Ohio Vital Records
This entry was originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Ohio enacted a statute in 1856–57 that required birth, death, and marriage registration, a law that was generally disregarded. A later 1867 law again required registration of birth and death records. Some of these are extant. Two types of “death records” known to be in existence before 1867 are records of cholera deaths, registered during some epidemics, and veterans’ deaths, representing only a small proportion of the deaths that occurred. The third law, which went into effect on 20 December 1908, set up the current recordkeeping system in Ohio.
For both birth and death registrations that exist prior to 20 December 1908, the county probate court is one place those records can be currently accessed. The Ohio Historical Society (see Ohio Archives, Libraries, and Societies) has a significant number of these records on microfilm as does the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City.
Birth records after 19 December 1908 to the present and death certificates from 1 January 1945 to the present are held by the Ohio Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, P.O. Box 15098, Columbus, OH 43215-0098 www.odh.state.oh.us.
The Ohio Historical Society holds copies of death certificates from 20 December 1908 through 31 December 1944, and currently has an online index for years 1913 to 1937 at www.ohiohistory.org/dindex. Indexes for later Ohio deaths (presently 1958–2007) are available through Ancestry.com.
Some city health departments may have city birth and death records if separate records were kept.
Marriage records were kept by the office of the county probate clerks until 7 September 1949, when it became a state registration procedure. There is no statewide index of marriages before 7 September 1949. However, Ancestry.com has compiled an index to marriages from 37 Ohio counties from 1803-1900 that can be found here.
The statewide index to marriages begins with the 1949 date when certified abstracts of marriages were filed with the state. The Ohio Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics will search indexes of these abstracts. However, certified copies of marriage records may only be obtained from the probate court of the county that issued the license (see Ohio County Resources).
Ohio marriages to approximately 1865 are included in the IGI (see pages 12-13) of the FHL. Marriage records in Ohio usually include the following information: names of bride and groom, date of marriage, county and possibly the specific location, officiating party, and ages and residences of the bride and groom.
The Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Network of American History Research Centers (see Ohio Archives, Libraries, and Societies) are collecting centers for early birth, marriage, and death records and may be contacted regarding their holdings in addition to the county courthouse.
An index of some Ohio marriages is Marjorie Smith, ed., Ohio Marriages, 1790–1897 (1977; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986). The Ohio Genealogical Society has also published Ohio Marriages Recorded in County Court Through 1820: An Index (Mansfield, Ohio: the society, 1997). The information is extracted from the Old Northwest Genealogical Quarterly. Marriages, listed alphabetically by bride and groom, come from fifteen volumes of this periodical and begin in the early 1800s. This includes records from only nine counties.
Hamilton County has the jurisdiction for the registration of marriages for Cincinnati. However, many of those records were lost in a courthouse fire. Records that survived were indexed by the WPA and include applications, licenses, and returns. Genealogists have reconstructed marriage records from ministers’ daybooks, original certificates, and newspaper accounts. Cincinnati was also a “Gretna Green” locale (meaning no questions were asked for marriages). Consequently, its marriage records should be checked for marriages not otherwise found in Ohio, Indiana, or Kentucky.
Reconstructed marriage records for Hamilton County have been published, as have marriage records for other counties.
Marriage records from family and local sources have also been collected by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The State Library of Ohio is the official depository for the state copies of DAR compilations. These records are listed in Carol W. Bell, Master Index Ohio D.A.R. Genealogical and Historical Records, vol. 1 (Westlake, Ohio: Mrs. Thomas B. Clark, 1985). Local genealogical societies have compiled numerous vital records indexes.
Since 1851, divorces have been handled by the county court of common pleas. Prior to 1851 the records can be found in the supreme court, the chancery court, or the court of common pleas, and then appealed through the legislature. See David G. Null’s “Ohio Divorces, 1803–1852,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 69 (March 1981): 109-14, for a list of people granted divorces by the legislature between 1795 and 1852; and Carol Willsey Bell’s, Ohio Divorces: The Early Years (Boardman, Ohio: Bell Books, 1994), which contains summaries of divorce cases from early county records through the 1860s.
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
- Ohio, County Births, 1856-1909
- Ohio, Births and Christenings, 1821-1962
- Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1994
- Ohio, Marriages, 1800-1958
- Ohio, Deaths and Burials, 1854-1997
- Ohio, Death Index, 1908-1932, 1938-1944, and 1958-2007
- Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953
- Ohio Birth, Marriage, and Death Records - free up-to-date guide to accessing Ohio birth, marriage, and death records (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Includes links to FamilySearch vital record databases.