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Court records include record books, dockets, bonds, journals, petitions, minutes, final records, case files, and so forth. They contain many primary source materials that are useful for genealogical research. The Family History Library has many Ohio court records. Additional records are available at county courthouses, the Ohio Historical Society, and the National Archives—Great Lakes Region. Major courts that kept records of genealogical value were established as follows:
1787-present: Courts of common pleas have districtwide jurisdiction over felonies, marriages, major civil cases, juvenile matters, probates until 1852, naturalizations until 1860 and after 1906, chancery matters until 1900, and divorces until 1894. The Family History Library has copies of some of the common pleas records, such as Cuyahoga County journals for 1823 to 1852.
1787-present: Supreme Court is a statewide appellate court. It originally had jurisdiction over common law and chancery matters.
1787-1802, 1852-present: Probate court has handled guardianship, general probate, land sales, a few divorces, and naturalizations.
1800s-present: County, municipal, mayor, justice of the peace, and police courts have kept records with some genealogical value.
1851-1883:District courts have county-wide jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases, including chancery and divorces. The Family History Library has some district court records, such as Lake County records for 1845 to 1884.
1883-1912:Circuit courts have county-wide jurisdiction over civil and criminal records, including equity and divorce. They have been replaced by courts of appeal. The Family History Library has some circuit court records.
There is often an overlapping of jurisdiction since newer courts have been established. Therefore all court records should be checked for those periods.
For more information about court records and procedures, see:
Marshall, Carrington Tanner, ed. A History of the Courts and Lawyers of Ohio. New York, New York: American Historical Society, 1934. Four Volumes. (Family History Library book 977.1 P3ma.)
Court records are listed in the Family History Library Catalog Place Search under:
OHIO - COURT RECORDS
OHIO, [COUNTY] - COURT RECORDS
OHIO, [COUNTY], [CITY] - COURT RECORDS
Common Pleas Court
The Ohio Constitution of 1851 provided for the formation of a probate court in each Ohio county. Marriage records previously kept by the Common Pleas Court were transferred to this court beginning in 1852. All probate functions, such as the proving and recording of wills, the appointment of administrators, executors and guardians, the appraisment and inventories of estates, bonds and the settling of accounts all came under the jurisdiction of the Probate Court. Some other records of genealogical value found in this court include birth and death registers (1867-1909), Delayed Registration and Correction of Births (from 1941 forward), various forms of naturalization records (to 1906) and Mothers' Pensions (from 1914 to ca. 1930's). The Probate Court also presided over matters regarding incompetancies, lunacy, insanity, adoptions and juvenile delinquencies. These record types are generally regarded as not public records but can nevertheless be sometimes found in earlier court journal or minute books before such records were segregated and recorded into their own record books.