Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Courthouse Public Library?

Since I have been very lax in posting to the OGS blog recently, I have gotten permission to copy an article that I did for another group, Special Connections, the Blog of the Subject and Special Collections Division of the Ohio Library Council. This group encourages cross posting and especially would like readers to visit their site - - and click on the "Follow" button at the bottom of the screen.

                Did you ever stop to think that courthouses are perhaps the most important libraries with special collections and are hidden in plain site? Generally speaking, most do not employ librarians or archivists. They are in architecturally significant but often antiquated structures. Many record storage areas are environmentally inadequate and collections are literally kept in basements and attics. Yet courthouses are often at the forefront of digitization of current materials. At the same time, funding is sometimes not pointed to their vast historical resources. When these treasures concerning everyday people are included in larger digital projects, then the question of preservation of the original document comes into question. To top that, state archivists today are often fighting for their existence let alone being able to provide much guidance in records management when it comes to local government records.

                My example today is the lowly “case file”. A “case” is a general term used to indicate some type of argument brought into court to be settled, and the “file” contains the supporting documentation for either side, often a summary with affidavits, and lists of the plaintiff’s and defendant’s witnesses (including subpoenas) - along with any financial obligations and decisions. Litigious types and criminals often surface on a yearly basis. Bundled by court term (cases heard over a multi-day period), I have many times been the first to cut the string that bands them together. Imagine reading 150-year old contemporary accounts that apparently were not even viewed by the recognized 19th century county historian. How could they have overlooked this stuff? I’ll give you three examples.

                Isabella Ireland vs. John Ireland: “To wit, on the tenth day of October eighteen hundred & sixteen your Petitioner was duly joined in marriage with one John Ireland, to wit, at Madison Township”… “that on or about the 10th day of February AD 1817 he left your petitioner & has not since returned”… “said Ireland & he had acquired a small tract of land situate in said County [Richland] of about sixty-five acres & had built thereon a rough log cabin in which she has continued to reside for the last twenty-five years or thereabouts”….”that she has a daughter unmarried who is dependent upon her for a home”…”said log cabin which is greatly dilapidated & wholly unfit for the residence of herself & daughter”…”[Ireland] resides in the County of Knox”…”has committed adultery with one Betsey Irvine in said county to wit on the 10th day of June AD 1832”…”by whom the said John has had several children”…”that said John committed adultery with one Elizabeth Sawyer to wit in said County of Knox to wit on the 5th day of June AD 1834”…”that said John committed adultery with a person whose name is unknown to petitioner”…”and that the said John has been an habitual drunkard” and she prays for the marriage contract to be dissolved.

                An 1822 affidavit of Joseph Workman in a land debt case resulting from a general depression and the failure of the German Bank of Wooster: Question: “Are those kind of lands as valuable now as they were in the year 1815?” Answer: “They are not near so valuable as they were by nine tenths.” Question: “Was the Grist mill and Saw mill built on the east half of said quarter section before you sold it to Mr. Lake?” Answer: “No, there was about twenty acres cleared and the principal part under fence and two small cabins of an indifferent kind.” Question: “Did Mr. Lake go on to build the sawmill & gristmill directly after he purchased of you?” Answer: “Yes, he built the sawmill in 1816 and had it in operation and in 1817 he built the grist mill and had it in operation.” Question: “Has not William Black been in possession of the premises for some time past?” Answer: “Yes, he has been in possession of the mill since Mr. Lake moved away in the spring of 1821 and is now living there.” Land disputes and water rights cases often include original deeds – this one includes several for the property dating back to 1810 [Winn Winship, Register of the Virginia Military District School Lands Office, to Joseph Gladden] – and they give settlement dates for each party and the history of any improvements.

                After some 30 plus years of working with manuscripts, there are some discoveries that still fall in the OMG category. Too volatile for the Internet, I’ll have to substitute the milder case of John Iler vs Harriet Cromer. “No terms can be employed too severe against this one,” says Parker & Burr, attorneys, in their September 1833 brief. “You, meaning the said Harriet, was shagged last night and my big dog done it, by God,” said Iler, “a crime not to be named among Christians”. “On cross examination defendant’s counsel first enquired of the witness if the defendant did not say, that if anyone done it to Harriet it must have been his (defendant’s) big dog – without saying that his big dog had in fact done it – to which enquiry witness answered that defendant said that his big dog done it.” Iler was eventually charged $175 for slander in the case.

                Common Pleas and its accompanying appellate branches (Supreme Court 1803-1851, District Court 1851-1883, Circuit Court 1883-1912, Court of Appeals 1912-Date) were not the only courts to offer case files. One finds them with Probate estates, criminal records, Coroner’s inquests, penitentiary inmates, and more. These tell the true story of early Ohio – or at least the story part! So, stop in at your local courthouse, inquire of the librarian or archivist (if any), and just start reading those musty case packets! 

Richland County Supreme Court Records (now at the Ohio Genealogical Society Library):
   Ireland vs. Ireland, September Term 1840
   Larwill & Bowen vs. Lake & Bentley, Directors of the German Bank of Wooster, November Term 1822
   Iler vs. Cromer, November Term 1833
Richland County Courthouse Photo, Paul White Collection, Folder 64, Richland Co Chapter OGS

Friday, April 17, 2015

OGS Summer Class Schedule 2015

The Ohio Genealogical Society is offering a variety of classes this summer. The one-hour sessions will be free to everyone interested. The workshops will have a nominal registration fee. The workshops will provide hands-on participation by those attending. Pre-registration is required for all events by calling 419-886-1903. For more information go to  Other programs may be added and will be announced on the OGS Facebook page [Note that the class sites vary this year!]

Friday, May 29th- 10am - Tom Neel- Clues to Your Ancestors in the Newspapers OGS Library, Bellville

Saturday, May 30th- 10am - Jennifer Alford- 7 Ways to Use the Cloud OGS Library, Bellville

Saturday, June 6th- 11am - Global Family Reunion Special Event (11am-3pm) Join us for a live broadcast of events in NYC, fun, and more! Donations accepted to benefit Alzheimer’s Association & the Ohio Genealogical Society.OGS Library, Bellville
Friday, June 12th- 10am - Cindy Freed- The Civil War: Finding Your Ancestor’s Place
OGS Library, Bellville

Saturday, June 13th- 2pm - Sunda Peters- Finding Missing Ancestors Through DNA ResearchOGS Library, Bellville
Friday, July 17th- 10am - Derek Davey- Migration Patterns to Northwest Ohio -Rutherford B. Hayes Library, Fremont

Friday, July 24th- 1pm - Tom Neel- Using Maps to Solve Genealogical Puzzles - OGS Library, Bellville

Saturday, July 25th- 10am - Jennifer Alford & Margaret Cheney- Beginner’s workshop ($20)
OGS Library, Bellville 

Saturday, Aug 8th- 10am - Margaret Cheney- Ohio Lineage Society Applications Workshop ($20) OGS Library, Bellville 

Saturday, Aug 15th  - Chapter Management Seminar For more info: Contact Kenny Burck at 513-260-0238 or  John McIntire Library, 220 N. 5th Street, Zanesville, Ohio 43056 

Saturday, Aug 22nd- 10am - Jennifer Alford- Genealogy Research for the Thrifty - OGS Library, Bellville 

Friday, Aug 28th- 10am - Amy Johnson Crow- Desperately Seeking Susan: Finding Females OGS Library, Bellville 

Saturday, Aug 29th- 11am - Dr. Deborah Abbott, Ph.D. - Using the Wiki Shaker Heights Public Library, Cleveland 

Friday, Sept 18th- 10am - Dr. Deborah Abbott, Ph.D. - Analyzing Documents: Moving from One Record to Another - OGS Library, Bellville 

Saturday, Oct 3rd- 8:30am - Fall Seminar with Thomas MacEntee ($40 member/ $45 non-member) For more info: Quality Inn & Suites Conference Center, 1000 Comfort Plaza Dr, Bellville 

Saturday, Oct 10th- 10am - Margaret Cheney- Genealogy Crafts OGS Library, Bellville

Friday, March 20, 2015

More Ohio Papers on Chronicling America

Here's the latest news on the Ohio newspaper digitization project from Jenni Salamon at the Ohio History Connection. This should be about the end of the funded scanning but hopefully another round of Ohio newspapers can be added to this free Library of Congress web site in the future.

"I am pleased to announce that the following papers have been added to Chronicling America:

·         Celina Democrat, 1910-1918
·         Painesville Journal, 1871-1872

With this update, all of the content we have digitized as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program is now online—that’s about 114,000 for the 2012-2014 grant cycle, for a total of more than 318,000 pages!"

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ohio Soldiers' Home Records 1888-1919

I guess I missed the posting of the Ohio Soldiers' Home Records 1888-1919 in the un-indexed database section of   Check it out when you get a chance! There are 10,000 records filed by admission date, but later items are added into the record, such as the death date of the soldier. There are sections on Military History, Domestic History, Home History, and General Records.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

History Fund Grant Recipients

The big money winners this year at Statehood Day in Columbus, that is, funds from that check-off box on your Ohio tax return from last year, were:
1. Mahoning Valley Historical Society, $4526 - to digitize microfilm of Republic Steel company records and Youngstown Mayor Charles P. Henderson's scrapbooks as he cracked down on organized crime.
2. Wyandot Co Historical Society, $2945 - to create an exhibit on the Wyandot tribe.
3. Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative with Kent State University, $9000 - to produce a guide for low-cost rehabilitation of old, empty buildings.
4. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, $14,500 - to make available the papers left by Cleveland Plain Dealer rock and roll reporter Jane Scott.
5. Junior League of Columbus with Kelton House Museum & Garden, $3000 - to get hand held audio units for self-guided tours of the museum.
6. Southington Twp Board of Trustees, $11,000 - to stabilize a National Register school building to eventually be used as a community center.
7. Union Library Institute Presevation Society, $17,900 - for continued work on the Clemens' farm house, in the African American settlement of Longtown in Darke County.
8. Massillon Heritage Foundation, $17,900 - to do interior work on Five Oaks, an 1890s Gothic, Tudor and French Renaissance home designed by Charles Schweinfurth - Cleveland's Millionaire's Row architect.
9. Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education, $17,500 - to establish a speakers bureau and videotape testimonials of remaining Holocaust survivors in the Cincinnati area.
10. City of Olmsted Falls, $5000 - to develop signage for the Historic District of that city.
11. Fayette County Historical Society, $14,000 - to repair windows in their museum.
12. Dairy Barn Arts Center, $10,000 - to repair gable ends of this historic barn, a popular cultural events center in Athens.
13. Belpre Historical Society, $2730 - to upgrade their PastPerfect software and provide training.
The History Fund gave $130,000 this year, $20,000 more than last year, to 13 winners as above. They had 33 applications so your group has almost a 50% chance of funding. I still see no OGS chapters in the list. Please submit your projects of a historical nature. Details on the web site.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ohio Land Tract Books

I have found memories of working with the Ohio land tract books in the "shopping mall" in Springfield, Virginia, at the Eastern States Land Office, Bureau of Land Management. We always stopped there on tours led by Mary Beebe of Ashland. I don't think many Ohio researchers are using these since there only the indexes in the ledgers themselves. They are certainly great for proving those First Families of Ohio ancestors, 1820 and earlier in Ohio. I'll copy the links in from the FamilySearch web site. If they don't work, you'll need to go to the site directly and log in first. They are way at the bottom of the expanded database list. Enjoy!