Ohio on My Mind

By: Carolyn L. Barkley

Ohio has been on my mind frequently in the past few days. Several Facebook friends have reported that they are participating in the Ohio Genealogical Society’s annual conference, Expanding Your Ancestry Through Technology, this week. In just under two weeks, I will be traveling to Ohio to attend the National Genealogical Society’s 2012 Family History Conference in Cincinnati.

As I have no personal research (as yet!) in Ohio, I thought I would learn a little about its history and research resources before I visited the state. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to share some of that information with you.

In addition to being rich in Native American history (Algonquians, Iroquois, Tuscaroras, Senecas, Eries, and many more), Ohio’s contact with Europeans began in the late 1600s when explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier claimed land for France. In 1750, the Ohio Company of Virginia claimed land for Britain. Later, the outcome of wars in the eighteenth century helped to define the path of Ohio history. French interests would continue until the Treaty of Paris in 1763 end the French and Indian War, at which time Britain was granted possession of former French territories. In 1779, following a successful military expedition by George Rogers Clark and the Virginia militia, Virginia laid claim to all of the Old Northwest Territory, calling it Illinois County, Virginia. Virginia would maintain its interest in the region until 1784, a year after another Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War, and even as it ceded much of its western territories to the new federal land system. The Northwest Territory was established in 1787 and included all U.S. land west of Pennsylvania and northwest of the Ohio River, including what would become the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the northeastern part of Minnesota.  Official settlement began at Marietta in 1788. Politically, the region existed as an incorporated territory until 1803, when the southeastern section was admitted into the Union as the state of Ohio. Its capital was established first at Chillicothe in 1803, then moved to Zanesville in 1810, finally settling in Columbus by 1816.

If your ancestors moved eastward from the Atlantic seaboard, Ohio might be an important addition to your research strategies of one of two circumstances drew your ancestor to or through Ohio.

  • Bounty lands. Prior to the Revolutionary War, many states claimed lands that stretched far westward of their modern-day boundaries. At the end of the war, Connecticut claimed Ohio land north of the forty-first parallel and westward to the present-day counties of Sandusky and Seneca. The state set aside 500,000 acres of the “Connecticut Western Reserve,” sometimes referred to as the “Firelands,” to compensate its citizens for the war-related losses of specific towns. These towns included Danbury, East Haven, Fairfield, Greenwich, Groton, New Haven, New London, Norwalk and Ridgefield, all virtually destroyed by the British. Approximately 1800 individuals were provided property in the Firelands by lottery, principally in the Ohio counties of Erie, Huron, Ashland and Ottawa. These grants are most often found in deed records, and an excellent source of information is found in Volume 1 of Clifford Neal Smith’s Federal Land Series (Clearfield, 2007). This source provides a list of “sufferers” from the several affected towns.

Virginia awarded bounty land in Ohio despite having ceded much of its formerly-claimed vast western land holdings to the federal land system after the Revolutionary War. The Virginia Military District of Ohio was specifically reserved for grants to those Virginia veterans who had served in the Virginia Continental Line. This distinction is significant as you search for your Virginia Revolutionary soldier because state militia veterans were granted land in Kentucky, but not in Ohio. Two essential research resources are George W. Knepper’s The Official Ohio Lands Book (State Auditor’s Office, 2002) which is available online, and Volume 4 of Smith’s Federal Land Series. Other resources include Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck’s Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants Awarded by State Governments (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2006) and Allen Latham’s A Roll of the Officers in the Virginia Line of the Revolutionary Army, Who Have Received Land Bounty in the States of Ohio and Kentucky (listed by Amazon as out-of-print, so be sure to check the catalog of your local library or historical society for availability). It is also important to note, the while Ohio is a federal-land state, Virginia retained its metes and bounds land description system to describe land tracts within the military district.

  • Transportation Improvements. With the opening up of western lands, improvements in transportation allowed the more convenient (probably a relative term) migration of individuals and families westward. Such improvements led to Ohio with the Ohio and Erie Canals completed by 1832; the Miami and Erie Canal, completed by 1845; various migration trails, such as Zane’s Trace, that led into and through the state; and the significant navigable river system, including the Ohio River. Charles B. Galbreath’s five-volume History of Ohio (American Historical Society, 1925), is an important source and is owned by a long-list of libraries throughout the country.

If you are traveling to the NGS Conference in May, allow time for research during your trip. Several important research venues are located in Cincinnati, or within a few hours’ travel.

  • The Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County is located within a half-mile of the conference and will offer extended Thursday evening hours for conference registrants. Its Genealogy and Local History Department are located on the third floor of the south building. Its genealogical collection is well worth your attention, either in-person during the conference, or online. Of interest, is an online family surname index created by the library and listing family history books that index a specific surname three or more times. To access this search, choose the “Catalog Advanced Search” option on the advanced search page (a bit difficult to find) and locate the “Family Surname” search box. My Barclay search located ninety-five titles, and my Barkley search located sixty-five. The vast majority did not include those specific surnames in their titles. Other important collections include Ohio death certificates for 1908-1953; Kentucky death certificates 1911-1957; and a collection of over 1,300 genealogical periodicals. Collection strengths include German, Irish, and Jewish ancestry, as well as an extensive African-American collection possessing plantation records, Freedmen’s Bureau Records and military records of the USCT. Conference attendees in particular will want to download the library’s sixteen-page Greater Cincinnati Genealogical Resources document.
  • Cincinnati History Library and Archives, formerly known as the Cincinnati Historical Society Library, located at Union Terminal, focuses on the greater Cincinnati area, Ohio, and the Northwest Territory. The Library, founded in 1831, provides a regional history collection including photographs, manuscripts, printed materials, and digital journals (search or browse online) including the Cincinnati Historical Society Bulletin, the Quarterly Publication of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio, and Ohio Valley History.
  • University of Cincinnati’s Archives and Rare Books Library is located on the 8th floor in Blegen Library (temporary location). Its houses an important collection of German Americana. The Ohio Network provides online access to a series of digital databases including the on-going Cincinnati Birth and Death Record, 1865-1908 project, currently with 500,000 entries; Hamilton County Citizenship Records, 1837-1916; and Hamilton County Wills, 1791-1901, among other resources. An intriguing collection (not online) is the Cincinnati Correctional Institute (Workhouse) Jail Registers1877-1945.
  • Located within 100 to 150 miles of Cincinnati are such major research institutions as the State Library of Ohio and the Ohio Historical Society, as well as the Kentucky Historical Society, the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, the Filson Historical Society, the Indiana State Archives, the Indiana State Library, and the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library. If you are driving, you may want to make research stops en route to or from Cincinnati.

A series of printed and online resources are available to assist you in planning for and conducting Ohio research.

Genealogical.com includes 134 titles relating to Ohio. One of the most helpful is Kip Sperry’s Genealogical Research in Ohio, 2nd ed. (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2006). Others include Carol W. Bell’s Ohio Guide to Genealogical Sources (Clearfield, 2009) and Ohio Wills and Estates to 1850: an Index (Clearfield, 1981); Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh’s Revolutionary War Records: Virginia: Virginia Army and Navy Forces with Bounty Land Warrants for Virginia Military District of Ohio… (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2008); and Albion M. Dyer’s First Ownership of Ohio Lands (Clearfield, 2008).

Cyndi’s List provides 5,639 links to online Ohio resources, including the Ohio Blacksheep Ancestors’ access to prison records and the Southeast Ohio Digital Shoebox Project, a site providing access to 2,600 images from photograph collections held by ten southeast Ohio public libraries. Other online sites include Ohio Genealogy; Ohio History Central; and the FamilySearch Wiki which offers 1,672 articles pertaining to Ohio.

I hope that this brief outline of Ohio resources will assist you in your research. If you are at the NGS Conference, please stop by the Genealogical Publishing Company booth (421, 520) and say hi. If you suggest an upcoming blog topic, you will earn my undying appreciation!


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