Union County Probate Cases, 1852-1960
(23,347 records)
(Updated: April 4, 2018)

Case file types included in this index are as follows:

Criminal Cases (1852-1960)
Estate Cases (1852-1960)
Guardianship Cases (1852-1960)
Land Sale Cases (1852-1960)
Miscellaneous Cases (1852-1960)
  Allowance of Claims (1852-1960)
  Appointments (Court Clerks, Probation Officers, etc.) (1852-1960)
  Assignment Cases (1852-1960)
  Board of County Visitors Appointments (1906-1960)
  Board of School Examiners Appointments (1853-1935)
  Concealing Assets (1852-1960)
  Heirship Determinations (1852-1960)
  In Aid of Executions (1852-1960)
  Injunctions (1852-1960)
  Land Appropriations (1852-1960)
  Miscellaneous Appointments (1852-1960)
  Receiverships (1852-1960)
  Settlement of Minor’s Claims (1932-1960)
  Surviving Partnerships (1894-1960)
  Wrongful Death Cases (1913-1960)
Will Record Cases (1852-1960)

Full Person/Appointee/Testator/Ward List: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Full Applicant Surname List: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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Records pertaining to adoption and developmental disabilities (formerly known as “feeble-minded youth” and “mental retardation”) are confidential pursuant to Ohio Revised Code §149.43(A)(1)(d) and §5123.31 and Rule 55 of the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio and are NOT included in this index.

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 (1820-1950)

These records contain the original documentation in criminal court proceedings including: indictment by the grand jury, entry of plea, subpoenas of witnesses, appointment of counsel, findings of the jury and/or court, sentence, and cost bill.  It may also contain miscellaneous motions for suppression of evidence, dismissal of charges, directed verdict of acquittal or new trial with briefs and memoranda in support of the motion, rulings of the court in these motions, and a notice of appeal.

These records originate from the common pleas court and are maintained by the clerk of courts.  The Ohio Constitution of 1802 provided for the creation of a court of common pleas in each county with jurisdiction in criminal matters.  The Ohio Supreme Court from this date until 1851 also possessed both original and appellate jurisdiction in criminal cases, so some cases may be found in Ohio Supreme Court records.  In subsequent years the District, Circuit and then Appeals Court was placed as an intermediary appellate court for criminal matters between the Common Pleas and Supreme Courts.  Cases files related to those various appellate courts can be found in those respective courts case files, which are also kept at the Union County Records Center and Archives.

The first act “respecting crimes and punishment” was passed by the Ohio General Assembly on January 15, 1805, prior to that the criminal laws of the Northwest Territory were followed.  This law stood until January 27, 1815, when it was overhauled, and this law in turn was revised on March 7, 1835.  A wide variety of changes and amendments were made throughout the years until the criminal code was established on May 5, 1877, when the criminal statutes were codified and consolidated.  This basic structure is followed to the present day under the Title 29 of the Ohio Revised Code – Crimes and Procedure.  In Union County criminal cases are filed separately from other cases – i.e. civil and domestic, except in instances where it has been appealed to a higher court.

Estate Case Files (1852-1960)

Estate records are court proceedings to administer property owned by someone who has died (the decedent), and to see that claims, expenses and taxes are properly paid, and the remaining estate is distributed to those entitled to receive it under the decedent’s will or Ohio law if there is no will.  These records contain the name of the decedent, appointments of executors or administrators, inventories and appraisals of property, accountings, sale bills, distribution of assets, schedules of debts or claims, real estate transfers and inheritance tax.

In 1788, probate judges were designated “to take the proof of last wills and testaments and to grant letters testamentary and letters of administration and to do and perform every matter and thing that doth, or by law may appertain to the probate office…The judge shall record last wills and testaments, and make entries to the granting of letters testamentary, and letters of administration; he shall receive, put on file, and carefully preserve all bonds, inventories, accounts, and other documents, necessary…”  The 1803 Ohio constitution abolished separate probate courts and granted their powers to the court of common pleas.

Guardianship Records (1852-1960)

Guardianship records are a court ordered relationship in which the guardian acts on behalf of a ward(s).  Wards are persons who are not able to care for themselves or their property – minor children or elderly adults.  These records contain the names of wards, one of their parents if a minor’s guardianship, the name of guardian, age at last birthday, application date, date the guardianship is either granted or denied, guardians bond, inventory of the ward’ property, rendering and confirmation of accounts, approval of the expenditure of the ward’s funds and the guardianship type.

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.  Authorities the court still maintains today, except in regards to naturalization, which power was transferred to the federal government in 1906.

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 living any 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 law finally repealed all the previous laws relating to guardianship as established under the territorial government.

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.

Land Sales (1852-1960)

A probate land sale proceeding may be filed by a guardian, administer, executor, or trustee if the statutory purposes of the sale are satisfied.  The allowable purposes vary for estates and guardianships.  Often in an estate a land sale is filed when the administrator or executor does not have the power to sell real estate through a governing instrument (will, trust or executed consents to sell) and it is necessary to sell the real estate to pay debts.  It is the method whereby the administrator or executor obtains authority to sell the real estate.  A land sale proceeding is opened by the court as a companion case to the general probate case.  If a minor or incompetent is involved in the proceeding as the ward or beneficiary, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the minor’s or incompetent’s interest.

These records contain a copy of the petition showing names of all beneficiaries to the estate, and describes the land giving its appraised value and any taxes or liens currently held against the property and by whom held.  It contains notice of the hearing to all interested parties or waiver of such notice, any answers field to the petition, and order of the court directing either a public or private sale of the land at not less than the appraised value.  The court directed order shows return of the executor or administrator indicating when and to whom the property was sold and the proceeds realized.  It also contains the court order confirming the sale and directing execution and delivery of a deed to the purchaser.

Miscellaneous Cases (1852-1960)

These records contain a variety of different 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 issue 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 matron, 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 decease partners; and wrongful death suits, where individuals sued for compensation for the death of an individual that resulted from negligence.

Will Records (1852-1960)

These records collect in one section application for probate of the 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 copy of 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