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 http://www.familysearch.org/. 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 pimmel@sloma.state.oh.us or 614-387-1186 and I will send it to you.