The City of Cincinnati Birth and Death Records from 1865 to 1912 are now fully online and available for research and study at http://digitalprojects.libraries.uc.edu/Births_and_Deaths/.
The 524,360 records, part of the Local Government Records Collection of the University of Cincinnati’s Archives and Rare Books Library, are of great historical and genealogical importance. Each “birth record” contains the name of the individual along with birth date, race, gender, name and birthplace of father and mother, occupation of father, name of doctor or midwife, and hospital. For each “death record” the following information is available: name, age, date and cause of death, address, occupation, race, gender, attending physician, funeral home, and place of burial.
Visitors to the collection can click on the full display of each entry to see the complete catalog record or the image of the original record. They can also search by a person’s name, date of birth or death, occupation, and cause of death. To assist researchers in using the collection, there is a Frequently Asked Questions page that gives more information on using the collection and a glossary of 19th-century medical terms such as Catarrhal Fever (common cold), Dropsy (accumulation of water), and Parturition (process of giving birth).
According to Kevin Grace, project director and UC archivist, “these records are a tremendous resource not only for Cincinnatians, but for Ohioans and researchers across the country as well. The free Internet access will allow a variety of research strategies that have not been previously available.”
In addition to being a resource for genealogists and the general public looking for information about an ancestor, the Cincinnati birth and death records hold significant research value to historians, sociologists, epidemiologists, public health researchers, and other researchers worldwide. For instance, researchers can identify residence patterns, occupational health issues, ethnic diversity, and general health practices.
“From a teaching perspective, I can attest that electronic access to historical birth and death records has incredible value in teaching epidemiologic concepts to our public health students. As just one example, instructors can use the data to illustrate the transition in causes of death from infectious to chronic diseases,” said Ronnie D. Horner, UC professor and chair, Department of Public Health Sciences. He went on to say, “from a research perspective, my faculty would have access to important data for numerous investigations into public health issues where a historical context is essential.”
With a few exceptions, the official death records for the City of Cincinnati begin in 1865 and those for birth in 1874. As a result of a government records program of the Ohio Network of American History Research Centers, over 500,000 card files from the Cincinnati Health Department were transferred to the UC Libraries’ Archives and Rare Books Library in 2003. These cards were sometimes typed and many times handwritten, and were created by the Cincinnati Health Department several decades ago to preserve the data, which were originally entered in ledger books. The ledger books are also preserved in the UC Libraries, but are of such fragility that any turning of the pages results in flaking and tears. The informational cards are considered the official and legal records of births and deaths for this time period.
“It is part of our mission to make unique research collections available to UC students and faculty. The digitization of these historical records and their accessibility via the Internet provides a tremendous resource for researchers throughout the world,” said Victoria A. Montavon, dean and university librarian.
Support for the digitization of these records was provided by a Library Services and Technology Act grant awarded by the State Library of Ohio. The collection is housed on the University of Cincinnati Digital Resource Commons, part of the OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons, a network of digital repositories.