Ethnicity of Wayne County, Ohio

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General Information[edit | edit source]

From the start of the American Colonies, the United States has been and continues to be a melting pot. People with diverse backgrounds flocked to the American Colonies and later the Unites States to seek sanctuary from religious and political persecution. Many came as an alternative to serving jail time in their home country. Others came seeking economic opportunities. Many simply traveled to the young country looking for opportunities for a fresh start.

Many of the early settlers of Wayne County, Ohio were of German, English, Scottish, and Irish descent. There were some small French settlements scattered in parts of the county. Later, Italians migrated to Wooster, Ohio, particularly settling in what became known as "Little Italy".

Much of the general information included has been extracted from Szucs, Loretto Dennis and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry, 1997.

  • “Tracking African American Family History.” Pages 575-586
  • “Tracking Hispanic Family History.” Pages 589-613
  • “Tracking Native American Family History.” Pages 521-572
  • “Tracking Jewish-American Family History.” Pages 615-626

African-American[edit | edit source]

Much early information on African Americans has been passed down through oral histories. Information since the Civil War may be found through the variety of resources used by researchers tracing Caucasian genealogy. This includes but is not limited to census records, vital records, obituaries, church records, family histories, biographies, burial records, and much more.

There are many records for African-Americans. Many of the free blacks had to carry documentation that they were free. These may include manumission papers or affidavits attesting birth to a free woman. Without this proof, free blacks risked abduction and enslavement.

Slaves were considered property. Sometimes, the slaves were used as collateral. They could be mortgaged or rented. They had no rights and were often sold. Unfortunately, families were often broken up when the slave owners sold them. Since slaves were considered property, references to them may be found in land deeds, tax records, and Probate court papers. Bills of sale may include the names of the slaves. Likewise, tax records may list the names of the slaves with their owners.

Plantation records may exist. These may be held by families while others may have been donated to historical and genealogical societies and research libraries. These plantation records are similar to business records. Plantation owners had to keep track of their business activities. Clothes, blankets, and/or cloth were often issued on a regular basis to the slaves. Often times, slaves would be sent to fix a fence or deepen an irrigation ditch so this information may be included in plantation records. Children born to a slave mother became the property of the slave owner so births of slaves were recorded often. On occasion, the deaths of slaves were recorded. Some plantation owners would group the families together in their records.

The births and deaths of slaves may be recorded in family Bibles as well as plantation records. Baptism records may have been kept as well. These are usually as detailed as white baptism records. These are most often found in Anglican/Episcopalian churches.

Runaway slaves would be included in advertisements, complete with physical description and occasionally biographical information. These were often advertised in newspapers. Several publications have been made available abstracting these advertisements.

Military records may be another resource. African Americans served in many of the wars fought throughout the history of the United States, beginning with the American Revolution. Often times, slave owners would donate the services of their slaves as teamsters. Other times they fought for the American cause.

Ohio was a free state. It also played a very important role in the Underground Railroad. Wayne County, Ohio was not exception. There are several noted places throughout Wayne County, Ohio that was part of the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad started about 1786 and included 14 northern states by 1830. During a 20 year period (1840-1860), more than 50,000 slaves traveled north and settled in the northern free states and Canada.

The first African-American to arrive in Wayne County, Ohio is unknown. The census taker for the 1820 census for Wayne County, Ohio did not complete any of the columns related to slaves or free colored persons. However, by the 1830 census, there were 42 free colored individuals residing in Wayne County, OH. By the 1840 census, there were 41 free colored individuals.

Blacks and Mulattos in Federal Census, Wayne County, Ohio[edit | edit source]

Summary Chart of Blacks and Mulattos in Wayne County, OH 1820-1940
U.S. Census Year Number of Colored/Black Number of Mulatto Total Number
1820 Unknown Unknown Unknown
1830 42 Not specified 42
1840 41 Not specified 41
1850 15 11 26
1860 14 12 26
1870 15 8 23
1880 143 18 161
1900 70 8 78
1910 84 1 85
1920 95 32 127
1930 138 Not specified 138
1940 373 Not specified 373


None of the "free colored" individuals listed by name in the 1830 or 1840 U.S. census appears to have married in Wayne County, Ohio.

There is a story told among many of the African-Americans. Wayne County, OH has been a rather elite community, not being very open to many outsiders, especially those of a different race. The few blacks who did settle in the communities in Wayne County, Ohio had great respect among many of the whites and had a desire to stay on good terms with their white counterparts. As a result, the few blacks in the area did encourage “riff-raff of their own kind” to continue moving through Wooster and the vicinity without stopping. Another story told is that at one time there was a "black" only cemetery off of Portage Rd. The now defunct (2020) Wayne County Cemetery Preservation Society had researched the story and was unable to verify it.

Library Dept. Resources[edit | edit source]

  • Ohio-Wayne-African Americans
    • One notebook not indexed
    • Divided into 4 different sections: church, people, Underground railroad, and miscellaneous

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Amish[edit | edit source]

Resources[edit | edit source]

  • Ohio-Wayne-Amish
    • One notebook that is not completely indexed
    • Contents include the following:
      • Photocopy of the book The Amish in America
      • Special section published by The Holmes County Hub in June 1995
      • Pamphlet on bundling
      • Cemetery directory and map of Ashland and Richland Counties Amish communities
      • Chart of “Major Mennonite and Amish Settlements in Ohio”
      • “18th Century European Stoltzfus Chest”
      • Article from Ohio Magazine, “The Amish Mirror” published in December 1985
      • Amish-Mennonite Marriage Register for Stark Co, OH 1808-1920
      • “Berks County, Pennsylvania, Amish Yoder Heritage Tour: National Yoder Reunion” published on July 20, 2001
      • Index to newspaper articles on the Amish (3 sections: The Amish, Education, Shunning); index includes the newspaper, date of newspaper, and article name

Native American[edit | edit source]

General information about Indigenous peoples and societies of Wayne County, Ohio may be found on the page titled Native Americans of Wayne County, Ohio, as this section focuses on tracing Native American genealogy.

Much of Native American ancestry is comprised of oral traditions and stories passed down from one generation to the next generation. In the past, it was considered shameful for family members to marry a Native American. As a result, whenever possible, any trace of Native American ancestry was covered up. This does not mean it is impossible to research Native American ancestry—it just means it will take more digging and perseverance on the researcher’s part.

The best way to start Native American ancestry is to start with the known and work backwards to the unknown. Follow the same research techniques as you would for a non-indigenous ancestor. Do not try to go from a particular group forward. When possible, interview family members. They may recall stories indicating that an ancestor had Native American ties or relatives. Once the ancestor is identified, do significant research on Native Americans in the area of your ancestor’s residence. There are many different indigenous groups and almost all of these were forcibly moved during America's westward expansion. To gain a better understanding of which indigenous cultures may have been present at the time the researcher’s ancestor was residing in the area, it may be necessary to research the county, regional, and/or state in which the ancestor lived.

Several resources about Native American ancestry can be found in the Genealogy Department. Many of them pertain to the “Five Civilized Tribes” of the Southeastern United States. These included the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and the Seminole. Just a brief mention will be made about these tribes since these tribes are not found in Ohio. From the years 1600-1800, the Seminole Indians were located dominantly in what is today the state of Florida. The Creek were located in the state of Georgia, the western portion of South Carolina, and the central, eastern, and southeastern Alabama. The Choctaw were located in the western half of Alabama and the central and southern portion of Mississippi. The Chickasaw were located in northern Mississippi, western Tennessee, and southwestern Kentucky. The Cherokee were located in northern Alabama, northern Georgia, northern and central South Carolina, eastern half of Tennessee, southeastern Kentucky, western North Carolina, southwestern Virginia, and a small portion of southern West Virginia. Many records of the "Civilized Tribes" were kept by the Federal government.

Many researchers have great difficulty tracking their Native American ancestors. If your indigenous ancestors were alive during the relocation of the Native Americans, or if they were born following the relocation, then their name should appear on the rolls compiled by the Federal government. A couple other options may exist. Your ancestors may have chosen not to move westward during forced relocations. Instead, they may have accepted a federal grant of land near their home and became an American citizen. Another option may be that the ancestor may have disappeared into a remote area that white settlers and authorities rarely penetrated. Finally, it is possible your ancestor lived at an earlier time, or was not an indigenous person, despite family folklore.

Intermarriages of Native Americans and white settlers were quite common at times. This was most common when the frontier had few white families and there were reasonably peaceful relations between indigenous peoples and colonizers. Other times the indigenous society may have welcomed the white person, often when the individual was a government agent, trader, minister, schoolteacher, or a craftsman employed to teach blacksmithing or weaving. Often times, it would take 2-3 successive generations of cross-cultural marriages before someone of indigenous background could live a regular life among the whites. Marriages between blacks and Native Americans were common as well and were acceptable, especially in Northwestern Ohio where there was an established Presbyterian Mission for the conversion of the Native Americans to Christianity. Many records do exist on those affiliated with and converted by this Presbyterian Mission. Other records may include narratives written by missionaries, trappers, fur traders, and government agents. These records are not easily indexed and can be very time consuming to read through.

Additional Resources & Native American External Links[edit | edit source]

For genealogical researchers, the National Archives has an easy to use site with detailed information about how to search for Native American ancestors by utilizing Federal records such as past census data, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) records, and military records. These also include Dawes Enrollment cards.

The Ohio History Connection website has multiple pages devoted to the past and ongoing contributions of indigenous peoples to the wider state. They also provide an interactive digital exhibit of indigenous peoples from the first settlement of Ohio through the time of Euro-American settler colonialism.

Indian school records may include tribal affiliation, degree of Native American blood, names of parents, home address, dates of arrival and departure, attendance records, health cards, and letters to parents and social workers. Enrollment records contain the name of the individual's tribe and date of validity, name (including given name, birth name, and married names), sex, date of death (when applicable), probate number (when applicable), degree of Native American blood, names of both parents, and blood degree of parents. At times, when a person or family was denied enrollment, a court case is on file. Allotment records of land parcels among adult Native Americans who were of at least one-half Native American blood may provide some clues. When allotments were provided on reservation tracts, Federal government records may be tapped. Land claims made by Indigenous peoples against the government for monies owed them for land taken away and not adequately paid for during treaty eras may provide clues. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is another source that may provide a wealth of information to researchers. A more detailed list of other sources may be found in The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, pages 531-571. The IGI (International Genealogical Index) for 1988 includes one microfiche on Native Americans and the 1992 edition includes three microfiche. Additional information may be found through the website Family Search.

Other resources commonly used to trace non-Native American ancestry may be used to trace Native Americans. U.S. Census records indicate the race and ethnicity of the individuals included. Vital records and obituaries may provide some clues. Published family histories, both electronically and in book form may give information. County and early state histories often times recount experiences with indigenous peoples. Various websites on the Internet should not be ignored but should be taken with a grain of salt, due to the ease with which misinformation can be spread online.

European[edit | edit source]

Many of the early settlers to Wayne County, Ohio were of Swiss, German, and French descent. By the 1860s, the Italians started to migrate to the area.

Swiss[edit | edit source]

European research encompasses many faucets of research. It is beyond the scope of this manual to discuss in great detail the many European settlers that have migrated to Wayne County, OH. Some discussion is devoted in the chapter on migration that gives more detail to the various ethnic groups in Wayne County, OH. Germans and Swiss were the most common ethnic groups. Many of the Swiss families settled in the Kidron, Sugar Creek Township as well as Milton and Green Townships. A number of these Swiss families were Amish “Anabaptist” Mennonites. Many were from Bern Canton, Switzerland; Sonnenberg, Switzerland; and Alsace, France. A more detailed account of these immigrants may be found in the book, Crosswinds: From Switzerland to Crown Hill by James O. Lehman.

French[edit | edit source]

There were several French settlements in the area. One was in Milton Township – a place called French Town. It was located in the center of Milton Township. Louis Depree (Depray) was the first French settler in Milton Township, purchasing land in section 21 in 1823. The second settler on record was John Peter Moine who purchased land in section 16 in 1833. Most of these individuals spoke “patois” and immigrated from Alsace and Lorraine provinces of northern France. (Patois is a dialect of French, German and Swiss.) Other French families settled in Chippewa Township. Many of the French immigrants attended SS Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Doylestown. More information may be found about the French and Swiss settlements of this area in the book, Arise Wild Land: As We Were in Milton Township by Lindsey Williams, chapters 16 and 17.

Another area of French-Swiss immigration was Mt. Eaton. This wave of immigration began in 1825. In our department’s map/atlas case, there are copies of the Mt. Eaton Church Records written in French and some in German. In addition, in Wayne County, OH Burial Records for Paint Township, researchers can find typed abstracts from the Mt. Eaton death records. Many of these individuals were from Canton Berne.

Italian[edit | edit source]

The first Italians to arrive in Wayne County, OH were probably Raphael and Angelina Massoni. They purchased land in Wooster in 1866 in a section of town that later became known as “Little Italy” and “The Hill.” This area encompassed a triangular shape outlined by Palmer, Rebecca, and the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad tracks. This area was already populated with the Germans, French, and the Irish. A steady stream of immigrants from Italy started in the 1870s through the early 1900s. Many of the Italians attended church at St. Mary’s Catholic Church located on Bowman Street in Wooster.

In the book, A Touch of Italy in Wooster, by Dominic Richard Iannarelli, the author indicates that about 49 percent of the Wooster Italians were from the Abruzzi region; 20 percent from the Calabrian region; 8 percent from the Campania region; and 23 percent from 17 other regions, including some of the following:

  • Lazio
  • Lombardy
  • Le Marche
  • Piedmont
  • Sicily
  • Tuscany

Many records have been digitized and are available online through Italy Heritage.
Here is a link to the Archives of Italy.
Another web site to explore is the Italy Gen.

British Isles[edit | edit source]

The British Isles include England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. By the 1850 US Census, there were 196 individuals born in England residing in Wayne County, Ohio; 64 from Scotland; 78 from Wales and 555 from Ireland.

Resources[edit | edit source]

The best way to do European research is to find out as much information as possible through census records, vital records, church records, court records, and obituaries here in the States. Once the town, village, or parish is known, then the researcher may begin doing research overseas. Many times, the church affiliation may be necessary as well as the church of attendance by the researchers’ ancestors.

Much background research will need to be done since the boundaries changed a lot in the European countries through the decades and centuries. This should include but is not limited to historical map research, social history, geographic history, and political history of the country of interest.

Ancestry Library Edition is a growing resource in United Kingdom and Canadian research. Many of their census records are available and are searchable. Countries in the United Kingdom include Wales, England, Scotland, Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands. Canadian resources include but are not limited to the provinces of Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario. The general Canadian census records are available and searchable. The National Archives of the United Kingdom is a growing resource for online information as well (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/). Some of the information is free while other information has a fee to retrieve.

The Family History Library is the best resource for European research. They have spent decades microfilming church records and civil registration records from all over the world. Some abstracts of the information may be found through their website: www.familysearch.org. Researchers may search their online catalog to find out what records may be available for their ancestors’ areas. They may order in microfilm at their local Family History Center. In time, all these records will be digitized and searchable online, free of charge. The Church of Latter-Day Saints has been working on this project for a few years now and has many records, mostly U.S., available online.

The World GenWeb (www.worldgebweb.com) is a site not to ignore. The amount of information varies from country to country. It is important to note that not all countries share in the enthusiasm of genealogy research as the United States. Many countries have just within the last few years recognized the importance of genealogical research. Keep in mind that not all countries have the same type of records as the United States, and the years differ. For census records, most of the European countries and Canada took the since in 1851, 1861, 1881, etc. Some countries may have started keeping records as late as the 20th century. This is why it is very important for researchers to do their homework on genealogy research in other countries prior to beginning the research. Hispanic

Currently, our department does not receive very many requests for Hispanic records. Since 1998, we may have had 3-5 individuals inquire about Puerto Rican or Hispanic genealogy. However, we do have a growing Hispanic population in both Wayne and Holmes Counties and in the future, the request may become more common. Only a general discussion regarding Hispanic research will be included.

The earliest Hispanic settlers within what is now the United States settled in St. Augustine, FL, on the eastern end of North America in 1565. They settled in New Mexico, on the western end of North America in 1598.

In The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, the following estimations were given:

  • 1820-1906 => approximately 20,000 legal immigrants arrived from South America to the United States (excluding Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and South America)
  • 1907-1926 => approximately 77,000 legal immigrants arrived from South America to the United States (excluding Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and South America)
  • 1951-1975 => approximately 421,000 legal immigrants arrived from South America to the United States (excluding Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and South America)
  • 1900-1930 => approximately 2-3 million immigrants from Mexico to the United States; more than half illegally

Researchers should begin Hispanic research similar to any other type of genealogical research. They should start with the known and move to the unknown, checking with home and family sources first, including speaking with family members. Learning the specific emigration-immigration patterns is essential. Look for the smallest of clues that may lead to other clues or resources. Vital records; photographs; printed materials; passports, visas, work permits, and citizenship or naturalization papers; legal papers; letters; military records and decorations; school and occupation records; newspaper clippings; and diaries may be consulted. In addition, most Hispanic countries passed laws in the late 19th century and early 20th century relating to the issuance of personal documents which were required to be carried at all times. Biographies, autobiographies, organization memberships, written family histories, and medical records may sometimes be available. Many Hispanics were of the Catholic belief. Catholic records may provide some insight into family information. Government service records; miscellaneous legal, court and land records; Spanish nobility records; military service records; newspapers; and census records may all be tapped.

Jewish-American[edit | edit source]

Similar to Hispanic research, there is not a lot of questions regarding Jewish research here in Wayne County, OH. A brief discussion of Jewish-American research is included.

Naming patterns are very important when conducting Jewish research. In early years (pre-1950), it was common to name Ashkenazic Jew children after deceased relatives. Many times these naming patterns would provide clues to ancestors who had no documentation. For the Sephardic Jews, the following naming pattern was quite common:

  • Firstborn son is named after the father’s father
  • Firstborn daughter is named after the mother’s mother
  • Second son is named after the mother’s father
  • Second daughter is named after the father’s mother

Historically, record keeping has not been important to the Jewish community. Often times, any written records that may have been recorded were often used to discriminate against them by Christian governments under which the Jews were ruled. The only exception would be concerning the rabbinic dynasties. These pedigrees are well documented.

The Jewish religion uses the caste system. Basically, there are three castes: Cohanim, Leviim, and Israelites. Cohanim is the highest caste. Members were generally high priests of temples and were descendant from Aaron. Members of the middle caste, Leviim, were descendant from Levi. They served as keepers of the temples. Most of the Jews were part of the lowest caste, the Israelites. The caste system is generally hereditary, passed down from father to sons.

In The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, the author gives a break down of the Jewish immigration into the United States.

Dates Period Number of Immigrants
1654-1838 Colonial/federal Less than 15,000
1838-1880 German emigration 250,000
1881-1924 Eastern European emigration 2,000,000
1924-1944 Pre-Holocaust 100,000
1945-1960 Holocaust survivors 250,000
Present Russian Jews and others Up to 50,000 per year

A detailed of each wave of immigration is included in The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, revised edition, beginning on page 616.

Present day Jewish research is of greater importance. There are many Jewish Societies in existence, all under the umbrella group, “the Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.” These societies publish newsletters, hold annual conferences, and offer workshops on tracing Jewish-American ancestry.