Hamilton County Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 15865
Cincinnati, Ohio 45215-0865
Telephone:  (513) 956-7078

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A chapter of the
Ohio Genealogical Society

Guardianships and Orphanages

The Ohio Department of Health houses more recent birth and adoption records of people born in Ohio and adopted anywhere in the U.S. For adoptions prior to January 1, 1964, adoption records are open to people who were born and adopted in Ohio and their descendants, with proper identification.
For adoptions in Hamiltion County between 1964 and September 18, 1996, adoption records are sealed and only opened by an order of Probate Court.  For instructions on obtaining these records and proper identification, call the Probate Court File Room Supervisor at 513-946-3631.
Adoption records may also be found with the records of children in orphan asylums.
Guardianships – Process
Historically, if there were minor children when a parent died, the court would appoint a legal guardian for the children until they reached the age of 21, as part of the estate process: Common Pleas before 1852, Probate Court from 1852 forward. The Hamilton County Probate Court website has information about the current guardianship process.  


Records on the Probate Court Site

The Hamilton County Probate Court has digitized many of its records, including these guardianship records:
  • Guardianship docket (index), 1852-1974
  • Guardianship docket, 1852-1974
  • Estates, trusts and guardianships docket and cases, 1852-1984
  • Estate and guardianship docket and cases, 1791-1847
Records on FamilySearch
FamilySearch has also digitized guardianship records:
  • Guardians dockets, 1901-1907, 1922                                      
  • Administrators and guardianship bonds, 1791-1847
Records on Microfilm at CHPL
  • Applications for minor guardianship, 1884-1897,
  • Guardianship docket records with index, 1852-1900
Records of Children in Orphan Asylums 
Over 100,000 children spent part of their childhood in nineteen Hamilton County orphan asylums in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. More than half of these children were not “full orphans” – they had lost one parent but not both, or both parents were living but not able to take care of their children. Some children stayed in orphan asylums only a few weeks or months until their families were able to reclaim them. Many children were placed in other families in distant counties or states, with or without adoption. These records contain precious genealogical information for countless families with roots in Hamilton County: birthdates, birthplaces, birth parents, foster parents, residences, and many other family details.
HCGS has published a new index (2023), Hamilton County, Ohio, Children's Records: The Children's Home, 1864-1919, available in our store with a 20% discount for members. The Children's Home accepted over 45,000 children during this period. The publication has extracted information on their family history as well as what happened to them after placement.
Types of Orphan Asylum Records
  • Admission and dismissal records
  • Child and family histories
  • Surrender records (parents releasing custody to the asylum)
  • Indenture/placement/adoption records
  • Agreements with foster families
  • Visitors’ observations of children in foster homes
  • Reports of daily activities
  • Letters
  • School reports and grades
  • Newspaper articles
  • Financial accounts
  • Board minutes with names of children
Record Locations                        
NOTICE: The Cincinnati History Library and Archives is updating access to their online catalog. Until the new website is up and running, the links to their indexes and book, photo, manuscript and journal catalogs from this page are not working.
The records of six orphan asylums are available for research at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives (CHLA), which has placed many indexes and finding aids online. The collections at CHLA include:
  • Children’s Home of Cincinnati, 1864-1924, finding aid in the register at CHLA; records also at the Children’s Home 
  • Cincinnati Orphan Asylum, 1833-1948, records in the collection of the Convalescent Home for Children (successor to the asylum), finding aid in the register at CHLA
  • German General Protestant Orphan Home, 1849-1973, finding aid on the CHLA website; records also at Beech Acres 
  • Home for the Friendless and Foundlings, 1855-1973, records in the collection of the Maple Knoll Hospital and Home (the name used after 1955), finding aid on the CHLA website 
  • New Orphan Asylum for Colored Children, 1844-1967, finding aid on the CHLA website 
  • St. Aloysius Orphan Asylum, 1837-1992
To see the finding aids and indexes on CHLA’s website, scroll down to the collection and click Display Finding Aid. Use Control-F to search for names. CHLA’s privacy rule restricts records within the last seventy years to the subject, so that only people named in those records can view them.
The records of six asylums are available in other repositories:
The records of two maternity/infant homes may be in the Salvation Army Heritage Museum:
  • Catherine Booth Home, 1909-1998
  • Evangeline Booth Home, 1917-after 1930
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has the sacramental records of births, marriages and deaths that occurred in most of the Catholic asylums:
  • Boys’ Protectory, 1868-1972
  • Our Lady of the Woods (Girls Town), 1858-1972
  • St. Joseph Infant Asylum, 1873-?
  • St. Vincent Home for Boys, 1905-1934
  • Probably Mount St. Mary Training School, 1873-1959
Records before 1920 are available.
Record Indexes 
 published in 2023, contains the names of over 45,800 children who entered the Children’s Home of Cincinnati, Ohio between April 1864 and December 1919. Only a small portion (~11%) were surrendered and placed in foster homes or adopted. Most were subsequently returned to their families. A great deal of family information was recorded when the children entered the home, which makes this a valuable source for family history researchers as well as those researching social conditions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Subsequent documents record where surrendered children were placed and what happened to them in their new homes, sometimes until they reached adulthood. Children who were legally adopted and given a new name are indexed by both their birth name and adopted name to make it easier for the researcher to correlate.       
NOTICE: The Cincinnati History Library and Archives is updating access to their online catalog. Until the new website is up and running, the links to their indexes and book, photo, manuscript and journal catalogs from this page are not working.
  • “Children’s Home of Cincinnati Surrender Records, 1865-1890,” The Tracer (September 2002-June 2004), with names of parents or guardians, birthdates and birthplaces of children
  • Cincinnati Orphan Asylum: List of children bound from the asylum and to whom they were bound, 1835-1851, in register at CHLA
  • German General Protestant Orphan Home: Names in admission records, orphan registers, journals on children, and financial records on the CHLA website, many names in The Tracer (February 2011-November 2011); six sets of German records have been translated into English and are stored with the original records at CHLA
  • Home for the Friendless and Foundlings (Maple Knoll): Names in foundling histories, daily activity reports, admissions, and board minutes on the CHLA website 
  • House of Refuge: CHPL has indexes (not online) to the 1850-1852 and 1883-1885 case volumes which are online; UC Archives and Rare Books Library has digitized and put online the Record of Commitments (1869-1882, 1891-1902), an index, financial records and payroll records
  • New Orphan Asylum for Colored Children: Names in foster home cases, closed orphan cases, board minutes, and lady managers’ minutes on the CHLA website 
  • Deb Cyprych, “Cincinnati Orphan Asylums and Their Records, Parts One and Two,” The Tracer (February and May 2011). Detailed histories about all of these asylums, with bibliographical references and descriptions of records.
  • Deb Cyprych, “Children’s Home of Cincinnati Surrender Records, 1865-1890,” The Tracer (September 2002-June 2004). History of the Children’s Home and abstracts of records.
  • Christine S. Engels & Ursula Umberg, “German General Protestant Orphan Home Records, 1849-1973,” The Tracer (February 2011), 1. History of the Orphan Home and inventory of its records. Many names are indexed in the 2011 issues.
  • Reg Niles, Adoption Agencies, Orphanages and Maternity Homes, An Historical Directory. The book lists orphan asylums and adoption locations, including 40 Cincinnati entries. See PLCH catalog and Worldcat for availability.
page modified: May 2024