Getting Your Detective On!

September 10, 2020

Genealogy often takes a bit of detective work! Sometimes record groups do not appear as we think they should.

Richland, the home county of the Ohio Genealogical Society, has administration records nicely labeled – Volume 1, 2, 3, etc. Perhaps these numbers were assigned when the court purchased the official leather-bound entry journals from one of the blank book manufacturers, or perhaps the oldest volumes were badly worn and stuck in a desk drawer for safe keeping when a clerk began the numbering system, because there is a Volume ½ and another called Volume ¼ which predate Volume 1 and cover the period 1813-1823. The will record series for this county also has a Volume ½.

In the same county, FamilySearch lists Marriages, Vol. 2, 1847-1852, but these are actually marriage licenses, not returns. The real Richland County, Ohio Marriages, Vol. 2, which covers 1826-1833, has been absent well before the DAR and other groups started their abstract work. Some effort has been made to reconstruct it from newspaper hymeneals and loose minister and Justice of the Peace marriage slips, but the actual journal is probably gone permanently.

Perhaps the record group that has attained the greatest number of misnomers in Ohio is the quadrennial enumeration. They were taken every four years from 1803 to 1911, as the name implies. They list males over age 21 (non-whites included after 1863) and are arranged alphabetically within a township. Later years give address, race, occupation, and land ownership, but the earliest ones just give the name. Our Butler County Chapter OGS called their publication 1807 Butler County Census. In fact, early editions of The Source (now corrected) identified these lists as state census records. They were actually taken to determine boundaries of voting districts – the original gerrymandering. Sometimes they are called voter’s lists and have even been mistaken for tax lists. The Adams County Genealogical Society calls their publications Male Enumeration Lists. In Richland County, the 1815 quadrennial enumeration was discovered in loose papers of the Supreme Court found in the OGS Archives [Box 3, File 20, Items 15-20]. Wayne County enumerations (identified properly) for 1815, 1819, 1823, 1887 and 1907 are found on the Wayne County Public Library’s wiki in the Census section - . This is a great example of both early and later forms of the record type. In your own county of interest, be watchful for records with the years 1803, 1807, 1811, etc. There was no 1812 list taken, for example. Think four years apart!

If quadrennial enumerations are called many things, land grants in Ohio are perhaps the most misunderstood record type. In the first place, our ancestors had to purchase their tract. Land offices did not give parcels away although land in Ohio was freely distributed in certain regions – Virginia Military District, U.S. Military District, Firelands, Refugee Tract, Donation Lands, and others. Then you might read in the textbooks that ranges are vertical and townships horizontal, but in the Between the Miamis Survey, it might be just the opposite!

The moral of the story is that the good researcher needs to study each situation carefully before jumping to a conclusion. The Ohio County Records Manual (1983 edition) by the Ohio Historical Society, C.E. Sherman’s Original Ohio Land Subdivisions (1925), and Carol Bell’s Ohio Genealogical Guide (6th ed., 1995) are the best for finding answers to questions about Ohio’s record groups.

Sometimes you just have to go Sherlock on these things in genealogy!

Tom Neel, OGS Library Director