Hamilton County Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 15865
Cincinnati, Ohio 45215-0865
Telephone:  (513) 956-7078

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A chapter of the
Ohio Genealogical Society

Wills, Probate and Estates

From 1791 to 1852, wills, estates and guardianships of minor children were handled by the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas. The Probate Court, created in 1852, has records from both courts as well as other types of records. Record types, dates, formats and locations can be found in a finding aid.

Record Repositories - Probate Court has location and contact details, and the Probate Court website describes current procedures for estate administration.

A guide that can be purchased from the Hamilton County Genealogical Society (HCGS) has detailed information on court records.

Wills

"Hamilton County, Ohio, Wills 1791 - 1850," Abstract index  -- NEW!
 
A searchable chronological listing of every name (except court officials) found in Hamilton Conty, Ohio, wills from 1791 to 1850, arranged in table format.
 
Wills - original, 1791-1901 
 
Original wills deposited or probated at the Probate Court are now in the Archives and Rare Books Library (ARB) at the University of Cincinnati. They have been indexed by the ARB. 
 
Wills - registered, 1791-1973
 
Original wills were brought to the court to be copied into Registered Will books. These wills may be in the books several decades before the creator dies. 
 
Probate and estate records
 
Many of the records below are online at the Probate Court site and the FamilySearch site. The records are not keyword searchable on these sites, but most series include scanned indexes.
 
 
For information on guardianship records, see Local Records – Guardianships and Orphanages.
 
Administration dockets, 1791-1984
 
When a person dies, and someone reports the death to the court, an estate is opened by recording the deceased person’s name in the Administration Dockets. A case number is assigned. If a will is presented at that time, it will be recorded in the registered will books. If the will had been previously recorded, that volume and page will be entered into the docket. If the will names an executor, that person is contacted about being responsible for the estate. If there is no will, the court will appoint an Administrator. Dockets list the name of the deceased person, the case number, and actions such as appointment of the executor or administrator, inventory made, accounts filed, etc.
Probate Journals, 1791-1891
 
Estate and guardianship actions were recorded when brought to the court by the clerk in the court journals. Naturalizations and judgments were recorded when the court was in session.
  • 1791-1837: Four volumes of scanned journal entry pages are on the Probate Court site and transcribed on a searchable CD, Abstracts of Probate Court Records 1791-1826, 1829-1837, available from the HCGS Shop.
  • 1858-1891: All journals that survived the 1884 court house fire are available as page images on FamilySearch.  The images are accessed by image number, not volume and page number. To assist reseachers, HCGS has prepared this finding aid which gives first and last page numbers for the corresponding image numbers.
  • 1858-1891: An A-Z surname, company & village index to all the volumes on FamilySearch has been transcribed  by HCGS members from the indexes in each book. The names and page numbers have not yet been verified by looking at the pages. Probate accounts when filed were not indexed by name so see the account record indexes below. The index has 34,682 entries for 17,400 pages. Naturalizations (citizenship) for 4,564 persons are listed.   Here are the indexes:      A through E          F through K          L through R           S through Z
 
Probate Court records in the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
 
Copies of some Probate Court records are on microfilm at the Genealogy and Local History DepartmentUse this book and film list as a finding aid.
 
 
Probate Court records on FamilySearch
 
Record book pages on the FamilySearch website are accessed by image number, not page number. To assist researchers, HCGS has created a list of probate records on FamilySearch which give image number ranges for page numbers of the probate journals. Scroll to second page.
 
 
Master surname index to pre-1884 accounts and inventories 
  • Account records, 1852-1877, list the cash assets, debts and liabilities of the estate that are reported by the estate administrator.
  • Inventory records, 1809-1883, list the material assets of the estate. 
In 2012, Judge James Cissell, of the Hamilton County Probate Court, permitted his staff to assist HCGS volunteers to create a master A to Z surname index for probate account and inventory records. At that time, only those that survived the March 1884 fire at the Hamilton County court house were indexed. Since the book indexes were very poor, every book page was read. This enabled HCGS to not only provide full names of all deceased persons, but to include their spouses, heirs and administrators who had the same surname, as well as the names of all minors and their guardians. This is a unique and very accurate list of 10,000 names in probate records before the fire. The additional data is described in the table below. 

Obtaining a copy of the original records 

When you find a reference, write down the book type, volume number, page number. For example, book act vol. 5 page no. 167.

Use these charts to find the microfilm box ID number for each of the records you wish to see at the Probate Court and at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCH):

Description of columns in the master surname index
 
Column heading in index, in column order  Definition
   
  Last name  Last name of deceased or minor person
 ?  If spelling of last name is uncertain
 First name  First name of the deceased or minor person
 Middle  Middle name of deceased or minor person
 Pre/suf  Prefix or suffix: Mr, Mrs., Doc, Rev, etc.
 Type  Generally dec (deceased) or minor
 Case #  Probate/guardianship case number
 ?  If case number is uncertain
 Bk  Book type - either act=account or inv=inventory (note: inv also includes sales)
 Vol  Account book volume number or a to h, years if reconstructed; Inventory book volume number or  years if reconstructed
 Page no  Page number
 Doc   Inventory document type
 Early year  Earliest year seen in the documents
 Recd year  Year filed/recorded
 Other first name  First name of other person in record: executor, administrator, spouse, etc.
 Other middle  Middle name of other person in record
 Other last name  Last name of other person in record
 ?  If spelling of other last name is uncertain
 Pre/suf  Prefix or Suffix of other person in record
 Fiduciary  Other appointment - exec = executor/executrix, admin = administrator/administratrix, or relationship
 Comments  Significant information
 
Resources
 
Deb Cyprych, “Hamilton County, Ohio, Probate Court Records: Online at Last!,” The Tracer, February 2010.
 
Jim Dempsey, “Hamilton County Probate Accounts,” The Tracer, August 2011 – June 2012.
 
Jim Dempsey, “Hamilton County Probate Journals,” The Tracer, December 2012.
 
Jeff Herbert, “Probate Record Extracts Before 1821,” The Tracer, September – December 2012.

1.16.2014