Genealogists are on the constant search for more and more data online, but sometimes we don’t even realize what’s right under our noses. As Amanda pointed out in her blog entry last week, we don’t always know as much about the online sources as we thought we did. Well, do you know where to find millions of marriage and birth records from almost every county in Ohio, copied directly from the county records?
Don’t go running to Cyndi’s List or Linkpendium for the answer, those wonderful sites have not posted a link to this collection. No, they’re not at Ancestry or WorldVitalRecords. No, they are not part of FamilySearch Indexing or at RootsWeb either. Neither the Ohio Genealogical Society nor the Ohio Historical Society have anything to do with them. Until this week, they weren’t even listed on our popular Genealogy Sleuth page, yet there is a website where you can find an estimated 75% of all pre 1885 marriages in Ohio. You can search statewide or by a specific county, and you’ve probably already bookmarked the website!
I’m talking about upwards of two million marriages (or more) all available for FREE, along with thousands of births, each with a link to the original record! This database has almost 4.5 million entries. Marriage abstracts are available for 77 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Some begin before 1810 and most extend up to 1885. Birth abstracts cover 51 of the counties, generally from about 1867 to 1875 (some to 1885). So, do you know where to find this treasure trove of original records?
That’s right; it’s part of FamilySearch, in an old familiar database we know as the “International Genealogical Index” (IGI). But, wait! Before you dismiss that collection as being untrustworthy because “anyone could submit anything” and “it’s full of duplication,” hear me out (well, okay, read me out). Yes, there are a lot of undocumented submissions and duplicate entries in the IGI, but not seriously so for Ohio.
Rather, the births and marriages I’m interested in were all extracted from county records by volunteers more than a decade ago in a program that was a predecessor to the current FamilySearch Indexing program. Volunteers copied birth and marriage information from microfilm copies of the county records and that data was entered into the IGI, ready for anyone to find and use. The result is the largest collection of Ohio vital records for the 19th century.
It’s large, but it is NOT complete. There are no extracted marriages for eleven counties and for some counties several early years were not extracted. A few others end long before the traditional 1885 cut off date. In some cases, the “missing” years of marriages were lost or destroyed and were not available to be extracted. For example, Hamilton County (home of Cincinnati) lost many county records to a fire, although some marriage records were re-recorded.
Searching by County
I’m sure you’ve all used the IGI and know how to narrow your search to a state, but how do you search these records by county? Well, that’s a bit tricky, but not too hard. The marriages for each county were divided into one to four (or more) batches, by date and were given a “Batch Number” for reference. That Batch Number, beginning with M- for marriages and C- for births, is displayed on the IGI entry for any entries taken from such a batch. And, you can search the IGI by Batch Number. But, how do you know what the batch numbers are for your county of interest?
To make it easy to identify which counties are covered for which years, and to quickly search the IGI for county births and marriages, we’ve posted the information on our website. On our “Ohio Genealogy Databases” page we have a listing of all 88 Ohio counties, with formation year, parent counties, and the years of births and marriages that were extracted. The list includes a link to the IGI search page and the batch numbers for that county. Copy the batch number, click on the link and paste the batch number into the Batch Number box. Then select North America as the region and press search.
Once you’ve found the extracted marriage you’re seeking, the IGI will give you the microfilm number, so you can get right to the original county record. By the way, that “Ohio Genealogy Databases” page also includes some pretty useful links to other Ohio data.
Since most counties have more than one batch (especially for marriages), you may want to know which years are covered by a batch. For that information, go to the Hugh Wallis website for English and American batch numbers. The page for Ohio is IGI Batch Numbers for Ohio, USA.
The more you know about a database, the more power you have to use it effectively. Even when you think you’ve used a tool extensively, it can likely be used in yet other ways to solve a research problem!