Below is the outline for a presentation given in 2000 to our local genealogy society (Clark County, Ohio). Perhaps it will be of value to someone researching their AA Family in States other than Ohio.
RESEARCHING AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN OHIO RECORDS
PRESENTER: ARTHUR L. THOMAS
DATE: 24 JUNE 2000
In researching our Ohio AA roots we must first do a quick review of the State of Ohio.
Ohio became a state in 1803, however it’s history and that of AAs in the Northwest Territory
occur well before that year. The first recorded birth of an AA in the Ohio Territory was said to have been James Davis on 6 Mar 1787 at Ft. Harmer in Washington County. The great Indian fighter Simon Kenton was documented as being saved by an AA named Cesear, who had been living among the Shawnee Indians since the early 1780s. Also the Shawnee were known to have had AA slaves in the 1770s. (Map of State in 1803, with county outlines) (Cesear’s Creek State Park)
After Ohio came into the Union as a “Free State” there was a great migration of “whites”
both sympathetic and unsympathetic to the cause of Slavery. Some brought their slaves
with them and a certain type of freedom was given upon arrival into Ohio. Other whites
Manumitted their slaves and those former slaves migrated/settled in Ohio. (Gist & Randolph Slaves)
Some on land purchased by the former slave owner. The UGRR and “Runaways” also had
an impact on the increase of AAs in early Ohio history.
It would be of interest to refer to “Vanished Black Communities in Western Ohio by Mary Ann Golding of the Old World Research Company of Cincinnati, Ohio concerning the size, number and locations of AA settlements in Ohio during the 19th and early 20th Century. (Carthegena/Rumley/Wren and Middle Creek)
So, suffice it to say that AAs, their presence and records of such go back a good two (2)
hundred plus years.
Now, on to our topic –AAs in Ohio Records—Like the “old” rule of starting with ourself and
working back, lets do the same in our record search and begin with the three (3) record types
familiar to most of us (Birth, Marriage and Death) and where they can be found.
VTAL RECORDS (Governmental)
Without being too technical let us distinguish between birth record and birth certificate,
death records and death certificates.
For our purpose birth records for Ohio are those required by the State beginning in
1864, and recorded at the County level (Probate Court). Certificates are those recorded at the established County Health Districts beginning in 1907.
Death records/certificates follow the rules of Birth records/certificates. These data types
are recorded in the proper COUNTY office where the event occurred. After 1907
they have also been recorded at the State level.
Marriage records have been recorded in the County Probate Court where the marriage application
was taken. This is not necessarily where the marriage took place. Also, there is a distinction
between the application, record, and certificate. This has been the practice since Statehood.
(Discuss differences and changes in data recorded)
In my personal research I have several records where the License/Application for marriage
was recorded, but was not returned with the “marrying officials” date and signature. Question,
Are/were these folks ever legally married? Why weren’t they returned? Recorded as returned?
Corrected Birth/Marriage/Death Records are usually found in the Probate Court of the County
where the corrective action took place and at the State Bureau of Vital Statistics.
OTHER VITAL RECORD TYPE SOURCES
Death: Bible, Cemetery, SSI, Military, Wills, Deeds, Estate Papers, Obits
Marriage: Banns, Bonds, Divorce
RESEARCHING AAs IN OTHER OHIO RECORDS
Most other Ohio research for AAs is really the same as it is for the larger community, but it is very important to associate AA records with a time frame. One difference that comes to mind are “Freedom Registration” papers. These are papers required by “Free Persons of
Color” to file at the Court in the County where they were going to reside. Although this was a “law” it was not heavily enforced. (Gist/Randolph) This was in effect from Statehood until
probably the late 1850s. Another example would be to look at the court records where violations of the “Black Codes” may have been enforced (Adams/Stanup-Champaign County) (Reno-Medina County).
Records of AAs by years 1800-50, 1851-1900, 1901-1950, 1951-present
I break the last 200 years into these time frames for ease of management. Also, significant things happened within these dates. Fugitive slave law, civil war & reconstruction, WWI &II,
and the Civil rights movement. Record keeping and the recording of US in those records also
underwent many changes. Our identification is a prime example—colored, mulatto, Negro, black,
AA and now the Census allowed us to be more than one (1). Of course, we have probably interchanged these terms for years. ( annotation of C/B/COL on records where race was not
included on form, especially at the county level) (Discuss)
Another very important aspect for AAs is to know the local history of the area(s) in researching
our Ancestors. Black Codes and later De Facto Segregation have a major impact on how, where,
why our records are housed. (Discuss Mercer/Shelby Counties)
Let us discuss some particular record types with examples from my personal research,
their use and what conclusions/leads can be obtained from them.
CENSUS RECORDS (1820-1920)
SCHOOL & COLLEGE (High School Year Books and College Catalogs)
MILITARY (Discharge Papers, Pension Papers, War Records, etc.) Fed,State,Local
MANUMISSION PAPERS/FREEDOM PAPERS
CHURCH & BIBLE
PROPERTY & TAX
HISTORIES---LOCAL,COUNTY & STATE
Other Materials used:
Blacks in Ohio 1880 10 Vols.-Paul Nitchman
Free Heads of Negro Families (1830) Carter G. Woodson
Thesis Papers-Randolph Slaves
CDs AAs in 1870 and Ohio Index 1870 & 1880
and Ohio Marriages 1789-1850, 1851-1900
Ohio Map(s) Counties 1803-Current and UGRR Trails
In conclusion, it must be understood that research techniques require that these resources be used in conjunction with each other and not as separate entities. Remember, that it is best to have
more than one (1) source for your recorded information.
It is also very important to know what type of record we’re looking for dependent upon the person(s) being researched. Examples are sex, age and time period as relates to Military, Occupation, Area(s) of residence, Property Records, etc. The sketching of time-lines for families
and individuals is very helpful in this regard.
Thank you for the invitation to speak, your time and your attention are greatly appreciated and my best wishes to you for continued success in your discovery of Family.