MOUNT GILEAD — Some surprising finds turned up over the past year and a half when volunteers opened files from probate court records that included wills and documents of deceased people from the 1800s. They were working at the Mount Gilead Public Library Annex preparing the files for genealogy organization Family Search.
Family Search, formerly called Genealogical Society of Utah, has worked with archives, libraries and other sources since 1894 to give access to records that help people find their ancestors. Family Search is free service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons.
Morrow County is one of eight counties in Ohio to be working on a project for Family Search to get digital photos of county probate and marriage records that can be accessed online. The Morrow County records begin in 1851, shortly after the county was formed from Richland, Knox, Delaware and Marion counties.
The Mount Gilead Public Library’s Genealogy Annex is where a team of Morrow County Genealogy Society members and their friends has been working with volunteers from Family Search to prepare documents for pictures with a digital camera.
The project started here when Morrow County Court Administrative Assistant, Dan Rhodebeck was contacted by staff from Family Search. The Morrow County Probate Court gave the go ahead for the project and they began bringing boxes of records to the Mount Gilead Public Library Annex to be prepared for digitizing, or photographing with a digital camera.
Volunteer Janet Rhodebeck said the records have been kept folded up in packets and folders and needed to be unfolded and flattened to be photographed. It helped to have several volunteers who flattened and prepared records such as wills and final accounts of deceased that were in the probate files.
They began the flattening and preparation project in May 2016.
The old records were hand written and volunteers commented on the beautiful writing up until the 1890s to early 1900s when the handwritten script changed to typing.
Volunteers found some unusual items included in the files. Receipts gave the price of $12 for the first caskets in the county. They also saw when the first cars came into the county in the early 1900s.
Judy Webb found a $5 bill from 1865 in one file. Other items found by volunteers were: newspaper clippings and obituaries, business inventories and estate sale records.
Janet Rhodebeck discovered a bequest in the folder of her great, great, great grandfather, Martin Henry. The bequest was for$50 to Wittenberg College in Springfield, Ohio. It was worth $75 at the time of his death in 1865. That discovery gave her a glimpse into her ancestor’s life that she had no knowledge of before the project.
Volunteer Ruth Logan calls the process of unfolding and uncovering details in the lives of people over 100 years ago “addictive.” Rhodebecks recognized Logan, Barb Brewer, Joann Myers and Mary Kay Myers for their dedication in volunteering for the project.
The Morrow County collection from probate and marriage records will become accessible at no cost to people researching their family history. Family Search is a free service and it also has a free sign-in at Family Search.org. You can also search the catalog, digitized books, genealogies, the Wiki and the learning center without signing in.
Family Search volunteers, Judy and Lynn Webb, began the digitizing in November 2017 and they are scheduled to be in Mount Gilead for 18 months to do the digital photographing. The Webbs are very appreciative of the work of preparation by Morrow County volunteers. They said that some Family Search volunteers have very little help and have to do all the tedious work of preparation besides doing the photographing.
When the project is finished in several months, both Morrow County and Family Search will have a copy of everything online. The online records will include marriage records in the county from 1848 through 2017 and the probate records from 1851 through 1935 of all individuals who were in Morrow County at the time of their death.