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November 2008

Ohio, The Gateway To The West
Genealogy Sources at the Columbus Metropolitan Library

by Russ Pollitt

Ohio played a major role in the migration of people across the United States. Our ancestors moved west to Ohio in hopes of fulfilling their dreams of a better future for themselves and their families. Many came to Ohio and stayed a short time before hearing the call of a frontier further west. Our ancestors played an important role in Ohio’s rich heritage. The descendants of those who made up Ohio’s past are spread far and wide, sharing and adding to this heritage. In honor of this, the State Library of Ohio named its genealogy collection “Ohio, The Gateway to the West,” and Columbus Metropolitan Library respectfully continues this theme.

The State Library of Ohio’s (SLO) genealogy collection began in the early 1930s when a librarian who also served as the state librarian for the Ohio Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) established a relationship between the two organizations. This relationship allowed for SLO to provide much needed space for genealogical sources to assist those researching their families’ Revolutionary past. Over the years this collection grew through purchases, donations and sources created by the Ohio DAR Genealogical Records Committee. In April 2007 after over a year of planning, the SLO genealogical collection and Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) genealogical collections were combined, making CML’s Genealogy, History and Travel division a destination for many genealogy and local history researchers.

Our Collection

The collection now consists of over 45,000 books useful in genealogical research. All books and microfilm are available in open stacks, arranged in Dewey Decimal System order. Besides Ohio, a majority of our collection is comprised of sources pertaining to most states east of the Mississippi with emphasis given to the following regions: New England, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. In addition, we have sources for several deep Southern states, those bordering Ohio, and a few other selected Midwestern States (Illinois, Iowa and Missouri). We have a few sources from other states as well (Texas, California, etc.).

Books aren’t the only sources we offer. Our microfilm collection includes the U.S. census including all of Ohio 1820-1930, a majority of states east of the Mississippi River 1790-1840, and incomplete collections for some states 1850 to 1900. We also have microfilm containing varied local and county sources for some states such as Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700 and the Corbin and Barbour manuscript collections of vital records for Massachusetts and Connecticut.

We carry many of the nationally known genealogy magazines and journals such as Ancestry, Family Tree Magazine, National Genealogical Society Quarterly and Huguenot Society Newsletter to name a few. You will also find local, county and regional genealogical society and family publications in the collection.

To search for genealogical sources in our collection, check our catalog at www.columbuslibrary.org. All SLO materials are now included in our catalog.

Since the collection is so large, it would be impossible to highlight every single item. However, a few major areas are highlighted here.


The shelves holding sources for Ohio Counties are the most used part of the collection. They contain:

  • Ancestor charts
  • Bible records
  • Biographical sketches
  • Birth records
  • Books on buildings and homes
  • Records of business and civic organizations
  • Census records
  • Church histories and records
  • Court records
  • Death records
  • Deed and land records, directories
  • Ethnic sources
  • Family records
  • Funeral home records
  • Genealogical newsletters
  • County and local histories
  • Marriages
  • Military sources
  • Naturalization records
  • Obituaries
  • School histories and records
  • Wills

Most of the records are in print and some are on microfilm. The printed collection is arranged alphabetically by county (from Adams to Wyandot). There are several aids to doing Ohio genealogical research. The Ohio Surname Index is an every-name index to 130 Ohio county histories, on 64 reels of microfilm.

Atlases and Maps

What collection would be complete without all those atlases and maps to show where our ancestors lived and how they migrated from one place to the next? We have several hundred atlases and gazetteers for the U.S. and some foreign countries, for example, Atlas of the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1892 and Phillimore Atlas & Index of Parish Registers for England and Wales. Although we have a few atlases for locations in other states, most of our atlases and maps relate to Ohio counties. Nearly all Ohio counties are represented in the collection’s historical Ohio county atlases published in the late 1800s. We also have a large collection of local historic maps for Franklin County, Ohio and Columbus.

City and County Directories

We have hundreds of city directories for major cities in Ohio (Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, and Toledo) as well as directories for some smaller cities and counties across Ohio for intermittent years.

Immigration and Naturalization

Sources such as Filby’s Passenger and Immigration Lists Index will guide you to books in our collection containing lists of persons who immigrated to United States from our earliest colonial days to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Germans to America, Irish Famine Immigrants, Italians to America, Migrations From the Russian Empire, and Emigrant Savings Bank Records 1841-1945 are but a few of the specific titles in our library that may list your immigrant ancestors. Though naturalization records in our collection will typically include transcribed sources from local courts, with a large portion of these being from Ohio county courts, you might also find an ancestor’s oath of allegiance from colonial days.

Military Records

Looking for an ancestor who served in the military? We have a large collection of sources that include rosters, regimental histories, indexes to pension records and burial records. Burial Places of Ohio Soldiers of the War of 1812 (20 volumes), Confederate Veteran, a monthly publication with biographical and historical information, War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, An Index to Mexican War Pension Applications, and The Tennessee Civil War Veterans Questionnaires are but a few of the military resources that we have. Did you know there was a Confederate Soldiers' prison right here in Columbus? Our collection includes Camp Chase prison records.

Hereditary and Lineage Societies

We have many sources (lineage books and society publications) to assist you with finding information by and about several national and local chapters of hereditary and lineage societies such as society of Mayflower Descendants, Daughters of the American Revolution, Society Colonial Dames XVII Century, National Society of Daughters of Founders and Patriots of America, and the Ohio Genealogical Society's First Families of Ohio to name a few.

Unique and Special Collections

Ohio Daughters of the American Revolution
This includes over 1,200 transcriptions of records compiled, collected and maintained by the Ohio DAR from Ohio county, church, family and bible records. Many of these sources are indexed in Master Index, Ohio Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, Genealogical and Historical Records.

Ohio Society Sons of the American Revolution
The Ohio SAR has donated books like Revolutionary War Patriots and Revolutionary War Graves Register, published by the Society and its chapters.

Ohio Huguenot Society
The Ohio Huguenot Society collection is one of the largest Anglo-American Huguenot collections in the country. Huguenots were French Protestants exiled from France in 1685. Many fled to England and later America. This collection consists mostly of church and naturalization records going back to the 16th century in Publications of the Huguenot society in London and Huguenot family histories.

Joy Wade Moulton British Collection
This collection of British Isles genealogical sources was donated by Mrs. Moulton, a nationally known genealogist and former writer of the Finding Your Ancestors column in the Columbus Dispatch. Sources include the British Record Society series of English country court and tax records and Griffith’s Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland.

Margaret Main Bouic Collection
The 50 volume Genealogical Index of Delaware and Union Counties (Ohio), compiled by Mrs. Bouic, indexes sources such as county histories and public records from the aforementioned counties. It is a unique and valuable resource that is the result of Mrs. Bouic’s passion for genealogical research.

Family Histories
There are over 7,000 family histories in our genealogy collection. Most were compiled and published by individual genealogists who donated them to the library. We continue to accept donations of well-organized compiled or published family histories for our genealogy collection. These may be supplemented by information held in our Family Name vertical files, several thousand folders arranged in alphabetical order by name in six file drawers.

Online Resources

We currently subscribe to Ancestry Library Edition, HeritageQuest, New England Ancestors (New England Historical Genealogical Society), American Civil War Research Database, Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI), and Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. You may use Ancestry Library Edition, HeritageQuest, BGMI and Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps at the Main Library and 21 branch locations. HeritageQuest, BGMI and Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are also available remotely, via our Genealogy Reference webpage, for those who hold a Discovery Place Library Card with our library system. You can use New England Ancestors and the American Civil War Research Database only at the Genealogy, History and Travel Division of the Main Library at this time. Our webpage will also direct you to other select resources on the Internet that you might find useful when doing your research.

Our website, www.columbuslibrary.org, has several areas of interest to genealogists:

  • Columbus News Index indexes articles of local interest from 1960 to 1997 and obituaries from 1934 to 1997.
  • Columbus Newspapers on Microfilm lists CML’s state and local historical newspapers on microfilm, in alphabetical and chronological order.
  • New Genealogy Arrivals lists recent titles added to the CML genealogy collection.
  • Columbus in Historic Photographs is an online photograph collection featuring historical Columbus images from the Columbus Circulating Visual Collection.
  • Central Ohio Buildings Index contains abstracts of articles about historic Columbus buildings.


Customers may call to set up an appointment with a staff member to consult and offer assistance with your specific needs.


Beginning in March 2008 we will offer workshops on using our genealogical collection and electronic sources such as Ancestry Library Edition, HeritageQuest and other sources found on the Internet.

This year we held our second “Family History Day” on October 4, 2008. This is a free all-day event at the Main Library providing genealogists the opportunity to hear representatives from various genealogical organizations speak about the sources and services they provide. We'll also have workshops going on through out the day on varied genealogy topics. This was a very popular event first held in October 2005. What a perfect time to visit the “Ohio, The Gateway to the West” collection to see everything we have to offer.

Please check our Genealogy webpage at . Scroll down and select "Genealogy" for news and information about these and other events.

Planning Your Visit to Columbus Metropolitan Library

Do we have the genealogy resources you need? Please check our catalog on our homepage or call us to see what we may have in our genealogy and history collections.

It is wise to prepare in advance for your visit to the library. We all know what it’s like to make a research trip only to find the courthouse, archive or library is closed. A little prep work at home can save you valuable research time when you visit. The Genealogy, History and Travel division is in the Main Library at 96 South Grant Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43215. Check our webpage at www.columbuslibrary.org for information about location and hours, call us at 614-645-2ASK (2275) or use the “Email a Question to a Librarian” service on our webpage. The standard hours are Monday through Thursday, 9 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday, 9 am to 6 pm, Sunday 1 to 5 pm.

We have public computers at all CML locations (approximately 100 at the Main Library) to aid you in your research. Have your own laptop with your family history and wireless capabilities on it? We have Wi-Fi access so bring your computer along and connect to us wirelessly. Copies cost just ten cents. Parking at CML is convenient and secure as we have a parking garage that leads directly into our building. The cost is 50 cents per hour with a maximum of $4.00 per day. When you need to take a break from your research there’s a coffee shop with beverages, pastries, and sandwiches as well as several restaurants within walking distance or a short drive.

When coming to Columbus don’t forget to consider research time at the Ohio Historical Society, www.ohiohistory.org, and the Palatines to America Library, www.palam.org. Both have wonderful collections that can further your genealogical or historical research.

Columbus Metropolitan Library and the staff of the Genealogy, History and Travel division have taken up the torch passed to us from the State Library and will strive to maintain the integrity and theme of “Ohio, the Gateway to the West.”

About the author - Russ Pollitt is Librarian II Genealogy Subject Specialist at Columbus Metropolitan Library. He can be contacted at 614-645-2ASK (2275).

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