Court Records

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General Overview Probate Court[edit | edit source]

Probate Court documents can provide much in the way of clues for researchers. A Probate Court was established by the legislative authority of the Northwest Territory. However, it was abolished by the Constitution of 1802. Between 1802 and 1851, when another constitution was adopted, each county in Ohio was required to establish a probate court.

Probate court records include wills, estates, guardianship, and naturalization records. Occasionally, a stray adoption record may appear.

Our department holds microfilm of Probate Court records through the late 1910s.


Wills, Estates and Guardianships[edit | edit source]

Not everyone who died left a will. These individuals died intestate.

Our department has several guides to finding early wills, estates and guardianships.

  • Will Abstracts, Estates and Guardianships Wayne County, Ohio 1812-1851
  • Will Abstracts, Estates and Guardianships Wayne County, Ohio 1852-1900
  • Index to Probate Court Records Wayne County, Ohio, Part 1: 1812-1917
  • Index to Probate Court Records Wayne County, Ohio, Part 2: 1918-1934


Final Records[edit | edit source]

Final Records were recorded in Wayne County, OH Probate Court beginning in 1852. The Ohio Constitution of 1851 removed probate jurisdiction from the Court of Common Pleas and created a separate Probate Court in each county.

The Final Records recorded in Wayne County, OH include court documents pertaining to real estate. These include but are not limited to the following: petition to sell real estate or land, notice of sale of land, application to appropriate land (e.g. for the railroad), appropriation of real estate or land, petition to complete contracts (relating to real estate), formation of county roads, etc. Many times, the petition to sell the land or real estate is being made by the guardian of the minor children. All the minor children are listed. On the rare occasion, you may find an adoption, antenuptial record, or other such documents in the Final Records.

Our department has the Final Records dating from 1852 to 1919. They are indexed, but the index is not an every name index. These are different from the wills, estates, and guardianships recorded in the Probate Court files.


Common Pleas Supreme Court[edit | edit source]

Criminal and civil cases were normally tried in the Supreme Court in the early years of Ohio court history. Prior to 1843, divorces were recorded in the Supreme Court.

Our department has one reel of microfilm for the Supreme Court dockets. The reel includes volumes 1-3 covering the years 1813-1852. There is an index available in the front of the volumes 1 and 3. There is no index for volume 2. The index is organized by the first letter of the surname of the plaintiff. The name of the defendant is given as well as the page number included on the microfilm. The defendants’ names are not indexed. Some of the entries go on for pages, including much detail for researchers to read through.


Common Pleas Chancery[edit | edit source]

In February 1810, the Ohio law gave chancery jurisdiction to the Common Pleas Courts in general. When the title to land was in question, or when the sum in dispute exceeded $1,000 the Supreme Court had jurisdiction concurrently with Chancery.

Chancery papers usually involve a dispute between two or more parties. They may involve dispute over land, personal property, spousal support, or divorces.

Our department had three reels of Chancery records. The first reel includes volumes 5, 8, and 11 and includes the years 1817-1841. The second reel includes volumes 13 and 15, including the years 1841-1846. The final reel includes volumes 18 and 19 and covers the years 1846-1849.

Not all volumes are indexed. Many of the entries include many pages.


Common Pleas Journals[edit | edit source]

These documents usually give a more detailed description of what took place during a case that was being tried. The Common Pleas Court had criminal jurisdiction extending to “all crimes, offenses and misdemeanors, the punishment whereof is not capital…” (page 369, volume II of History of the Courts and Lawyers of Ohio by Carrington T. Marshall, published in 1934). Simply stated, the Common Pleas Court had administration of civil and criminal justice.

There are six reels of Common Pleas Court Journals in our department’s collection.

Reel Number Volumes Dates
1 1, 2 & 3 1818-1826
2 4 & 6 1827-1836
3 7A, 7B, 8, & 10 1836-1843
4 11 & 12 1843-1846
5 13, 14, & 15 1846-1850
6 16, 17, & 18 1850-1852

The Common Pleas Journals are indexed by the first letter of the surname. Entries may include but are not limited to detailed summaries of suits; action taken in suits; citizenship papers; and licenses for taverns, merchandising, and ministers.

In the book, Wayne County, Ohio Abstracts of Naturalization Records 1812-1903, the first 34 pages include journal numbers and the page number to each of the naturalization or declaration of intention papers. These journal numbers and page number refer to the Common Pleas Journal reels of microfilm. Those Journals after volume number 18 can be found at the Administration Building in the Microfilm Office and Services Department.


Common Pleas Appearance Dockets[edit | edit source]

Theses court documents served as a calendar of cases to be tried in a specified term. They are not organized by name. Rather, they are organized in the order the case is to be heard. Within each term, they are organized by the first letter of the Plaintiff’s surname. The names of both the Plaintiff and the Defendant are given in addition to the page number. There is no index for the Defendants’ names. Some volumes do not include an index.

Entries in the Appearance Dockets are not complete, detailed accounts of particular cases. Rather, it includes a brief entry about the crime. Some entries include the following:

  • Capias [summons] Indictment
  • Capias Assault and Battery
  • Capias Larceny
  • Capias Damages
  • Capias Debt
  • Trespassing Summons
  • Notices of Appeals

In some entries, the dollar amount of bail is listed.

There are five reels of microfilm for the Wayne County, Ohio Common Pleas Appearance Dockets.

Reel Number Volumes Dates
1 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, & 8 1812-1838
2 9 & 10 1838-1842
3 11, 12, & 13 1842-1847
4 14 & 15 1847-1850
5 16 & 17 1850-1852


Common Pleas General Index[edit | edit source]

On microfilm, we have the Wayne County Common Pleas Court General Index 1817-1874. It is unknown which volumes this index refers to. It could be to the original books located at the courthouse. It is known that the General Index in our collection does not respond to any of the Common Pleas Court records we house in our collection. Information in the index includes: month and year of term, plaintiff’s name, defendant’s name, record (book, page), and exec. (book, page).

The Common Pleas Court Records are not indexed very well. Many of the pages include just the two parties’ names and no detailed information. Other pages may provide names and family connections. They are a time consuming resource but could be a treasure trove for some researchers.