Birth records typically provide an individual’s date of birth and parents’ names. Depending on the time period, there are different ways to access birth records. In Ohio, it became a statewide law to record births in 1867. Each county's probate court was responsible for recording the birth as a single line entry in a ledger book from 1867 to December 19, 1908. Births that occurred on December 20, 1908 to the present are recorded by local vital statistics offices and the Ohio Department of Health in a certificate format.
The Archives & Library holds probate court birth records for some Ohio counties, but not all. We do not hold a record of births that occurred on December 20, 1908 to the present. Information about accessing these records is provided below.
It was not required by law to keep birth records in Ohio until 1867. Although the official records do not exist, you may be able to find information about these events from other sources.
In 1820, 1830 and 1840, only the head of the household is listed and other family members appear as hash marks. You may not be able to prove that a hash mark is an ancestor, but searching by parents’ names or surnames can provide clues to a person’s county of birth.
Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.com (free), available from the computers in the Archives & Library, have census records online, allowing you to search by name. Print indexes and microfilmed census records are also available in the Archives & Library.
Censuses after 1850 list all the members of the household and should give an approximate year of birth for an ancestor listed.
Search for a birth notice in a newspaper. This is a hit-or-miss proposition. Depending on the time period, the notices could be scattered throughout the newspaper. Search the Library Catalog to determine what newspapers we have available for which time periods. Visit our Newspaper Research Guide for search tips and strategies. Some Ohio newspapers are freely available online and keyword searchable on Chronicling America and Ohio Memory.
If you know where the person was living and what church the family attended, you may be able to find baptismal, christening, funeral, burial or other records. Because the Archives & Library does not hold church records, it is best to contact the church or church archives directly.
In 1867, it became a statewide law to record births at the probate court of the county where the birth occurred. Birth records were one-line entries in ledger books listing information about the person’s birth and parents. Some records may have indexes to direct you to the volume and page number on which a person’s record can be found.
There is no statewide index to these records prior to December 20, 1908, so you need to know the county of birth in order to find a record. If the county of birth is not known, search the U.S. Census to identify possible counties where the family lived at the time of the child's birth.
The Archives & Library holds probate court birth records for some Ohio counties, but not all. The best way to find out which probate court records or published indexes are available in the Archives & Library is to search the Online Collections Catalog. For example, search: Knox County Probate Court Birth.
For birth records not in our collection, contact the local Probate Court or county archives to find out where the records are housed.
Many Ohio courthouse records were microfilmed in the past by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have recently been adding digital images of the Ohio court records they microfilmed to their website, www.familysearch.org. The website is free, but they do require that you register for an account to view the original documents. At present, many of the courthouse records have not been completely name indexed (meaning you may not get results by typing the name in the search box). You can browse the collection on Family Search by county using the link at the bottom of the page, Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003.
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If you have an exact place and year of birth for someone who was born in Ohio between 1867-1908, you can submit an Indexed Public Records Copy Request form. The exact citation to the event should have the following:
Full name of the person documented by the record
Type of record being requested (for example: birth)
Year or date that the birth occurred
County or city in Ohio where the birth occurred
Information about cost and the form for submitting a copy request is available on the Indexed Vital Records Copy Request form linked on the left side of this page.
If you know that a person was born in Ohio, but you do not have the exact year of birth, you can request research for a record of birth during a ten year time frame. Because there is no statewide index to Ohio births that happened before December 20, 1908, it is necessary to know the county or city in Ohio where the person was born. The citation to the event must include the following:
Full name of the person documented by the record
Type of record being researched (for example: birth)
Approximate year of the birth (must be within a 10 year time span).
County or city in Ohio where the birth happened
Information about cost and the form for submitting a research request is available on the Vital Records Research Request form linked on the left side of this page.
The Ohio History Connection Archives & Library does not have copies of these records.
If you can’t find a person’s name in the index, that doesn’t mean that his/her record will not be in the actual record book. If you have a general idea of the year in which the person was born, you may consider reviewing all of the records from that year or group of years.
Although Ohio law required births to be recorded, this did not always happen. A family member, the doctor, or the township assessor was responsible for reporting the birth to the probate court, but sometimes none of these individuals did so. If the birth occurred after 1867, but you cannot find a government record entered in the probate court's register of births, consider using "substitute" resources. Census entries, christening records, or birth notices in a community's newspaper serve as the written proof of a birth.