Ohio History

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

1656: Iroquois Confederacy claimed Ohio lands after defeating the Erie Indians.

1763:  The British took possession of the area but discouraged settlers.

1772: Moravian misson at Schoenbrunn

1777: Moravian mission at Coshocton

1772-1824:  Moravian Indian land grants, 4,000 acres along the Tuscarawas River in Tuscarawas County.

1787:  The United States government established the Northwest Territory with the intent to open the land to Revolutionary War veterans and other settlers.

1788: The first permanent white settlement was established at Marietta.

1794: (August 20,) Battle of Fallen Timbers near Miami River. General Wayne commanding the U.S. forces, this victory ended Indian Wars in the area.

1799: Ohio Territory

1803:  (March 1,) Ohio gained statehood.

1805: Land ceded by Ottawa, Wyandot, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Shawnee and Delaware Indians.

1807 & 1808:  Land ceded by Chippewa, Ottawa, Wyandot, an Potawatomi

1817: Land ceded by Ottawa, Wyandot, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Shawnee, Delaware, and Seneca  

1818: Land ceded by Ottawa, Shawnee, Wyandot and Seneca

1818: Land ceded by Wea

1818: Land ceded by Miami


1843: Wyandot removed to Kansas

1861-1865:  310,000 Ohio men served in the Union armed forces during the Civil War.

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

  • Index to Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio. [2]

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

A bibliography of local histories is:

  • Ohio Local and Family History Sources in Print [4]

For an every-name index to the biographical sections of Ohio county histories, see the Ohio Surname Index, described in the "Biography" section of this outline.

Histories are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:




Web Sites


  1. Howe, Henry. Historical Collections of Ohio. Two Volumes. N.p.: The State of Ohio, 1908, c1888. (Family History Library book 977.1 H2hh 1908; film 1698149 Item 5)
  2. Day, Sandra H., comp. Index to Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio. Wintersville, Ohio: S.H. Day, 1987-89. (Family History Library book 977.1 H22d; film 1698149 Item 5;  fiche 6088090.)
  3. Wittke, Carl F., ed. The History of the State of Ohio. Six Volumes. Columbus, Ohio: The Society, 1941-1944. (Family History Library book 977.1 H2wi.)
  4. Adams, Marilyn, comp. Ohio Local and Family History Sources in Print. Clarkston, Georgia: Heritage Research, 1984. (Family History Library book 977.1 H23o.)