Ohio History and Research Overview

Ohio History and Research Overview

Learn about Ohio's history and available records in this research guide that includes a map and bibliography.


While many consider the 1787 establishment of Northwest Territory to be responsible for the foundation of Ohio, the state’s history can be traced even further back. In 1747, the Ohio Co. of Virginia was organized to settle in the Ohio River Valley. Among the members of this land speculation firm was Lawrence Washington, brother of George, the future US president. Because of Lawrence’s involvement, George Washington was recruited to take some soldiers to the area to warn off the French who had settled there. This incident launched the French and Indian War, which ignited the Seven Years War in Europe. When it was all over, the British had possession of what would become Ohio, though they did not encourage settlement.

After the American Revolution, states possessing land west of the Appalachian Mountains were encouraged to “donate” this land to the newly formed government to aid in creating revenue, thus avoiding the need for taxes. The Northwest Territory and the Ordinance of 1787 established how all other territories and states would be created. The Northwest Territory was eventually divided into the states of Ohio (1803), Indiana (1816), Illinois (1818), Michigan (1837), Wisconsin (1848) and Minnesota (1858).

Maps of early Ohio show land that was set aside for bounties and other promised entitlements. In addition to bounty land given to soldiers for fighting in the American Revolution, areas were also reserved for repaying individuals who lost land in support of the patriots.

(click to enlarge)
Ohio state map with county outlines


  • Ohio has eight regional research centers, each responsible for records concerning the counties in their district. Visit http://www.ohiohistory.org/resource/lgr/networkl.html to find the center you need.
  • The best place to begin Ohio research is the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, where you’ll find primary resources and research tools to help you find the records you need http://www.ohiohistory.org.
  • The Ohio Genealogical Society http://www.ogs.org in Mansfield has published many Ohio records and offers searchable online databases to members.


  • Federal census: 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Federal mortality schedules: 1850, 1860, 1870
  • Special census of Civil War Union veterans and widows: 1890


  • The Henry R. Baldwin Genealogy Records, 67 vols., by Henry R. Baldwin (Allen County Public Library, 1983)
  • Bench and Bar of Ohio: A Compendium of History and Biography, 2 vols., by George Irving Reed (Century Publishing and Engraving Co., 1897)
  • Bibliography of the State of Ohio, Being a Catalog of the Books and Pamphlets Relating to the History of the State, the West and Northwest by Peter G. Thomson (Higginson Book Co., 1993)
  • The Biographical Encyclopedia of Ohio of the Nineteenth Century by Charles Robson (Galaxy Pub. Co., 1876)
  • Black Ohio and the Color Line, 1860-1915 by David Allison Gerber (University of Illinois Press, 1976)
  • Card Catalog to the Manuscripts Collection in the Library of the Western Reserve Historical Society by the Western Reserve Historical Society (filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1974)
  • Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve 1875 by A.S. Hayden (Reprint. The Bookmark, 1979)
  • Early Ohio Tax Records, 2 vols., by Esther Weygandt Powell (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1993)
  • The Encyclopedia Of Quaker Genealogy 1750-1930 (Broderbund, 1998, CD-ROM)
  • First Families of Ohio, Official Roster (Ohio Genealogical Society, 1988)
  • Frontier Republic: Ideology and Politics in the Ohio Country 1780-1825 by Andrew Cayton (Frontier Press, 1986)
  • Gateway to the West, 2 vols., by Ruth Bowers and Anita Short (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1989)
  • Genealogical Data Relating to Women in the Western Reserve Before 1840 (1850) compiled by the Cleveland Centennial Commission (Ohio Historical Society, 1973)
  • Genealogical Research in Ohio, 2nd edition, by Kip Sperry (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003)
  • Genealogical Researcher’s Manual: With Special References for Using the Ohio Historical Society Library compiled by Suzanne Wolfe Mettle and Nova Anderson Weller (Ohio Genealogical Society, 1981)
  • Guide to the Manuscript Collection of Early Ohio Methodism by Frances D. Harter (United Methodist Archives Center, 1980)
  • Guide to Manuscript Collections and Institutional Records in Ohio edited by David R. Larson (Society of Ohio Archivists, 1974)
  • A Guide to Manuscripts at the Ohio Historical Society edited by Sara S. Fuller and Andrea D. Lentz (The Society, 1972)
  • A Guide to the Manuscripts and Archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society by Kermit J. Pike (Western Reserve Historical Society, 1972)
  • Guide to Ohio County and Municipal Records for Urban Research by Paul D. Yon (Ohio Historical Society, 1973)
  • A Guide to Shaker Manuscripts in the Library of The Western Reserve Historical Society, with an Inventory of its Shaker Photographs (Western Reserve Historical Society, 1974)
  • Historical Collections of Ohio, 2 vols., by Henry Howe (Higginson Book Co., 1994)
  • A History of the Diocese of Ohio Until the Year 1918 by George Franklin Smythe (The Diocese, ca. 1931)
  • History of Ohio, 5 vols., by Charles Burleigh Galbreath (American Historical Society, 1925)
  • A History of the Ohio Conference of the Churches of God, General Conferences, 1836-1986 by Richard Kern (Richard Kern, 1986)
  • The History of the State of Ohio, 6 vols., edited by Carl F. Wittke (The Society, 1941-1944)
  • History of West Central Ohio, 3 vols., by Orton G. Rust (Historical Publishing Co., 1934)
  • History of the Western Reserve, 3 vols., by Harriet T. Upton (Higginson Book Co., 1995)
  • Inventory Of The Church Archives Of Ohio Presbyterian Churches by the Historical Records Survey (filmed by the Family History Library, 1972)
  • Inventory of the State Archives Of Ohio by the Historical Records Survey (Ohio Historical Records Survey Project, 1940)
  • Local History And Genealogy Resources Guide To Southeastern Ohio by Linda L. Harfst (Ohio Valley Area Libraries, 1984)
  • Log Construction in the Ohio Country, 1750-1850 by Donald A. Hutslar (Frontier Press, 1992)
  • Memoirs of the Early Pioneer Settlers of Ohio, with Narratives of Incidents and Occurrences in 1775 by S.P. Hildreth (Reprint, Clearfield Co., 1995)
  • Memoirs of the Lower Ohio Valley: Personal and Genealogical with Portraits, 2 vols., (Federal Publishing, 1905)
  • Memoirs of the Miami Valley, 3 vols., by John Calvin Hover (R.O. Law Co., 1919)
  • Methodist Ministers Card Index: All Ohio Conferences, 1797-1981 by the United Methodist Archives, Ohio (Ohio
  • Historical Society, 1982)
  • Newspapers: Microfilm Available from the Ohio Historical Society (The Society, 1987)
  • Ohio Bible Records, 2 vols., by Mrs. Don R. Short and Mrs. Denver Eller (Allen County Public Library, 1983)
  • Ohio County Records Manual (Ohio Historical Society, 1983)
  • Ohio Families: A Bibliography of Books About Ohio Families by Donald M. Hehir (Heritage books, 1993)
  • Ohio; The Future Great State: Her Manufacturers and a History of Her Commercial Cities, Cincinnati and Cleveland with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of The Most Prominent Business Men by W.J. Comley and W. D’Eggville (Comley Brothers Manufacturing and Publishing Co., 1875)
  • Ohio Genealogical Guide, 6th edition, by Carol Willsey Bell (Carol Willsey Bell, 1993)
  • Ohio Genealogical Research by George K. Schweitzer (George K. Schweitzer, 1995)
  • Ohio Genealogical Research Guide by John W. Heisey (Heritage House, 1987)
  • Ohio Genealogy and Local History Sources Index by Stuart Herter (CompuGen Systems, 1986)
  • Ohio Guide to Genealogical Sources (Genealogical Publishing Co., Reprint, 1993)
  • The Ohio Hundred Year book: A Hand-Book of the Public Men and Public Institutions of Ohio from the Formation of the North-West Territory (1787) to July 1, 1901 by Elliot Howard Gilkey (F.J. Heer, 1901)
  • Ohio Newspaper Index (Ohio Historical Society, 1996-2001)
  • Ohio Research Outline by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (online at http://www.familysearch.org/eng/search/RG/guide/ohio.asp)
  • The Ohio River: A Course of Empire by Archer Butler Hulbert (Higginson Book Co., 1996)
  • Ohio Source Records from The Ohio Genealogical Quarterly (1937-1944, 1986) by Ohio Genealogical Society (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1993)
  • Ohio Valley German Biographical Index by Don Heinrich Tolzmann (Heritage Books, 1992)
  • Ohio’s Progressive Sons, A History of the State (Queen City Publishing, 1905)
  • The Old Northwest: Pioneer Period, 1815-1840, 2 vols., by R. Carlyle Buley (Indiana University Press with the Indiana Historical Society, 1978)
  • Pioneer Ohio Newspapers, 1793-1810 and 1802-1818, 2 vols., by Karen Mauer Green (Frontier Press, 1988)
  • Pioneer Sketches: Scenes and Incidents of Former Days by M.P. Sargent (Higginson Book Co., 1993)
  • Progressive Men Of Northern Ohio (Plain Dealer Publishing Co., 1906)
  • The Records of American Baptists in Ohio, and Related Organizations compiled by Susan M. Eltscher (American Baptist Historical Society, 1981)
  • Shane Manuscript Collection (filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1966-1967)
  • The Shane Manuscript Collection: A Genealogical Guide to the Kentucky and Ohio Papers by William K. Hall (Frontier Press, 1990)
  • Six Thousand Country Churches by Charles Otis Gill and Gifford Pinchot (Macmillan, 1919)
  • Sketches of Western Methodism: Biographical, Historical & Miscellaneous, Illustrative Of Pioneer Life by James Bradley Finley (Methodist Book Concern, 1856)
  • Southern Ohio And Its Builders (Southern Ohio Biographical Association, 1927)
  • State Centennial History of Ohio, Covering The Period of Indian, French and British Dominion, the Territory Northwest, and the Hundred Years of Statehood by Rowland H. Rerick (Higginson Book Co., 1995)
  • The Western Reserve: The Story of New Connecticut in Ohio by Harlan Hatcher (Frontier Press, 1991)

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From the Family Tree Sourcebook
Also available: the State Research Guide Book, State Research Guides CD and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.

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