Ohio History

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United States   Gotoarrow.png  Ohio   Gotoarrow.png  Ohio History


Ancient burial mounds and forts throughout the region showed evidence of the Hopewell Indians. In the 1600's, European explorers found the Delaware, Shawnee, Mingo, Wyandot, Miami and other Indian tribes living there. At one time both France and Great Britain both held claims to the Ohio area. After the Northwest Territory was established, and the Treaty of Greenville signed, thousands of settlers came to the Ohio region. Among the early settlers were Revolutionary War soldiers who had been given bounty lands in southeast Ohio for their military service.

The Harrison Land Act in 1800 which enabled common people to purchase land in the Northwest Territory, which they did rapidly helping Ohio to become the 17th state on March 1, 1803.

To connect with trade to the East, Ohio built a 1,000-mile long canal system of eighty-three locks called the Ohio and Erie Canal, opening in 1825. This made an outlet for the Ohioan’s farms, forests and mines to conduct trade with the outside communities. The railroad arrived in the mid 1800's, turning Ohio into a crossroads for trade and migration.

Ohioans were instrumental in smuggling freedom seeking slaves to Canada by using the Underground Railroad. This resulted in a scattering of small African American communities serving as temporary safe havens in southeastern Ohio.

The following important events in the history of Ohio affected political jurisdictions, family movements, and record keeping.


The following are important dates in the history of Ohio that affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements:

Historical Content

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

Local Histories

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies.

You may want to study local histories for areas such as the Maumee, Miami, Hocking, Muskingum, Scioto, and Mahoning Valleys.

Bibliography of Local Histories

State Histories Useful to Genealogists

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Ohio.

Several multi-volume histories of Ohio were written between 1890 and 1945. Two examples are:

United States History

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. (Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983.) At various libraries (WorldCat), FHL book 973 H2almThis book provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976.) At various libraries (WorldCat), FHL book 973 H2adIncludes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations.
  • Van Doren, Charles Lincoln; Robert McHenry, Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. (Springfield, Mass.: G and C Merriam, 1971.) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 973 H2v Includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.

Family History Library

To access histories available through the Family History Library Catalog, use the Place-names Search for:


Web Sites

A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:

Ohio Tax Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)