Monday, July 1, 2013

Not everything burned -- partitions and mortgages in Licking County, Ohio

I'm fond of Licking County, Ohio, not only because of its unique name, but because I have many ancestors and relatives there. It is one of Ohio's burned counties, having suffered a courthouse fire in 1875.

Fortunately, the property records survived intact. Court and marriage and probate records, not so much. But there are substitutes. One potential substitute is partition records -- court records of those cases where heirs agree on (or dispute) the partition or sale of land they inherited jointly. Sometimes these records include cute little maps of the divided-up property; very often they list all the heirs.

The situation in Licking County is complex and somewhat obscure, and you may find similar tangled webs in your burned county of choice. The county's partition records escaped the fire, and in fact have been not just microfilmed but recently digitized by FamilySearch in the "Ohio Probate Records 1789-1996" collection, totaling 7 million images. Like many such collections, there is no volunteer-created index (yet), and the digitized the in-book indexes fail the Mills Index Test: they do not cover all the cases in their own books.

Meanwhile, at some point the Licking County Clerk had the original partition records retyped, surely a huge job (and judging from the falling-apart character of the microfilmed originals, necessary). Apparently about this same time the clerk created an every-name index to these partition cases, including maiden and married names for the women. It occupies three heavy volumes now slumbering in the courthouse basement in Newark. (I almost missed them but the kind and helpful clerks found them.)

Fortunately, the original handwritten partition records were microfilmed. Unfortunately, the every-name indexes were not. That's a resource that court researchers would commit serious mayhem to have in THEIR county.

So while the partitions themselves are on line in their original form via FamilySearch, there is no decent index to them UNLESS you go to Newark on a weekday and ask at the clerk's office for the index books to be brought up from the basement so that you can tell which record book you need. (FYI the indexes do not give dates, but I can tell you that Partition Book C covers 1844-1851, E 1861-1865, and G 1869-1873.) This is the best substitute for the burned probates that I have seen yet -- provided that your family had real estate to partition!

Licking County does have its own Records and Archives Department. Its lists of old records and their whereabouts were indispensable in this quest, and then I learned about their new online catalog, still a work in progress. Their knowledge was also indispensable when I needed to consult mortgage indexes and mortgage books from before 1892 (the earliest index available in the recorder's office). They located the earlier indexes (still in the inventorying process) and the two actual mortgage volumes I needed, on short notice.

Apparently these are an extremely underused resource. I was happy to be (apparently) the first person to ask for them in decades, but hopefully others will follow much sooner. They add a dimension, especially in cases where the trail of deeds grows cold.

Photo credit: Licking County Courthouse, banukab's photostream, IMG 7587,, per Creative Commons

Harold Henderson, "Not everything burned -- partitions and mortgages in Licking County, Ohio," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 1 July 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]


Katharine Ott said...

Thanks so much for that detailed run-down regarding Licking Co records. I too have many ancestors there and your suggestions will certainly come in handy!

Pat Richley-Erickson said...

This unique info should be added to the FamilySearch Wiki, as another method for people to find this.

Thank you, Harold.

Shelley Bishop said...

Thank you, thank you, Harold! I didn't realize the partition records were online, and I certainly didn't know there are indexes to them in the basement of the courthouse! How did you find that out? I was actually looking at one of my Licking County families today and wondering if there was something I missed, so I'm excited to explore this resource. And I agree with Myrt-this would make a great addition to the FamilySearch Wiki.

Harold said...

Thanks all. Myrt, I have long been meaning to get educated and put stuff on the wiki; maybe this will motivate me to git'r'done. Shelley, I knew about the archives but had not studied their list closely (first link after their name in the post). Even then the obvious did not dawn on me until I had the indexes and asked about the fate of the books!

Geolover said...

Licking County government websie has a nice Guide to Licking County Court Records:

Under "Using Court Records" the first two links are to lists of some records by location. The reference to what turned out to be the every-name index to Partitions is incompletely described as being in the Domestic Court Building basement.

There is also a nice search engine on the site:

Mark Stickle said...

The Archives facility is physically located in a very out of the way location at 39 S. Buena Vista St. in Newark, behind the county jail. The staff (especially Mr. Bill Markley)is amazingly helpful. As indicated in the post, they hold a range of obscure records -- the kinds of things that are too often overlooked by genealogists and micro-historians. As an example, I recently spent a morning working with the "Poor House" and "Lunacy" records. If you believe that genealogy consists of more than online clicking on shaking green leaves, then this is the place for you! Call or email before you go; but it is a great resource.

LCRecords said...

On behalf of the staff at the Licking County Records and Archives, thank you all for your kind words. We greatly enjoy assisting you in your genealogical research. Bill Markley, our Reference Archivist, is available to assist you. You are welcome to call in advance or visit us in person. Below is our contact information:

Licking County Records & Archives
Physical/Shipping Address: 39 South Buena St.
Mailing/Billing Address: 20 South 2nd St.
Newark, OH 43055
Phone: 740-670-5121
Fax: 740-670-5124

Katy Klettlinger
Licking County Records Manager

Family Sleuther said...

I'm so glad I landed on this post. I'm researching my 5th great-grandfather Thomas Kirk who died in 1846 in Licking County, and who I thought was all but erased from history following the 1875 courthouse fire. Mr. Markley has been a tremendous resource combing through old Common Pleas Court Journals (no index, mind you), and pulled up some treasures. I wonder if the County has plans for any of these materials to be digitized? At any rate, your post is prompting me to take a second look at the partition records after I didn't see the Kirk name in the volume's index.