Ohio Probate Records
Probate is the “court procedure by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid” and encompasses “all matters and proceedings pertaining to the administration of estates, guardianships, etc.” Various types of records are created throughout the probate process. These may include, wills, bonds, petitions, accounts, inventories, administrations, orders, decrees, and distributions. These documents are extremely valuable to genealogists and should not be neglected. In many instances, they are the only known source of relevant information such as the decedent’s date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their places of residence. They may also include information about adoption or guardianship of minor children and dependents. For further information about the probate process, types of probate records, analyzing probate records, and to access a glossary of probate terms, see United States Probate Records.
NOTE: Each county generally transcribed, from the original documents, the most important items from the Probate Estate or Civil Case Packet, e.g. interim and final reports, summary of inventory, appointment of administrators, wills. These transcriptions do not generally include original signatures, nor do they generally reproduce every document related to the case packet. Signatures can be very important, particularly if someone is researching multiple individuals who bear the same name.
In some counties the original case packets also still exist, frequently held by another repository, e.g. local historical society rather than at the county courthouse. It is recommended that researchers seek out both the transcribed documents and also the original case packets to glean the most information possible. The original case packets, where they exist, contain the original wills, inventories, letters of administration, receipts, and other documents needed to settle that particular probate estate or probate civil case. These originals have the actual signatures intact. In some instances only the transcribed documents still exist. In others, only the original packets. What is available differs from county to county.
Probate records were kept in all counties from the time of each county's creation. Until the establishment of separate probate courts in 1852, these records were kept in the courts of common pleas. You can obtain copies of these records by writing to the clerk of the appropriate county. For more information see the Ohio County Probate Records page.
Understanding the Ohio probate laws and how they changed over time can help us learn how the estate was administered, taxed, and distributed and might help to solve difficult genealogical problems.
Additional information about Ohio state statutes relating to probate matters can be found at law libraries. Online digital versions of state statutes can often be found by conducting a search engine search for the term, "Ohio statutes."
Probate records are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under OHIO, [COUNTY] - PROBATE RECORDS.
Most Ohio probate records are well indexed and are on microfilm or in published format at the Family History Library. The files date from the creation of each county to at least 1900 and sometimes to the 1970s.
Statewide Record Collections
Bell, Carol Willsey. Ohio Wills and Estates to 1850: An Index. Columbus, Ohio: C.W. Bell, 1981. Digital Version; FHL Collection; WorldCat entry. Also available on WorldVitalRecords.com. Available only to members of WorldVitalRecords.
Some counties in Ohio have probate records online. Using a search engine such as www.google.com enter the name of the county you are interested in and the words “probate records” then press “enter”.
- Ohio, Cuyahoga County Probate Files, 1813-1917
- Ohio, Montgomery County, Probate Estate Files, 1850-1900
Wiki articles describing these collections are found at:
- Ohio Cuyahoga County Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Ohio, Montgomery County Probate Estate Files (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Ohio Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."