Introducing Historic Ohio Law

Ohio was the first state birthed from the Northwest Territory. It is the last state formerly in Northwest Territory land to join The Advancing Genealogist’s online law library.

The Ohio Statutory Law page has session laws, compiled laws, and compilations about legal topics. Curious to know about “An act regulating marriages” passed in 1803? See the 1803 session laws to learn at what age a man or woman could marry, when consent was required, and who could give it.[1]

Check Acts of a Local Nature to find private acts, which give rights to limited parties, like individuals. Ohio’s local acts volumes were printed separately from public acts for years. Many have volume indexes.

This example is from Acts of a Local Nature Passed by the 21st General Assembly of the State of Ohio, Vol. 21 (1823), p. 33.

“An act to change the name of Joanna Rowley”

In summary, Joanna Rowley, age two, was the daughter of Isaac Rowley of Knox County. The court agreed to change Joanna’s name to Arminda Electa Bateman in 1823.[2]

Revised statutes compile (then current) laws under topics, like “Husband and Wife.”

Books on laws relating to certain topics or professions are included. Look for titles like A Manual for Guardians and Trustees of Minors, Insane Persons, Imbeciles, Idiots, Drunkards, and for Guardians Ad Litem, Resident and Non-Resident, Affected by the Laws of Ohio (1890); The Merchants’ Hand-book of Ohio Laws (1891); The Farmer’s Handbook Containing Laws of Ohio Relating to Agriculture (1901); and Mining Laws of Ohio (1910).

The Historic Ohio Case Law Digests page leads to volumes indexing Ohio’s earliest case law decisions to 1914. Digests list cases decided in appeals courts but do not publish cases. Use digests to learn which case reporter published a case, then find that reporter to read the case. Digests list cases topically, but often include a table of cases showing party names. Name entries are usually surname only, but a surname helps narrow the search. Also check for business names, names of ships, localities, etc.

Feel free to follow the below example to reproduce the search and prepare for your own successful searches.

I searched for my Ohio family surnames in The Digest of Decisions of the Courts of Ohio, From the earliest period to January 1st, 1914, Vol. 9, Table of Cases.

My great-grandfather, Dennis H. McBride, lived in Cleveland and Akron. He headed several businesses over the years. Some sunk like lead balloons. Others were successful. He saw courtrooms multiple times in relation to his businesses.

Several McBride entries appear in the Table of Cases. One is worth a look as it combines the family surname and a known location.

  • McBride v. Akron, 12 O.C.C. 610, 6 O.C.D. 739
  • Column of Digest: 2387, 2436, 11636, 11637, 11901, 16240[3]

The numbers after the case name refer to the case law reporters that published the decision. To read the case I need to learn which case reporters are cited as O.C.C. and O.C.D. I only need one. The court’s opinion is the same in each book. I need to know both in case only one book is available online.

The Franklin County Law Library has a list of reporter abbreviations online. Ohio C.C. [O.C.C.] is Ohio Circuit Reports (Jahn). Ohio Circuit Decisions, abbreviated Ohio Cir. Dec., must be the O.C.D. in the digest’s citation.[4]

For the citation 12 O.C.C. 610, I need volume 12 of Jahn’s Ohio Circuit Reports. The case starts on page 610. It might continue beyond page 610, but it starts there. For the citation 6 O.C.D. 739, I need volume 6, page 739, of Ohio Circuit Decisions to read the same case.

A search in Google Books for Ohio Circuit Reports Jahn led to Volume 12. The full title is Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Court of Ohio. The case McBride v. Akron is on pages 610 through 622. But drat, this 1894 case is about Lucius McBride who owned land north of Akron’s West Market Street, not Dennis H. McBride.

The court case tells that Lucius’ land was bordered on the west by Aqueduct Street. An open stream originally flowed under West Market Street, then along Aqueduct Street for 200 or 300 feet, where it crossed a culvert and flowed onto Lucius’ land. The city added a larger culvert and a drainpipe that exited onto Lucius’ land. Water and sewage flowed from the pipe. Lucius claimed he gave permission for the pipe to cross his land, not stop on it, which the city denied. The appeals court felt that the lower court made enough errors for Lucius to get a new trial.[5]

The Table of Cases reviewed earlier also showed:

  • Column of Digest: 2387, 2436, 11636, 11637, 11901, 16240

Column numbers refer to legal topics that the case addressed. Page headings tell which volumes to check for column numbers. From the 1914 set, I need Volume 2 for columns 2387 and 2436, Volume 5 for columns 11636, 11637, and 11901, and Volume 7 for column 16240.[6]

I checked column 2387 in Volume 2. Column 2387 lists cases decided that mention the topic “5. Time of Giving, (b) After the Jury Has Retired.” In Lucius’ case, charges were sent to the jury after they retired. The McBride v. Akron case is cited as a court opinion that addressed the topic.[7]

The last new Ohio page is Historic Ohio Legal Newspapers, which leads to various law journals and bulletins. While not routine reading material, they contain nuggets. Court dockets, cases heard, biographies of new judges, memorials, and obituaries for those in the legal field (sometimes, family members), and articles like “Eligibility of Women to Office” are found in these pages. The linked newspapers are just a sampling of those published, meant to illustrate a resource with potential for genealogists.

Have fun searching for Ohio family members and the laws that influenced their lives in the historic Ohio law pages.

Happy hunting!

 

[1] [Unknown], Session Laws, Acts of the State of Ohio, First Session of The General Assembly, Vol. 1 (Chillicothe, Ohio: Printed by N. Willis, 1803; reprint Norwalk, Ohio: The Laning Co., 1901), 31, An act regulating marriages; digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com : accessed 15 November 2021).
[2] P. H. C. Olmsted, Session Laws, Acts of a General Nature, Passed at the First Session of the Twenty-First General Assembly of the State of Ohio, Vol. 21 (Columbus, Ohio: Printer at the Office of the Columbus Gazette, 1826), 33, An act to change the name of Joanna Rowley; digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com : accessed 15 November 2021).
[3] Wm. Herbert Page, Digest, The Digest of the Decisions of the Courts of Ohio, From the earliest period to January 1st, 1914, Vol. 9 (Cincinnati, Ohio: The W. H. Anderson Co., 1915), 448, McBride v. Akron, 12 Ohio C.C. 610, 6 O.C.D. 739 (8th Circuit, 1894); digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com : accessed 15 November 2021).
[4] Franklin County Law Library, Research Guide, “Ohio Primary Law Legal Research Guide: Cases”;  Franklin County Law Library (https://fclawlib.libguides.com/ohioprimarylaw/cases : accessed 15 November 2021); Reporter Abbreviations.
[5] Carl G. Jahn, Reporter, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Court of Ohio, Vol. 12 (Columbus, Ohio: The Capital Printing and Publishing Co., 1896), 610–622, McBride v. Akron; digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com : accessed 15 November 2021); McBride v. Akron, 12 Ohio C.C. 610 (8th Circuit, 1894).
[6] Wm. Herbert Page, Digest, The Digest of the Decisions of the Courts of Ohio, From the earliest period to January 1st, 1914, Vol. 9 (Cincinnati, Ohio: The W. H. Anderson Co., 1915), 448, McBride v. Akron, 12 Ohio C.C. 610, 6 O.C.D. 739 (8th Circuit, 1894).
[7] Wm. Herbert Page, Digest, The Digest of the Decisions of the Courts of Ohio, From the earliest period to January 1st, 1914, Vol. 2 (Cincinnati, Ohio: The W. H. Anderson Co., 1914), 2387, “5. Time of Giving, (b) After Jury Has Retired,” citing McBride v. Akron, 12 Ohio C.C. 610, 6 O.C.D. 739 (8th Circuit, 1894); digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com : accessed 15 November 2021).
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