Early guardianships are often misunderstood by amateur researchers. Many believe guardianships were granted because both parents were deceased. This is not the case. When a wife was left a widow, many times she was not comfortable or was not able to be financially responsible for the child or children. A family member, close friend, or respected citizen of the community would assume the role as the guardian for the child or children to oversee the financial needs of the child or children. They would pay for school supplies, classes, clothing, and other immediate needs. When the children would turn 14 or 15, they could request to have a different guardian appointed. Usually, the guardianship would last until the female turned 18 or was married and the male turned 21.
Guardianships not only applied to children. Many times the children would appoint a guardian for their parents when they believed the parents were unable to oversee their own financial affairs. Guardianships were issued for the insane, too.
Insanity was a very broad term used in the 19th and early 20th century. It could be a legitimate insane individual. It could be someone who was depressed or had some other mental or physical illness. Or the children may have sought a doctor to diagnose their parent as insane because they did not want to be bothered by them any more.
Several resources are available to assist in the location of Probate Court records. Index to Wayne County, OH Probate Records 1812-1917 volume 1 and Index to Wayne County, OH Probate Records 1918-1937 volume 2 are an alphabetical index to the Probate file number. File numbers that include a letter and number date 1851 and before. The letter is the first letter of the surname. The other file numbers are anywhere from 1 to 5 digits. Our department has the Probate Court files through #23,669. Two numbers are on the box lid. Find the Probate Court file number between the two numbers given.
In these two indexes, some additional clues are provided. Some entries have birth dates while others have death dates. If there is an “X” there is a will on file. The letter “N” indicates it is a naturalization record. (Refer to chapter 12 for more information on naturalization records.) The letter “G” indicates it is a guardianship. If you only see dots, then it is an estate. At times, you will see the notation “insane” or “adoption” in the right column.
To assist further with determining whether the entry is the individual being researched, there are two additional books: Will Abstracts, Estates and Guardianships: Wayne Co, OH 1812-1851 and Index to Wills and Estates in Wayne Co, OH 1852-1900.
In Will Abstracts, Estates and Guardianships Wayne County, Ohio 1812-1851, there is a master index in the front of the book. This includes the name of the individual and whether the record is a will (w), estates (e), or guardianship (g). Beginning on page 35, there is an index to the wills. The name of the individual and page number is listed. The index follows the will abstracts. Refer to the beginning of the book to gain a better understanding of how to read the will abstracts. The index to the estate records begin on page 78. The name of the individual and the number is given. The number refers to the left most number in the abstract. These numbers are in numerical order. The index follows the estate abstracts. The index to guardianships begins on page 128. Similar to the estate index, the name of the individual and the number is given. The number is the left most number in the abstract. The numbers are in numerical order.
Although the cover of the book titles the book, Will Abstracts, Estates and Guardianships Wayne County, Ohio 1852-1900 and the title page titles the book, Index to Wills and Estates in Wayne County, Ohio 1852-1900, the book includes abstracts of wills and guardianship only. Part 1 includes an index to the wills and estates. In the left most column, the last two digits of the year is given. It is followed by a “w” for will or an “e” for estate. The name is given in the next column. The third column includes the file number for the record. These can be found on microfilm. The last column indicates the original volume. “W” represents “Will Book” the number represents the volume number. The numbers following the hyphen is the page number of the original source. “J” would represent Journal. We do not have the original journals in our collection. The number next to the “J” represents the volume number and the number following the hyphen is the page number. The names with a “W” next to them can be found in the book beginning on page 80, or part 3 of the book. The abstracts in each will book are found separately. They are in numerical order within each book by the page number. See the introduction of the book to gain a better understanding of how to read the abstract. Part 2 of the book includes an abstract of the guardianship. These are listed between pages 46 and 79. They are listed in alphabetical order by the parent’s last name. The left most column includes the year of the guardianship. The number following the pound sign is the file number which can be found on the microfilm in the department. The final name given in the abstract is generally the guardian. The letter “J” refers to the original journal with the adjacent number being the page number. The numbers following the hyphen are the page numbers in the original journal.