Introduction to Ohio State Government
The State of Ohio is divided into 88 counties. Each county is administered by three County Commissioners, who are elected by popular vote. Each county has a county seat, or "seat of justice", which is the center of administration for the county. The court house and most county offices will be in the county seat.
Other county offices of interest to genealogists:
Probate Court - maintains records of marriages (from county founding to present), births (1867-1908), deaths (1867-1908) and wills and probate records (from county founding to present).
Health Department - maintains birth records (1908 to present) and death records (1908 to present). County health departments are also charged with regulation of food service establishments and public water systems. Copies of birth and death records are also forwarded to the Ohio Department of Health.
Recorder - maintains property records of the county. All deeds, mortgages and other property-related records are the responsibility of the county Recorder, an elected position.
Engineer - maintains the county's road system. Engineers are also charged with keeping a current map of their county and making a copy available upon request. The engineer is an elected position.
Sheriff - the chief law enforcement officer of unincorporated areas of a county. The sheriff is also charged with operating the county jail. The sheriff is an elected position.
Auditor - determines property values and maintains property tax records.
All Ohio counties are subdivided into townships. Townships are administered by Township Trustees who have no legislative authority. They administer the township for the State. All townships also have a township clerk, who is charged with maintaining the official records of the Township Trustees meetings. Most older cemeteries are owned by the Township Trustees. The records available vary by township and by cemeteries.
Townships which meet certain population specifications may adopt a charter and enjoy home rule, which authorizes the Trustees to have legislative authority and gives them police authority.
Villages are smaller incorporated areas within the state, and contain fewer than 5000 electors. Villages are incorporated by the State and will have a form of government and authorities authorized by the village's charter, as amended by local ordinance or election.
Cities are larger incorporated areas within the state and contain more than 5000 electors. Cities are incorporated by the State, will have a form of government and authorities authorized by the city's charter, as amended by local ordinance or election.
Registration of property ownership and of marriages has been required in Ohio since attaining statehood in 1803. If the county you're researching was formed after that time, the records will be retained by the original county.
Several counties have suffered court house fires over the years and many records were destroyed in the fire. If property and marriage records show as later than the county's formation, then that court house probably lost records in a fire.
Registration of births and deaths was not required until 1867.