Wednesday, October 24, 2007


In a feature article, the Columbus Dispatch reported that a registry of coal miners in southeastern Ohio as far back as the 1800s will be available next year. Such a database looks to be a major watershed for tracing this region's mining families. During my years as a genealogy librarian, I was often asked by researchers about the availability of information on their African-American, English, Welsh, and Scottish forefathers who were miners in Perry, Jackson, Vinton, and other counties in the Hocking Valley region. Today, as the article states, the "Little Cities of Black Diamonds--the towns where the mining families lived--have declined or disappeared as technology and demand have caused their numbers to drastically fall. There is an excellent and well-documented book by Professor Ivan M. Tribe entitled Little Cities of Black Diamonds: Urban Development in the Hocking Coal Region, 1870-1900 (1988) which tells their story. At the State Library of Ohio, we have the Report of the State Inspector of Mines in our State of Ohio Government Documents collection. These annual reports are full of important information for the historian and genealogist alike. Inspection reports for every active mine in the state are printed in every year of the Report. Of greatest interest to the genealogist will be the annuals from 1874 to 1913 containing information on those who were injured or killed in mining accidents. If you have been researching your mining ancestor, what sources (including online) have you found helpful? Let us know. Please take a look at the article "Registry digs into mining history" by Mary Beth Lane in the October 22, 2007 issue of the Columbus Dispatch.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Last April, the State Library of Ohio’s genealogy collection of 25,000 books and several thousand microfilm was transferred to the Columbus Metropolitan Library. However, that did not mean the library would no longer be serving the genealogy community. Like libraries, family history researching is changing with the advances of the electronic information age. In the 1980s, genealogists began using software programs on their home computers to organize their family research. By the beginning of the 21st century, 24% of those canvassed by the Pew Internet and American Life Project tracking survey were using the internet for researching their ancestors. Today, we are at a crossroads. While a google search for “genealogy” yields 37,500,000 results, there’s still a lot more out there in books and microforms which haven’t graced the internet. Perhaps the watershed event will occur in 2012, when the Family History Library completes the digitization of its entire microfilm collection of nearly 2 ½ million reels and makes it all available on the web like FamilySearch However, this does not include the many items of interest to genealogists which are only available in print and manuscript in thousands of large and small libraries and archives. Our library contains such a holding.

The State Library of Ohio has been the regional (or full) U.S. government depository for Ohio since the 1930s and the depository for all Ohio state government agency documents by statute. For many years, family historians who visited the State Library to use its genealogy collection have asked about the multi-million item collection of materials on the other side of the building. I would jokingly reply that if I had a map, it would be called the “Terra Incognita” for genealogists. Amongst these “unknown lands,” is the Ohio state documents collection. State Librarian Jo Budler promised Ohio genealogists that the State Library will be digitizing images of interest to them from this collection and these digitized items will be placed online so that they are available anytime, from anywhere via the Internet.

The Ohio state documents collection includes the Ohio General Assembly biographical directories, the Laws of Ohio, the Journals of the Ohio House and Senate, the Executive Documents, military rosters, institutional records, Ohio Secretary of State reports, lists of professionals, accident (industrial, mine, and rail) reports, and many others. Finding government documents of interest to the genealogist is like discovering veins of gold in an almost endless mine. The information may be highly specialized but often is rich in detail. For example, you will not find a list of all Ohio industrial workers for a given year in the Report of the Department of Inspection of Workshops, Factories and Public Buildings but you will find a section on “Accidents Reported During the Fiscal Year” which gives the date of the accident, name of person injured, age of person, by whom employed, city or town, and the cause and severity of the injury. I have compiled a preliminary bibliography of Ohio state documents of potential interest to the genealogical community. Its purpose is to provide improved access to these documents and to serve as a list of items to be considered for digitization. If you are interested in the file containing this preliminary list of Ohio State documents of interest to genealogists, please contact Paul Immel at or 614-387-1186 and I will send it to you.