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

Guardianships and Orphanages

The Archives and Rare Books Library at the University of Cincinnati has “Restored Adoption Records” from about 1850 to 1884. Probate Court also has "Restored Adoptions" 1850s-1890s in book form. Adoption records may also be found with the records of children in orphan asylums.
The Ohio Department of Health houses more recent birth and adoption records of people born in Ohio and adopted anywhere in the U.S. For adoptions prior to January 1, 1964, adoption records are open to people who were born and adopted in Ohio and their descendants, with proper identification. For instructions on obtaining these records and proper identification, call the Probate Court at 513-946-3631.
For adoptions between 1964 and September 18, 1996, adoption records are sealed and only opened by an order of Probate Court.


Historically, if there were minor children when a parent died, the court would appoint a legal guardian for the children until they reached the age of 21, as part of the estate process: Common Pleas before 1852, Probate Court from 1852 forward. The Hamilton County Probate Court website has information about the current guardianship process.  

Records on the Probate Court site

The Hamilton County Probate Court has digitized many of its records, including these guardianship records:
  • Guardianship docket (index), 1852-1974
  • Guardianship docket, 1852-1974
  • Estates, trusts and guardianships docket and cases, 1852-1984
  • Estate and guardianship docket and cases, 1791-1847
Records on FamilySearch
FamilySearch has also digitized guardianship records:
  • Guardians dockets, 1901-1907, 1922                                      
  • Administrators and guardianship bonds, 1791-1847
Records on microfilm at PLCH
  • Applications for minor guardianship, 1884-1897,
  • Guardianship docket records with index, 1852-1900
Records of children in orphan asylums 
Over 100,000 children spent part of their childhood in nineteen Hamilton County orphan asylums in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. More than half of these children were not “full orphans” – they had lost one parent but not both, or both parents were living but not able to take care of their children. Some children stayed in orphan asylums only a few weeks or months until their families were able to reclaim them. Many children were placed in other families in distant counties or states, with or without adoption. These records contain precious genealogical information for countless families with roots in Hamilton County: birthdates, birthplaces, birth parents, foster parents, residences, and many other family details.
Types of orphan asylum records
  • Admission and dismissal records
  • Child and family histories
  • Surrender records (parents releasing custody to the asylum)
  • Indenture/placement/adoption records
  • Agreements with foster families
  • Visitors’ observations of children in foster homes
  • Reports of daily activities
  • Letters
  • School reports and grades
  • Newspaper articles
  • Financial accounts
  • Board minutes with names of children
Record locations                        
The records of six orphan asylums are available for research at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives (CHLA), which has placed many indexes and finding aids online. The collections at CHLA include
  • Children’s Home of Cincinnati, 1864-1924, finding aid in the register at CHLA; records also at the Children’s Home 
  • Cincinnati Orphan Asylum, 1833-1948, records in the collection of the Convalescent Home for Children (successor to the asylum), finding aid in the register at CHLA
  • German General Protestant Orphan Home, 1849-1973, finding aid on the CHLA website; records also at Beech Acres 
  • Home for the Friendless and Foundlings, 1855-1973, records in the collection of the Maple Knoll Hospital and Home (the name used after 1955), finding aid on the CHLA website 
  • New Orphan Asylum for Colored Children, 1844-1967, finding aid on the CHLA website 
  • St. Aloysius Orphan Asylum, 1837-1992
To see the finding aids and indexes on CHLA’s website, scroll down to the collection and click Display Finding Aid. Use Control-F to search for names. CHLA’s privacy rule restricts records within the last seventy years to the subject, so that only people named in those records can view them.
The records of six asylums are available in other repositories:
The records of two maternity/infant homes may be in the Salvation Army Heritage Museum:
  • Catherine Booth Home, 1909-1998
  • Evangeline Booth Home, 1917-after 1930
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has the sacramental records of births, marriages and deaths that occurred in most of the Catholic asylums:
  • Boys’ Protectory, 1868-1972
  • Our Lady of the Woods (Girls Town), 1858-1972
  • St. Joseph Infant Asylum, 1873-?
  • St. Vincent Home for Boys, 1905-1934
  • Probably Mount St. Mary Training School, 1873-1959
Records before 1920 are available.
Record indexes 
  • “Children’s Home of Cincinnati Surrender Records, 1865-1890,” The Tracer (September 2002-June 2004), with names of parents or guardians, birthdates and birthplaces of children
  • Cincinnati Orphan Asylum: List of children bound from the asylum and to whom they were bound, 1835-1851, in register at CHLA
  • German General Protestant Orphan Home: Names in admission records, orphan registers, journals on children, and financial records on the CHLA website, many names in The Tracer (February 2011-November 2011); six sets of German records have been translated into English and are stored with the original records at CHLA
  • Home for the Friendless and Foundlings (Maple Knoll): Names in foundling histories, daily activity reports, admissions, and board minutes on the CHLA website 
  • House of Refuge: PLCH has indexes (not online) to the 1850-1852 and 1883-1885 case volumes which are online; UC Archives and Rare Books Library has digitized and put online the Record of Commitments (1869-1882, 1891-1902), an index, financial records and payroll records
  • New Orphan Asylum for Colored Children: Names in foster home cases, closed orphan cases, board minutes, and lady managers’ minutes on the CHLA website 
  • Deb Cyprych, “Cincinnati Orphan Asylums and Their Records, Parts One and Two,” The Tracer (February and May 2011). Detailed histories about all of these asylums, with bibliographical references and descriptions of records.
  • Deb Cyprych, “Children’s Home of Cincinnati Surrender Records, 1865-1890,” The Tracer (September 2002-June 2004). History of the Children’s Home and abstracts of records.
  • Christine S. Engels & Ursula Umberg, “German General Protestant Orphan Home Records, 1849-1973,” The Tracer (February 2011), 1. History of the Orphan Home and inventory of its records. Many names are indexed in the 2011 issues.
  • Reg Niles, Adoption Agencies, Orphanages and Maternity Homes, An Historical Directory. The book lists orphan asylums and adoption locations, including 40 Cincinnati entries. See PLCH catalog and Worldcat for availability.
page modified: 11/16/2020 RTB