Ohio Court Records

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This entry was originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Ohio Family History Research series.
History of Ohio
Ohio Vital Records
Census Records for Ohio
Background Sources for Ohio
Ohio Maps
Ohio Land Records
Ohio Probate Records
Ohio Court Records
Ohio Tax Records
Ohio Cemetery Records
Ohio Church Records
Ohio Military Records
Ohio Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Ohio Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Ethnic Groups of Ohio
Ohio County Resources
Map of Ohio


From the time of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787 until 1802, three judges held courts in Ohio Territory, but the records are scarce. In 1804, a year after statehood, the territory was organized as one district court at Chillicothe. Considerable reorganization, divisions, and transfers later occurred in the system.

Many other kinds of records are found in Ohio county court records. Vital records, naturalizations (in probate court after 1851), and military pension applications are examples of items possibly found in the county court of common pleas located at the county seat until 1851, and later in the state supreme court files. Land records, deeds, and miscellaneous volumes can at times include records of court proceedings.

Bell’s Ohio Guide to Genealogical Sources (see Background Sources for Ohio) details the various county court records that can be located at each county seat, many of which are available on microfilm through either the Ohio Historical Society or the FHL. The County Resources section in this chapter indicates only the first known court record of any kind for the county.

Some court records may be deposited at the Ohio Network of American History Research Centers. See David Levine, “Ohio’s Court System,” in Ohio Genealogical Society, The Report 20 (Winter 1980): 171-74.

Some holdings for the Ohio circuit court are at the National Archives—Great Lakes Region. Refer to its inventory for details on the northern division: Cleveland (1855–1962) and Toledo (1869–1962); and the southern division: Cincinnati (1803–1962), Columbus (1877–1962), and Dayton (1915–62).

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