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.
"Hamilton County, Ohio, Wills 1791 - 1850," Abstract index -- NEW!
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.
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
Probate Court records on FamilySearch
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
| 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 name of deceased or minor person
|| Prefix or suffix: Mr, Mrs., Doc, Rev, etc.
|| Generally dec (deceased) or minor
| Case #
|| Probate/guardianship case number
|| If case number is uncertain
|| Book type - either act=account or inv=inventory (note: inv also includes sales)
|| Account book volume number or a to h, years if reconstructed; Inventory book volume number or years if reconstructed
| Page no
|| Page number
|| 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
|| Prefix or Suffix of other person in record
|| Other appointment - exec = executor/executrix, admin = administrator/administratrix, or relationship
|| Significant information
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.