Using FamilySearch’s Ohio Databases As Finding Aids

A recent discussion on Rootsweb’s Transitional Genealogist Forum (meaning transitioning from hobbyist to pro, not like homeless or anything) brought up a citation question for a series of vital record databases with which I wasn’t familiar:

Ohio Births and Christenings, 1821-1962
Ohio Marriages, 1800-1958
Ohio Deaths and Burials, 1854-1997

These databases were created from various indexing projects. They are not images, only extracted index information, but they are great finding aids for locating original records. These databases are not all-inclusive for the state, nor are they full abstracts – only index information, the amount of which seems to vary with the parameters of the particular indexing project and record set. But these are definitely worth checking out if you have Ohio folks. There are also similar entries for other states that might be of interest.

Here’s How:

For this example, I will use a recent post on the PAARMSTR Rootsweb list referencing a Henry Fuller, who died in 1900 in Cleveland, Cuyahoga, OH

Go to the FamilySearch Record Pilot homepage. *Note: Link updated to bring directly to the database search page*
Click on the “Search or Browse Our Collections” link.
Click on the United States map, and then scroll down to these databases. Clicking on the “Ohio Deaths and Burials…” will bring you to this screen (search criteria entered manually):

"Ohio Deaths" search page with search criteria entered

Here is the result for the Henry Fuller we are looking for:

Results detail for our Henry Fuller search

The database details tell us his death date, approximate birth date, and some other info. But where did this information come from originally? Weren’t any of these blank fields recorded with the original record? What other info might it contain? The only way to find these answers are to go looking for the original.
The two rows of interest in the results are the “Source Film Number” and Reference Number” :

Result showing source detail

Now you might be saying, “That’s great, but that looks like a bunch of gibberish.” Let’s take a look at how those two numbers lead to the source information.

First, we need to go the Family History Library Catalog search page at http://www.familysearch.org/eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp: and enter the “Source Film Number” into the film/fiche search box:

Library Search page showing "Film/Fiche" search option

Clicking on the search result brings us to the Title details – in this case, Cleveland Department of Health records:

Film search results showing title detail

Click on “View film notes” to see detailed information about the rolls in the series:

Film Notes showing information about individual rolls

So we see that the information came from a film titled “Deaths 1898-1902″ – presumably a death register covering those years recorded by the city of Cleveland. Now take a look at that reference number. In this example, it says “p.149″. Now we not only can locate the correct reel of film, but also the page of the filmed record where we can find the original.

Looking back at the information in the title series, it tells us that this is microfilm of the originals held at the Cuyahoga County Archives. To get copies of the original, we need only either order the microfilm from the local FHC, or contact the Cuyahoga County Archives with the appropriate reference information we have uncovered.

Hopefully you’ve found this little tutorial useful. If you’ve been counting, you’ll see I used the word original about 234565 times in this post. It’s important.  When using a database like this – don’t settle for copy and paste. Don’t settle, and more importantly, don’t believe. Go back to the original . Verify. Then maybe rejoice.

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2 Responses to Using FamilySearch’s Ohio Databases As Finding Aids

  1. avatar Jean Hoffman says:

    Chris, this is a wonderful journey through these records. We just discussed them briefly at the last CAGG meeting and I’m going to put a link to your post on our mailing list.

    Also, there is a table of the number of each record type by county at https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/Ohio_Vital_Records_Index that will give an idea of how many records are there, but not how complete they are.

  2. avatar Staats Chris says:

    Hi there Jean –

    Thank you for posting the wiki link…haha “wikilink” sounds funny! I had thought about copying and pasting that table when I first started the post, but then got carried away with screenshots and forgot about it.

    Another point worth mentioning is that the “Death and Burials 1854-1997″ database is NOT the same thing as the “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953″

    What’s CAGG – Computer-Assisted Genealogy Group? By the way, I renewed my WRHS membership, and am just waiting for a chance to get back there and re-learn my way around!