Birth Records

ABOUT: Birth records typically provide the individual’s date of birth and parents’ names. Depending on the time period, there are different ways to access birth records. It became a statewide law to record births at the probate court of the county where the birth occurred in 1867. Prior to this time, it is helpful to use census records to determine birth dates. Births that occurred after December 19, 1908 are recorded by the Ohio Department of Health.

USE: Birth records are useful when compiling family histories because in addition to providing birth dates, they sometimes provide information about the child’s parents.

ACCESS: Birth records are publicly available. OHS has probate court records from several counties around the state. If the person was born in one of these counties between 1867 and December 19, 1908, we may have the record you are looking for. It can be viewed at the Ohio History Center in the Archives/Library, or you can submit a research request and have the record found and sent to you by the Research Services Staff (see below for procedure). Many of these collections are available on microfilm. This is indicated by a copy number preceded by GR.

Search Tips:

BEFORE GETTING STARTED: How you search for records depends on the time period in which the person was born. It is helpful to know the person’s county and approximate time period of birth. 

Before 1850 Census: 

  • Search 1820, 1830 and 1840 U.S. Censuses. Only the head of the household is listed and other family members appear as hash marks. If there is no name of a child during these years, it is difficult to prove that a hash mark is an ancestor.
  • Search or Heritage Quest to see in what counties households with the same surname were living. It may provide a clue to the country of birth for their ancestor.
  • Censuses after 1850 list all the members of the household, so they should give an approximate year of birth for the ancestor.
  • Search for a birth notice in a newspaper. This is a hit-or-miss proposition. If they appear at all, the notices are scattered throughout the newspaper.
1867-December 19, 1908:
  • In 1867, it became a statewide law to record births at the probate court of the county where the birth occurred. There is no statewide index to these records prior to December 20, 1908.
  • If the county of birth is not known, the patron will need to search the censuses to identify possible counties. 
December 20, 1908-present:
  • Births occurring within this time period were recorded with the Ohio Department of Health. 
  • To determine if we have a certain county’s probate court records, do a Keyword General search in the Online Collection Catalog (from, select Archives/Library Collections). For example, try: Knox County Probate Court Birth.
  • For birth records not in our collection, check the OCC for indexes done by county genealogical and historical societies.
  • Probate court birth records are basically one line entries in ledger books which give the name of the child and the parents’ names. 
  • Some of these collections have indexes and others do not. These will direct you to the volume and page number on which that individual’s record can be found. If you need helping using the indexes, please ask a staff member.
  • If you can’t find a person’s name in the index, that doesn’t mean that his/her record will not be in the actual record book. If you have a general idea of the year in which the person was born, you may consider reviewing all of the records from that year or group of years.
  • Although Ohio law required births to be recorded, this did not always happen. A family member, the doctor or the tax assessor was responsible for reporting the birth and sometimes, this didn’t happen, especially if the family lived far away from the probate court.
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