Cigars and Sewing Machines: Finding My Ancestor’s Estate Inventory in Old Court records

By Diane Haddad

So this was exciting: I found the estate inventory for my great-great-grandfather H.A. Seeger, who died Aug. 18, 1923, in Hamilton County, Ohio, court records digitized on

This collection isn’t yet indexed and can’t be searched, so I’ve been browsing. I’m still trying to figure out how the records are organized, which according to our upcoming Mastering Genealogy Research in Court Records online course, can vary by county and time period.

Many of the volumes have indexes in the front (usually grouped by first letter of the last name, and then sometimes by first letter of the first name). In slowly clicking through volumes around dates of family marriages, deaths and other events, I found H.A. named in the index of an inventory record volume for 1923. I went to the page number listed.

The estate inventory separates the contents of H.A.’s cigar store, which one of his sons took over, from the household goods in the residence above the store.

He owned $230 in store inventory and equipment, including “2 doz. Lucky Strike,” “14. pkg. Old Va. cheroots,” “lot miscellaneous stogies” and $15 in penny candies.

In the house was a chiffonier (I had to look this up—it’s a high chest of drawers, which may be the one now in my uncle’s house), a sewing machine (probably belonging to H.A.’s wife, who died in 1916, or one of their daughters) and other goods, totaling $54.25 in value.

The inventory also listed bank accounts worth $110.58 and $210.70 (about $4,411.14 in today’s money, according to the CPI inflation calculator).

The inventory was notarized Oct. 1, 1923, and filed the next day. Now I’m looking for a will and other probate documents, and I’ll use the information in the four-week Mastering Genealogy Research in Courthouse Records online course to help speed up my search. The course isn’t just about finding records online, but also what you can find at the courthouse in nondigitized records. It’s great for starting your foray into these richly detailed, but often intimidating, genealogical records.

For expert advice on using the free collections at—including the unindexed, not-searchable ones—check out our webinar 10 Simple Strategies for Using, happening Wednesday, April 16.