On my trip in 2007 I had wanted to visit the Ohio Historical Society, but I just didn’t have the time to do so because the trip had included the Federation of Genealogical Society Conference in Fort Wayne. I would be using up a week to attend and do research at the Allen County Public Library which has a very big genealogical collection. So I passed on it, but this time I was determined to go.
My first visit to the Ohio Historical Society (OHS) took place on August 18, 2011. I had three days scheduled at OHS and I might return later on in the trip?
My route started with Warren Strett to N 4th Street which goes one way north for quite a long time. Be careful, Columbus has many one way streets. Warren also changes from two-way to one-way for a block. It was about 2 miles to the OHS. I turned right onto E 17th Street and found Velma but the entrance is a little further down almost to the McDonald’s (on the right). There is no signage till you are almost on top of the entrance and then you see the sign on the left.
Now be careful again, for 17th is where the State Fair grounds are located and some major field the names escapes me because I was so focussed on the OHS. If they are having an event they block the road off! Big huge barricades at least going west on E 17th were up on Saturday. I had to go north on 4th to E. Hudson and turn right and then onto Silver Street which became Velma Street. Stay to the right and turn into the area where Lowe’s is or you end up on the freeway. I knew about Velma from my first day and knew I could cut through and find the entrance to the OHS parking lot. The problem is the railroad tracks and the freeway run along the area next to the OHS and you can’t turn west because the streets become dead ends till you get up to E. Hudson. When I left the OHS later in the day on Saturday, I saw other cars going around the barricades??? Hmmm? I suggest that you figure out several routes to the OHS just to be safe.
You enter the OHS building were the lower roof line is located to the left. There is a museum but I didn’t have the time to spend exploring and a gift shop. They are open 10 to 5 pm Wednesday to Saturday. You have to sign in at the front desk and get a card. You then walk down toward the museum area, turn right and right again and the elevators are tucked into this alcove like area. Punch the 3rd floor button and you enter the lobby of the library/archives are. Lockers are ahead of you and there are many. You will need a quarter which goes into the inside black piece on the right side almost at the top. The quarter is given back to you so if you need to get in and out of the locker you can. I found that my computer case will fit. Sometimes the lockers are too small and you have to reduce what you bring. Restrooms are past the lockers.
The entrance to the library/archives is a scrolling metal gate far end of the lobby area before the lockers. You can peer into the main Reading Room and see all the stacks of books, the reference desk, the sign for the Microfilm reading room, tables and more. It is very nicely arranged!
They open at 10 am and you have to leave your computer case in the locker and bring your papers into the Reading Room and find a desk. Some have power others don’t. If you bring your digital camera you have to sign an agreement in the library/archives area. No tripods are allowed or hand scanners. They also do the photocopying, it is not self-serve. If you do have copies made make sure they are okay because in other repositories I have had problems. Court documents can be large and need to be reduced. I do not know if they take back the article and not return it to you or not. I didn’t get photocopies for I had my digital camera. Oh, they are $.25 even the microfilm readers where you use a copy card. I think you need one for both.
On Thursday I immediately started to order items from the stacks. I had to learn what was to be ordered and what was not. The librarians/archivists will tell you or you can ask if not sure. They are very quick and bring things to the main area for you to view in a special area. They give you one item at a time.
I looked at the actual original deed index books for Washington County for Grantor and Grantee. They were wonderful. Microfilm is great and I had looked at the Grantor version of this index at the Family History Library but these were the original index books. There is something about looking at the read book in which the court clerk actually wrote things down that is so amazing. I gently turned the pages.
Now they don’t have everything from each county in Ohio. They do have seven Ohio Research Centers around the state for government records for various areas of the state. So you do have to do your homework before you go there and it takes a little digging to figure out what they have or don’t and where the records might be located. Some records are on microfilm of course. At the bottom of the page from the catalog note whether it reads “can be paged” or “self-serve.” This will guide you. It will tell you if it is in the microfilm room. Usually the GR numbers are on microfilm. Other numbers like ones with BV are to be ordered unless there is another option.
As usual you have slight problems but that is typical of research. I did pull a newspaper microfilm and it was a Scioto court book so I took that to the volunteer in the Microfilm room which is over to the left in the back of the Reading Room. He was busy trying to figure out if the boxes got mixed up. I also tried for a film and it was out for repair. So there are some things to work around. Their descriptions on the catalog pages are not real easy to figure out and unfortunately you have to order more films than you might need.
I was looking at films for the Tax records and that was very confusing so it took me a little while to figure out how they had been filmed. This is not OHS’s fault but the person who microfilmed them. So you have to factor in time to interpret what you are looking at.
They have wonderful treasures at OHS. It was pretty exciting to look at a church record book (I am beginning to think they are rare) in handwriting with delicate pages. I didn’t find my ancestors but I can surely appreciate it as a wonderful resource. It was the Congregational Church in Randolph, Portage County, Ohio. It was interesting because a John Seward wrote some entries. How he fits into the Seward family I do not know? Enos Seward married Sarah Goss daughter of Philip and Mary Goss. This John Seward sign his name as missionary from the Connecticut Religious Society. The record started about 1810 and went to 1870? OHS has some wonderful treasures!
I ordered some Preemptive certificates that reimbursed claimants for lands lost due to John Cleves Symmes bankruptcy regarding the Miami purchase (Symmes Purchase is another name). All they had was the ones for the Cincinnati land office documents. From the description it seemed like they had other land offices? They were wonderful. I was hoping to find Solomon Goss among them. Now that would have been a great find. There were many names but no Solomon. I know that a lot of the records from Symmes were lost and some were found in his home in after his death?
I did do newspaper research. A lot of newspapers are on microfilm. The numbers start at the far end of the Microfilm Room and come forward to the readers. I am finding very little on my family. I am beginning to think that the news is centered on the cities and not out in the country areas. Some newspapers will have some obituaries, some gossip which mention someone is feeling poorly etc., marriages, public notices like sheriff sales, land for sale from an estate, an administrator’s notices and I did find a murder in 1818 but it was south of the city. It did mention the coroner examined the body! I was frustrated to see that even if they had the newspaper it had big gaps in the issues. Some were on microfilm and I observed a lady reading paper versions out in the main reading area. Those I believe you have to order. I also saw another lady with what looked like a scrapbook of newspaper clippings. They do have published abstracts of death notices books for some areas, newspapers and counties. Before I do newspaper research I prepare a spreadsheet using Word with the names and death dates of the persons I am interested in. This time I created a spreadsheet for each county with names and attached the catalogue spreadsheet of the newspaper I wanted to search to it. I notices other researchers had similar papers they were using to do their searches.
My three days were very busy but I feel that I accomplished a lot. One of the librarians assisted me and verified that the murder of a certain fourth great grandparent was in the area of upper Marion County. I will talk about that in another post. The archivists are very nice and pleasant so ask your questions.
If you are trying to do genealogical research in Ohio you might want to add the Ohio Historical Society to your list of places to do that research. There is never enough time and I could have used one more day. Although you do have to factor in that your brain gets real tired and your eyes hurt from the microfilm reader! All-in-all I am pleased.
If you get tired you can have fun pulling county books off the shelf and you don’t have to reshelve them! They seem to have a wonderful city directory collection. The furthest back for Toledo was 1858, which is pretty good. I needed to get back to 1855 or 1856! Don’t you just love genealogical research!