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Three Great Resources for Researching Ohio Ancestors

Thanks to guest blogger, Lisa A. Alzo, for this article.

If you have ancestors who lived in or passed through Ohio, you’ll find a wealth of documents waiting for you online, and at archives, libraries, and repositories. The first step for research success is to discover what records are available, and where they are located. Here are three great resources for tracing your roots in the Buckeye State.

1. The Cleveland Necrology File. The Cleveland Necrology File is a database produced from a microfilmed copy of an alphabetical card file containing local cemetery records and newspaper death notices gathered by the staff of the Cleveland Public Library. The database includes paid death notices published in the following newspapers: The Cleveland Plain Dealer - 1850-1975; The Cleveland Herald - 1833, 1847-1848, 1876, 1878-1879; and The Cleveland Press - 1941-1975.  Also included in the database is a small collection of records from the Cleveland Bureau of Vital Statistics and some indexed items from the Annals of Cleveland that were also part of the original card file. You can search the database for free by surname or keyword. (See the search screen in the image below for one of my great uncles, Martin Straka).


The site also provides a link for The Cleveland News Index where you can search for necrology information after 1975 (Note: the index does not provide full text access to obituaries or other sources. See the Cleveland Public Library page for more information on how to obtain copies).

2. FamilySearchFamilySearch has a number of digitized records (images and/or indexes) from their historical records collection available for free viewing on their site. These include selected Ohio births and christenings, deaths, cemetery interment records, marriages, tax, court, probate, coroner, and naturalization records (don’t forget to keep checking back for updates!). The Family History Library has microfilmed many Ohio records. Go to FamilySearch, click on "Catalog," and then enter "Ohio" or "Ohio, [County Name]" to find them. Watch for microfilmed versions of records that may be rented for use at a FamilySearch Center near you. 

[Tip:  Don’t forget to check the free FamilySearch Wiki for Ohio for additional information and research guidance.]

3. Ohio’s Local Government Records program. Once you have explored The Cleveland Necrology File, and FamilySearch’s collection of online Ohio resources, you’ll want to check into Ohio’s Local Government Records program, which according to genealogist, Chris Staats, is “a wonderful and often underutilized resource.” As Staats explains on his blog, this program, under the direction of the state archivist at the Ohio Historical Society, designated seven regional libraries as repositories for records deemed of historical or genealogical significance. Some of the records include: Justice of the Peace dockets, poll and tally books, quadrennial enumerations, militia lists, district court dockets, county home records, records of indentures, mothers’ pensions, township trustee minutes, Mayor’s Court dockets, and much, much more. 

Click here to see a complete list of the Network Centers, and the counties each covers. Note: Not all of these records exist for all areas or timeframes, but it is well worth a look to see what is available for the place and time you are researching. Unfortunately, this program is no longer funded, and some of the regional repositories have sent most of their records back to the Ohio Historical Society or other local societies and libraries. 

Alzo_Legacy_Blog_Post_OhioMany of the centers have a helpful online list of the records they hold. The Western Reserve Historical Society and the Ohio Historical Society have them cataloged, but not listed separately, so you’ll need to search their catalogs to find them. For those centers that have returned records, contact them directly to inquire what they still have, and what records they returned (Note: On Staats’ site, those Centers marked with a * indicate that they have returned records, or are in the process of returning records. Contact that center to determine where records of interest were sent). 

To learn more details about these three resources, and a number of others you can use to build your Buckeye pedigree, sign up for the free Legacy Family Tree Webinar on Researching Your Ohio Ancestors, which will be jointly presented by Lisa Alzo and Chris Staats on Wednesday, November 13, 2013. Seating is limited, so click here to reserve your spot now! 

Happy Hunting! 

Lisa A. Alzo is a freelance writer, instructor, and lecturer, and has been tracking her ancestors for 23 years. She is a frequent presenter for the Legacy Family Tree Webinars series and can be contacted via


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