You’ve looked high. You’ve looked low. You’ve looked wide and far. You’ve examined every common record you think might contain information about your ancestors, their friends, their associates, and their neighbors– all without much luck. Have you tried the records of their sheep?
I admit, I was more curious than anything else when I filled out the call slip for “Record of Sheep Claims” for Jefferson County, Ohio.1 I didn’t have much expectation that the sheep would give much genealogical information. I was pleasantly surprised. While they don’t provide a ton of genealogical information, sheep claims are a good example of a record that connects people in time and place, and creates an association.
What is a sheep claim? In 1893, section 4215 of the Ohio Revised Code outlines how a farmer can claim damages caused by dogs killing their sheep: “Any person damaged by the killing or injury of sheep by dog or dogs may present a account of the injury done with damages claimed therefor verified by affidavit at any regular meeting of the trustees of the township where the damage or injury occurred.”2 Even better, the law required two witnesses ”who are freeholders of the neighborhood where the injury was done…[and] shall be allowed fifty cents each and mileage as in other cases…” Witnesses had to testify to the amount of damage of the claim and that the damage was not caused by either the claimant’s dogs nor his dogs, but by unknown dogs.3
The statute goes on to explain that allowed claims were to paid out of a fund created by a per capita dog tax. In the event that the fund was insufficient to pay all claims, the claims would be prorated. These records, along with the trustee’s signature approving the claim were to be transferred to the county commissioners “in care of the county auditor who shall enter upon a book to be kept for that purpose.”4
Warning: These books are large. In order to read the actual record, you’ll need to click on the image to see it full-size, but you’ll see that the trio of Henry Kitheart, Joseph Kitheart, and Walter J. Hussey come in together twice. William McCue’s witnesses were J.C. More and W.W. Moore.5 We can’t tell exact relationships from this record, but it is evidence of some relationship. Again, these aren’t giving us volumes of information, but they list names that connect people in a specific time and place. It’s those associations between our ancestors and those people around him that help make our ancestor’s identity unique. If this is a record that might contain one of those associations, do you dare overlook it?
This record group, and many many more are part of the Ohio Local Government Records program, which consists of several archives that collect and preserve lesser-used, but certainly useful record groups. You can go to the Ohio Historical Society’s website to learn a little more about the places that are part of the Ohio Network Of American History Research Centers, including links to those centers with online listings of collections. Or if you’re not in a hurry, you can come out to the 2014 Ohio Genealogical Society conference on April 30 – May 3, where I’ll be presenting a program about these records.
- Jefferson County, Ohio, Auditor, sheep claims, LGR 247, 1 volume, 1892–1927; Youngstown Museum of Labor and Industry, Youngstown. [↩]
- State of Ohio, General Assembly, Acts of the State of Ohio, Volume 40 (Norwalk: Laning Printing Co.,1893), 348-349; digital images, Google Books (http://www.books.google.com: accessed 21 Aug 2013). [↩]
- ibid. [↩]
- ibid. [↩]
- Jefferson Co., Ohio, sheep claims, 18-19. [↩]