06 January 2010

Ohio: 18th century records online

More county documents are going online.

This time, Hamilton County, Ohio is in the news with its project putting documents - some back to 1791 - online.

The story detailed some 1.1 million Probate Court documents that will make research life easier for genealogists and historians.

To see the documents - including birth, death, marriage, estate, naturalization and other records - click here, then -> Records Search -> Archive Search.

Records and dates:

Estates 1791-1984
Wills 1791-1973
Trusts, 1791-1984
Guardianships, 1791-1984
Marriages, 1808-1983
Minister's Licenses, 1963-1975
Birth Records, 1863-1908
Birth Registrations/Corrections, 1941-1994
Death Records, 1881-1908
Naturalizations, 1856-1906

Probate Court Journal Entries, 1791-1837
Physician Certificates, 1919-1987
Some records are only for the index books (some are standard alphabetical, others only by first letter of last name), others require a search by volume or other methods.

The initiative is that of Probate Court Judge James Cissell. This isn't his first project using technology to preserve and make accessible public records.

In the 1990s, he was Clerk of Courts when that court created a Web site that made available online millions of pages of criminal and civil court cases and won national awards. Today, the site has further evolved, allowing access all the time to court documents, and also allows attorneys to electronically file suits and other documents.

Cissell, who took office in 2003, says the new site contains some of the oldest state records, such as birth, death, marriage, estate, naturalization and other records. Researchers may find anything from late-18th century guardianship records to personal moments of Hollywood stars, such as actor Spencer Tracy's marriage license.
"There are many, many folks who wish to trace their genealogy. By doing this, people will not have to come to our office in Cincinnati," Cissell said.
Prior to Cissell's new project, only records from 1983 were online. Cissell decided to preserve 1,600 books (each weighed 30 pounds) with 1.1 million pages by digitizing them and putting them online.

The Probate Court is partnering with the University of Cincinnati, which had stored some of the old records after fires. The court staff did all the work to place the documents online except for $95,000 for the digitization.

According to Cissell, the documents will also have to be stored on microfilm because that's the official way such records are to be kept.
"It's going both directions. By the time we're done with this, we may be the only court in the country that has all of the records in both formats, which, I think, is a hell of an accomplishment," Cissell said.
More than 10 million pages must be digitized and microfilmed. Cissell further added that it was necessary as "all that microfilm is wasting away," and that "we have 4,000 rolls of microfilm of records which are quickly disintegrating."

Tracing the Tribe did a cursory check for naturalizations and found more than 30 for COHEN and COHN in the very first register. If your immigrant ancestors spent time in Hamilton County, Ohio, you might find interesting information in these newly accessible documents.

For excellent details on how to work with this collection, view Diane Haddad's Genealogy Insider post.

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