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09 August 2012

Journey to the Past: Visit to the Ohio State Archives

Grab a drink and a comfy chair, this post about the Ohio State Archives is lengthy. I just thought it best to lump it all together.

This begins my fourth day of research in Franklin County, Ohio, specifically in the Columbus area. I was supposed to meet another relative on Thursday morning, but it didn't pan out. I was then headed back to the Columbus Metropolitan Library. However, as I was driving down the interstate, I saw the Ohio History Museum. It houses the Ohio State Archives. I quickly and safely exited the highway and changed my plans. I would go today rather than tomorrow. But, I hadn't packed any food. YIKES!

One of the great things about having ancestors in Columbus, Ohio is that the OhioState Archives are located in Columbus as well. There are a lot of rules to follow if you go there, but for the most part, they are easy to follow and understandable. 

While at the archives, I was a little bit on a goose chase but I knew what I wanted to look at. 
  • I had some will reference numbers from an index that I had searched at the Family History Center. I wanted to see if I could turn them into documents. 
  • I wanted to see if there were additional resources regarding naturalization. 
  • And I wanted to browse the collection. I guess I need to see things rather than just look on a website catalog. 

City Directories

Cover for the 1908 Directory
of Huron County, Ohio
Before I went to the microfiche room, I explored the collection of county historical books. I found the Directory for Huron County, where some of my Long family members had lived. I found a few of the relatives in the city directories and was pleased with my work. I made sure that I took a picture of the cover of the directories and the pages within the directories to remember which book I used. Thankfully I had my computer at hand to quickly search RootsMagic for the family members who could be in the Huron County directories. Having my database close by was very handy.

Inside one of the books was a nice map that helped me understand the relationship of cities. I snapped a few photos and hopefully I can 'stitch' them together to make one file. I know that it will be a challenge because I didn't have the camera on a tripod and I book didn't lay flat. However, it's as good as it gets and I'm excited to have a reference map.

I then searched for a Franklin County directory (rather than a city directory) as so many of the ancestors I was looking for lived outside of Columbus proper. I only found one but I did find any ancestors in the directory and moved on.

I kept having the thought that more and more of the city / county directories will be available on and perhaps I shouldn't spend my time at the State Archives on research that could be done elsewhere. Additionally, many of the books I found in the state archives were also found at the CML library. I could have all the accessories that I wanted at the CML, so I decided to move on.

Naturalization Records

Declaration of Intention for Henry Mack
1 October 1856, Franklin County, Ohio
Here's where my visit turned south. I was hoping to turn my Declaration of Intentionnaturalization records items into a court case, a docket listing, something. Unfortunately, the persons manning the help desk were unfamiliar with researching those records. I don't blame them because they truly tried everything to help me. Unfortunately, I need to find someone who know something about the naturalization process in the 1850-1860s in Ohio to assist me in my research queries. Could the Declaration lead to additional records? What if I had a Naturalization Certificate? Could I work from that backwards for more documents?

Wills and Probates

Without much success on the naturalization project, I decided to work on turning a will index reference into a will. I had previously researched a Franklin County Will Index and found 30 or so names that I wanted to research. I searched the Archive library catalog but couldn't figure out where to go next. I asked the help desk and they pointed me into the direction of the microfilms.

I was directed to the Complete Record[microform], 1852-1955. I selected a few films for the particular years I was searching. I figured out how to use the microfilm reader machines and thought they were pretty high–tech compared to the ones at my local Family History Center, with one draw back. I couldn't take pictures of the images once I found them. I would have to print copies. (If there was any other trick to this, I'd love to hear it). In any case, I searched my files knowing I had come prepared to make copies.

(Perhaps this is where I should have kept better records of my trip). The film I was directed to, did not coincide with my quest. It was a collection of items for a probate case including everything from the will to receipts of payments and more. This would be a gold mind, if I could convert my file numbers to these records. I would have to scan through each packet one by one. Knowing this would take more time and probably not be what I was looking for, I went back to the help desk. I was pointed in yet another direction and it wasn't working. I was so frustrated. Not for lack of desire to help by the staff, but from spending all my time at the FHC hoping to avoid wasting time at the archives.

Then a ray of hope happened. One of the help desk workers recognized a woman in the room who was a very active researcher. This researcher is in fact listed on the Ohio website under researchers for hire. She told me to introduce myself to Lanna Blue. Lanna is listed as having experience in “Will and Estates, death certificates and obituaries, land records, county histories, plat information.” All of the things I'm interested in, but especially the Will and Estates part.

Here's the deal. I had previously chatted with Lanna in the hallway while I was grabbing a snack. I had asked if she had made any good finds, as she was beaming. She said yes. She had discovered that an uncle had Civil War ties that she had been previously unaware of. She was searching for documents on this hypothesis and was finding it to be true. How exciting!

Since the help desk person had recommended her and I had established a friendly interest, I headed over to Lanna for help. I told her how I was getting no where with my search of Wills and I'd be interested in paying her for services. Her rate was very reasonable. However, something clicked and she decided that since I was here, prepared with specific information, why not help me. Can I thank Lanna enough? NO! What's funny. Lanna hadn't planned on going to the library that day. However, divine providence (or my ancestors) knew I would need her help. Thank you!!!!

So, Lanna took me back to the reading room. I showed her a photo of research I had previously done at the FHC. Lanna spent perhaps an hour with me. We retraced the steps she would take to track now will and probate items. The first thing we found, didn't work. The next thing we found were microfiche slides from the catalog title of Index to will record [microform], 1805-1928.

When she placed them in the reader, I said... "I've already looked at that!" Believe me, this wasn't a sigh of frustration. It was relief because a) we didn't have to search them and b) Lanna knew where to go next. Hooray. Apparently the OHS calls the files I searched at the FHC by a different name. That's why I couldn't connect the dots and then determine where to go next. Lanna quickly got me to the records I sought. It is called Will record, 1805-1967. The letters and numbers I found in the Franklin County Will Index (aka Index to will record [microform], 1805-1928 at the State Archives) would direct me to which volume of the Will Record and its page number. Hallelujah!

I was happily searching on my own again. THANK YOU LANNA!!!!

Now, I knew going into the wills that many of the persons I would look up were a hunch and potential wild goose chase. Of the 20 names I found on microfilm, only two panned out. I printed the wills and moved on. Here's where I made a HUGE mistake. I figured that the clear image I saw on the machine would make a clear image on paper. It didn't. Ugh. If only I had checked before I moved on. However, I was a little light headed by this time. 

I was investing every minute to research at the library because I wouldn't get another chance here for a long time. Eating would be a burden. However, perhaps eating lunch (rather than a pack of peanut butter crackers) would have helped the mind fire correctly and I would have checked the papers. Oh well, since I knew exactly where to send Lanna, I just might give her a call and request a better copy of the records. I'm sure she'll check to make sure they look good before moving on.

Sadly it was getting near closing time for the library. I still had several will books that were not on microfilms and I would have to order a page to bring the books out. Now, this isn't a huge ordeal, but with the clock showing around 3 pm, I knew I wouldn't cover much ground. Additionally, I had the thought that I wanted to get plat maps for my ancestors. I had a decision to make. I chose to go the plat map route. Again, I'll be calling upon Lanna to investigate the large will books, but I'll only have her look up the records I'm confident are my ancestors. Someone else will have to look up the others.

Plat Maps

In any case, a staff member brought me the Name index to the Franklin County, Ohio, plat maps: 1842, 1856, 1883. This was very useful and I found the reference points for more relatives thanks to having my Family History records handy in RootsMagic. 

Name Index  to Franklin County, Ohio Plat Maps 1842, 1856, 1883
Entry for Billman, M (second husband of my 3rd great-grandmother
Caroline Mack Geiszler Billman

I made a quick spreadsheet for the persons I needed to research and ordered a plat map. Here's what I didn't expect. I was expecting a 'regular' sized book with sketched or drawn plats and indications on who is buried where. It would be black and white and easy to manipulate. Instead, what I got was a HUGE three piece wall map of Ohio. It was in color but it was huge. I found the persons who I knew where to look easily. The others I am unfamiliar with so I wasn't able to find them. But here's the deal. The map is so large, that taking a photograph of it was very difficult. a) I didn't have a tripod to stabilize my camera and b) the sky lights were reflecting off the laminate.

The massive plat map was not what I was hoping for.

Well, Lanna had told me there are smaller plat books and they are really what I should seek out. Unfortunately, my time was up and I was STARVING! My cousin would be playing softball that night and I couldn't wait to see her in action. Lanna said the plat maps should also be at the CML, so I packed up headed out, and devoured food once in the door of my aunt's home.

In retrospect, the state library wasn't a bust. Sure I was frustrated, but I met many wonderful staff workers, though unfamiliar with wills and estate, truly wanted to help me. I was directed to a volunteer / genealogist who also really wanted to help me. I finally got to the records and my research continued. I knew some things were not going to pan out, but it was okay. Sure I wish I could have covered more ground at the archives, but sometimes, we have to learn about researching before we can get to the items we need.

This is another installment in a lengthy multi-series post about the fantastic research trip I took to Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio. If you're just joining the this series, you'll be able to see every post under the label Research Trip.


  1. It must have been serendipity that you chose to go to the OHS Archives on Thursday (instead of Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday) since they are open so few days. I hope you get to go back another time. CML is a great place to research, too, as you already know, because they have so many Franklin County materials. Lots for other counties and states, too, of course.

    1. So true. It was pure luck that I went when they were open when I hadn't planned on going at that time. I can see myself going back when I need to do another round of research.


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