor (equivalent of a district attorney in other states); coroner, engineer, auditor, treasurer and clerk of courts. If you know of a Ohio county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please contact us so we may edit our database. The Ohio State Government is located in Columbus.
- The government of Ohio, its history, resources and jurisprudence : also, a brief outline of the government of the United States (search.ancestry.com)
- The laws of the Northwest Territory, 1788-1800 (search.ancestry.com)