Business history

From Wayne County, Ohio Online Resource Center
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General Overview

Business records are one of the least used resources for genealogists. Information about business may be found in many ways. Histories of businesses may be found through newspapers, directories, local histories, biographical collections, and old photographs. In addition, business directories, local vending licenses, estate settlements, annual reports, business history publications, account books and journals, Common Pleas court records, and maps may include useful information pertaining to businesses. Other genealogical resources such as census records and agricultural and manufacturing schedules, obituaries, and family histories, should not be ignored.

Many early Americans (17th and 18th centuries) focused on farming and agriculture as their principal means of survival. However, between 10 and 20 percent of the population engaged in non-farming activities. These activities may include but are not limited to grocers and dry goods, Blacksmiths, silversmiths, entrepreneurs, salesmen, teachers, tavern owners, mill workers, canal men, railroad men, coachmen, clerks, clergymen, doctors, lawyers, judges, etc. It was common for many individuals to serve as an apprentice or indentured servant. Individuals would be bound to one person for a given period of time in payment for some services. There were two basic types of indentures: (1) to learn a trade and (2) pay for passage to America. Those who were apprenticed to learn a trade may have started as young as 8 years old. If the family was having a difficult time to make ends meet, young boys would become an apprentice to learn a trade, normally until they turned 21. Young girls would be indentured to learn “housewifery.” Former prisoners from England and individuals who could not afford the passage to America would often become indentured for a number of years as to have away across the ocean.

Often, storekeepers would keep account books. Many times, these account books note family relationships and individuals involved with the transactions and delivery of goods. Schoolmasters would often keep records on their students. Sometimes these are considered school records. However, early schools were privately run and the teachers were paid by the students’ families. In this sense, they could be considered business records.

Insurance records may be useful for many genealogists. Insurance companies grew in popularity in the mid-1800s. Information on applications normally included lifestyle, health, age, residence, and relatives (beneficiaries). Many times, insurance companies would need to contact heirs when large sums of money were due. Files of these searches may prove very beneficial for family historians. No insurance records may be found in our local collection.

Credit reporting agencies are other less common resources for genealogists. By the early 1850s, R. G. Dun and Company (a.k.a. Dun and Bradstreet) send semiannual credit reports about business people in their areas to the New York Office. These records are available in the Baker Library at Harvard University and comprise 2,580 volumes arrange by county (The Source, p. 343). Individuals would need to visit the library in person or hire a researcher to have the records searched. The librarians do not provide this service. Clergy

The late 18th and 19th centuries saw an increasing number of professionals. Where records may be found on these individuals depends on the profession or trade. Information on clergy is most commonly found with the archives of the church denomination. Church archives may be found through a search on the Internet. For Catholic records, it will be necessary to know the diocese. Information on clergy may also be found through local history books and biographical dictionaries.

On our department’s web site, there is some information pertaining to ministers ordained to perform marriages in Wayne County, Ohio. They are listed under the subheading “Ministers” and are categorized by denomination. Lawyers, Judges, Attorneys

The prominence of lawyers, judges, and doctors lends itself to the publication of many directories and biographical sketch books on individuals practicing such professions. For Wayne County, OH lawyers and judges, many are included in the following books:

  • Directory of Wayne County, OH Attorneys 1836-1964 compiled by Harry McClarran.
  • Attorneys of Wayne County, OH
    • This is a notebook including newspaper clippings on various attorneys and judges of Wayne Co, OH.

These materials are shelved under “Ohio-Wayne-Bio.” Other biographical sketches may be found in Ben Douglass’ History of Wayne County, Ohio; Commemorative Biographical Record of Wayne County, Ohio, by Beers & Co.; Bowen’s History of Wayne County, Ohio; and the biography notebooks. Listings of those individuals practicing law in some form may be found through directories and early newspapers. Doctors

Records on individuals in the medical profession have been kept in some form since the late 19th century by the American Medical Association. In book form, Physicians in Wayne County 1896-1985 includes copies of select certificates from the “Board of Medical Registration and Examination, State of Ohio.” In the front of the book, there is an alphabetical listing of the physicians who were recorded in the Wayne County Courthouse. Another list includes of those doctors known to have practiced in Wayne County, OH but who were not recorded in the court records. For those physicians who were recorded in Wayne County, OH from 1896 to 1984, there is a chronological list giving the physicians name, medical school attended by individual, location of school, and the date of registration. In the OGS publication “Ohio Records of Pioneer Families,” volume XLIX, number 2, page 88 there is a register of physicians of Wayne County, OH in 1896. This listing was originally found in the Ohio University Library, Athens, OH.

In CD-ROM format, we have a copy of the Directory of Deceased American Physicians 1804-1929. On our website, we have a list of Physicians in Wayne County, OH 1886 and 1901. These lists are found under “online materials.”

There are a few other books in the department that may assist with researching medical records. They include the following:

Wayne County, OH Business Resources

The department has several resources for tracing the history and location of businesses. The most common resources would include the city and rural directories. Most of the directories include a name index and a listing of residents by street address. Places of employment are given for many of the residents. Under businesses, names of individuals holding key positions are included. Such positions may include owners, general managers, presidents, vice-presidents, secretary, treasurer, etc. Advertisements of various companies may be found in the directories, high school and college yearbooks, and newspapers.

Other sources include:

Most of the department’s business resources are works-in-progress. There are many other businesses throughout the history of Wayne County, OH that we have no compiled records. As we find articles or other documents pertaining to various local businesses, we add these to the notebooks. If there are numerous pages for one particular business, we add the information to the department’s lateral files.


Other Resources: Non-Wayne County Specific