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United States Probate > Ohio > Ohio Probate Records > Ohio County Probate Records

Contents

This wiki article describes a collection that is scheduled to become available for free online at FamilySearch Record Search.

Collection Time Period

County probate records have been kept from the time the county was formed to the present.

Record History

Each county began keeping probate records from about the time the county was created. Until the establishment of separate probate courts in 1852, probate records were kept in the Courts of Common Pleas. In 2005 the probate courts in Ohio belonged to a special division of the Court of Common Pleas. Probate records were generally recorded in the county where the person resided. Estates were probated for approximately 25 percent of the heads of households in the United States before 1900, whether or not the individual left a will. Wills are more likely to be found in rural communities than in larger cities and industrial areas.

Why This Record Was Created

Probate records were used to legally dispose of a person’s estate after his or her death. If the deceased had made a will, the probate process transferred the following from the deceased to an executor or executrix: the legal responsibility for payment of taxes, care and custody of dependent family members, liquidation of debts, and transfer of property title to heirs. If there was no will, the transfer went to an administrator or administratrix. A guardian or conservator was appointed if the deceased had heirs younger than 21 or if the heirs were incompetent due to disability or disease.

Record Reliability

Probate records were used to legally dispose of a person’s estate after his or her death. If the deceased had made a will, the probate process transferred the following from the deceased to an executor or executrix: the legal responsibility for payment of taxes, care and custody of dependent family members, liquidation of debts, and transfer of property title to heirs. If there was no will, the transfer went to an administrator or administratrix. A guardian or conservator was appointed if the deceased had heirs younger than 21 or if the heirs were incompetent due to disability or disease.

Record Description

Probate records were used to legally dispose of a person’s estate after his or her death. If the deceased had made a will, the probate process transferred the following from the deceased to an executor or executrix: the legal responsibility for payment of taxes, care and custody of dependent family members, liquidation of debts, and transfer of property title to heirs. If there was no will, the transfer went to an administrator or administratrix. A guardian or conservator was appointed if the deceased had heirs younger than 21 or if the heirs were incompetent due to disability or disease. Probate records are generally well preserved, but some may have been lost in fires or other disasters. Fires have destroyed some Ohio county courthouse records:

  • Adams County. A courthouse fire in early 1910 destroyed most of the probate records up to that point. Will book abstracts from 1849 to 1860 and some pre-1860 guardianship papers survived.
  • Delaware County. A fire in 1835 destroyed most early records. Will records from 1812 survived.
  • Hamilton County. The courthouse has had three fires: one in 1814, the second on 9 July 1849, and the third on 30 March 1884. The 1884 fire resulted in the most lost records.
  • Licking County. A courthouse fire on 3 April 1875 destroyed many of the early probate court records.
  • Champaign County. A courthouse fire in 1948 destroyed the intestate records in the probate court.
  • Fulton County. The first courthouse was located in Ottokee. A fire broke out on the night of July 14, 1864, and destroyed many of the early records. It seems that a Judge Barber had made a personal record of the early wills. This old book is referred to as "Barber's Abstracts" and is available at the county records center.
  • Henry County. The courthouse was destroyed by fire on 17 April 1847. The court records were destroyed in the fire.
  • Seneca County. The courthouse was destroyed by fire on 29 May 1841. Probate records exist from 1828. Some of the records in this county have been reconstructed in part by using other documents such as deeds and early newspaper accounts of individuals’ deaths.

Record Content

Probate records include petitions, inventories, accounts, decrees and other court documents. They include the following genealogical information:

  • Name of the testator or deceased
  • Names of heirs, such as spouse, children, other relatives, or friends
  • Name of the executor, administrator, or guardian
  • Names of witnesses
  • Residence of the testator
  • Document and recording dates (used to approximate event dates since a will was usually written near the time of death) 

How To Use This Record 

Use probate records to identify heirs and relatives. Probate records may contain person’s death date, the names of family members, family relationships, and residences. Use this information to search for information in other records. You may learn about adoptions or guardianship of minor children and dependents. You may have to use probate records as a substitute for civil birth and death records because they exist for an earlier time period.  

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