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Union County Probate Cases, 1852-1960
|Board of County Visitors Appointments||(1906-1960)|
|Board of School Examiners Appointments||(1853-1935)|
|Settlement of Minor’s Claims||(1932-1960)|
|Wrongful Death Cases||(1913-1960)|
|Will Record Cases||(1852-1960)|
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Probate Case Files (1852-1960)
These records originate from the probate court and are maintained through that office. Probate courts existed in the Northwest Territory prior to Ohio’s statehood. They had authority in probate, testamentary, and guardianship cases, although the probate judge and two common pleas court judges issued all final judgments. In 1802, Ohio’s first constitution abolished separate probate courts and transferred their authority to the common pleas courts. Separate probate courts reappeared in 1851, when Ohio drafted a new constitution. This gave the probate court the power to grant marriage licenses and control land sales by appointed executors, administrators, and guardians along with powers in probate, testamentary, guardianship, adoption, mental illness, and naturalization. Duties the court still maintains today, except in regards to naturalization, which power was transferred to the federal government in 1906.
Criminal Case Files (1852-1960)
These records contain the defendant, case number, prosecuting authority, general charge (housebreaking, theft, providing intoxicating liquor to a minor, habitual drunkenness, assault and battery, destruction of private property, cruelty to animals, sale of unwholesome meat, petit larceny, vagrancy, profane swearing, or menacing), specific details of the offense, defendant’s plea and sentence or other disposition of the case. The court’s jurisdiction over these types of criminal proceedings was repealed in 1932.
These records also contain documents of examining courts to determine if there was enough evidence to bind the person over to the Grand Jury of the Court of Common Pleas, records of admitting bail to apprehended individuals as they await appearance before the Court of Common Pleas, and cases involving Habeas Corpus. The powers of binding individuals over to the Court of Common Pleas and admitting individuals to bail have since been assigned to the municipal court.
Guardianship Case Files (1852-1960)
Guardianship records are a court ordered relationship in which the guardian acts on behalf of a ward. Wards are persons who are not able to care for themselves or their property – minor children or incompetent adults. These records contain the names of wards, one of their parents if a minor’s guardianship, the name of the guardian, age of the ward at their last birthday, application date, date the guardianship is either granted or denied, guardians bond, inventory of the ward’s property, rendering and confirmation of accounts, approval of the expenditure of the ward’s funds and the guardianship type.
On January 15, 1805, the Ohio General Assembly passed an act “for the appointment of guardians to lunatics and others.” This statute empowered the court of common pleas of each county to appoint guardians for those adjudged to be an “idiotic”, a “lunatic”, or “insane” person. This was followed shortly thereafter with a law on February 1, 1805, with an act “…providing for the appointment of guardians.” The law required, the courts of common pleas, on being informed that there are any living heirs or legatees of the estate of any deceased person within the county, forthwith to appoint two guardians for such heirs or legatees, as are minors under fourteen years of age, if males, and under the age of twelve years, if females, who shall take care of such minors and their property, until they arrive at the age aforesaid…”. Once they reached the “age aforesaid” the minors could then choose their own guardian with the consent and approval of the common pleas court. In all cases the guardian was required to “give bond to the court, with sufficient surety, such as the court may approve of (respect being had to the value of the estate) for the faithful discharge of their trust…”
The laws relating to guardianships were greatly expanded in subsequent years, and in 1852 the authority of guardianships was transferred from the common pleas court to the newly created probate court. Upon the adoption of the Ohio Revised Code in 1953 the term “guardian” was meant to include, any person, association, or corporation appointed by the probate court to have the care and management of the person, the estate, or both of a minor, incompetent, habitual drunkard, idiot, imbecile, or lunatic, or of the estate of a confined person.
While the types, form and functions of guardianship have evolved over the years the guiding principle has remained the same. A guardianship is simply a function where one person has the legal authority and duty – the guardian – to care for another’s person or property – the ward.
Miscellaneous Case Files (1852-1960)
These records contain a variety cases commenced in the Probate Court. They include: assignments, which are voluntary transfers of property to resolve debt in lieu of declaring bankruptcy; appointments to the Board of County School Examiners, which examined and issued teaching licenses; appointments to the County Board of Visitors, which inspected the benevolent institutions of the county – e.g. County Home and Children’s Home; appointments of jail matrons, who cared for women prisoners in the county jail; appointments of deputy probate clerks and juvenile probation officers; blind relief records, which sought to provide financial aid to blind individuals; settlements of minor’s claim, where injured minor’s filed suit for financial compensation for sustained injuries; surviving partnership, where living partners could purchase the partnership assets of deceased partners; and wrongful death suits, where individuals sued for compensation for the death of an individual that resulted from negligence.
Will Case Files (1852-1960)
These records collect in one section the application for probate of a will; a verbatim transcript of the will and any codicils thereto; the testimony, depositions, and/or affidavits of witnesses to the signing of the will; a listing of all next of kin and notice to them of the application and/or waivers of notice and consent to probate of surviving relatives and beneficiaries; and contains a copy of the journal entry admitting the will to probate.
A will could be created by any person “of full age and sound mind and memory…”. The law required written will to be “signed at the end thereof, by the party making” the will. It also required that it “shall be attested…by two or more competent witnesses…”. The law further proscribed that “if it shall appear that such will was duly attested and executed, and that the testator, at the time of executing the same, was of full age, and of sound mind and memory, and not under any restraint, the court shall admit the will to probate.” Legal actions that challenged wills (“will contest” or “to construe a will”) were filed in the Court of Common Pleas from 1852 through the 1960s.