Research Trip tips

Do you want to request a research query? We have several people on staff that can help you. We have one researcher that will conduct detailed researchers and two others that can answer brief questions and do small lookups or research. When you request a research query, be aware of what you want to learn from the query. Make sure to clarify the sources you’ve checked already and what information you want to learn. Be specific! Each query is conducted per ancestor (not surname or families).

The cost for a detailed research query is $30.00 for non members and $25.00 for chapter members. You will need to submit your query via our website, using pay pal or a credit card, at which time when you click “submit” the payment will arrive and the researcher will contact you for details. If you want to request a query via United States mail, then mail in your query and include as much information as possible and a check or money order for the amount owed. Please include your name, phone number and email address. Many times we can return the query by taking images and sending them to your email or texting them to you. Technology is wonderful!

If you aren’t sure about your query, that is, what type of a query you are requesting, then email me (Flora), at I will clarify what type of a research query it is and if it is something easily accessible, most of the time there is no fee charged (except if you requested copies and mailings, etc.) and we just simply ask you if you’d like to make a donation.

If you’re planning a research trip to our county, please go to our website at and search for the topic “How to Prepare for a Research Trip.” This article is very informative and help save you time and head off any surprises. Always call or research the hours of all the businesses you want to visit before you arrive. Plan your trip wisely and my best advice, from 40 years of experience is to give yourself enough time. Most people that plan research trips don’t allow enough time to really research. Make sure to map out the locations of the places you want to visit. You’ll save yourself a lot of time! We are a large county and for example, traveling from our furthest point south to our furthest point north could take you 45 minutes or longer. Make a check list of the places you want to visit and research. One day research trips are not recommended - unless you have a very short list of sources and you know exactly what and where you’re looking for it.

The following is a brief list of some of the locations you may want to visit if you’re coming to Jefferson County, Ohio.

  • The Jefferson County Chapter, OGS (our business hrs. are limited, so make sure you you email us in advance to see what records we have in advance so you can plan your time wisely. Arriving 30 minutes before we close often happens and many times our researchers don’t have enough time to search our records.
  • The Schiappa Public Library (check with Ericka Grubbs to see when she is in the Ohio Research room. You don’t want to plan a trip here and have the head librarian on vacation when you arrive. This does happen. I had 2 researcher come all the way from Michigan and Erika was on vacation and the fill in was a new employee and had no idea how to help the researchers. And then they arrived at our office 30 minutes before it closed. So- plan in advance!
  • The Jefferson County Historical SocietyBe aware of their hours and what sources they have there. They are close to the Jefferson County Courthouse, so make sure to “map out” your trip.
  • Historical Societies – Learn which towns have Historical Societies and where they are located. They are usually small and staffed by volunteers so make calls and find out what they have and their hours of business. Here are the Historical Societies: Smithfield, Mt. Pleasant, Toronto, Richmond and Bergholz and of course, the Jefferson County Historical Society may have information on Steubenville as well as the entire county. (there may be more that I am not aware of)
  • The Jefferson County Courthouse – Make sure to contact each office and be aware of what records they house. Also, be aware that our chapter houses many of the old records that used to be stored at the county courthouse in the probate office and clerk of courts office. The Recorders Office (for land and deed records) is always good and also the engineers office to check to see if they have any maps is can be helpful too. All of the Recorder’s office has been digitized and is available on ... Some government offices close for lunch, so be sure to ask!
  • The County and City Health Dept. – For birth or death records. Check to see the date ranges, costs, availability, and hours of business.
  • CemeteriesMany researchers want to see where their ancestors are buried. If you aren’t sure where or what is the easiest way to get to the cemetery, you can ask me (Flora) or check with Erika at the public library. She can be reached by email. The best time to visit a cemetery is not in the summer (many are grown over and very hot and have snakes, poison ivy, etc) but in the late fall or early spring (or even winter if it’s mild), when the sun is shining on the front of the tombstones and you can stand with the sun behind you to take the photos. Many times of course, the photos can now be enhanced - so not to worry!
  • Your Ancestors Business or Land that they ownedFrom a map, or deed, or land grant, or probate/estate packet you can learn the township, range and section numbers of the land your ancestor owned. This never changes! We have maps at the engineers office (at the county courthouse), online (Google) and public library and our office to assist you in locating the land. We have maps for 1856 and 1872 and our chapter donated several maps of each townships to the library. OR you can research this out before you arrive and allow time to get the GPS and try to locate the parcel or land your ancestor owned. BEWARE! Private property should not be accessed without permission. This could be dangerous and is strongly advised to get permission before entering any parcels of private property. We have many redneck and rural areas. I am not kidding.
  • Relatives/FriendsAllow time to visit (and maybe interview?) family members, distance relatives or friends that live here. They can be a wealth of information! Bring pictures or ask them to show you pictures. If you’re visiting an elderly family member or family friend, when the pictures come out, the memories begin to flow!

On your way to or from Jefferson County, Ohio:

  • Visit the Ohio Genealogical Society in Mansfield, Ohio. Google it for hours and sources, etc. It is the second largest statewide genealogy society in the U.S.A.
  • Visit the Ohio Historical Society near Columbus. Google is for hours and sources, etc.
  • Visit “the lay of the land for Jefferson County!” Note that we sit on the Ohio River and that we are a Tri-State area, with Ohio, PA., and WV (formerly VA) all within minutes of each other. Many times when I haven’t been able to locate a record here, I will cross the river OR the county line (north, south, east or west) and find a record! Many of our ancestors didn’t pay any attention to the boundaries of townships, counties, and even states. Back in the pioneer days many times it didn’t matter which law institution you filed your legal papers. I accidentally found one of my ancestors death records, who was a river boat pilot across the river in Wellsburg, WV (then VA). He was piloting over to WV (then VA) and he was visiting or conducting business and died. His death was filed there and he was buried there. It took me a couple of years to think to “look across the river” for records. Now I know better!
  • Many of our pioneer ancestors came from Western Pennsylvania. Are you trying to figure out where your ancestors came from before they arrived in Jefferson County, Ohio? Many of the surnames we find on records in Washington County, PA and other western counties are one or two generations before our discovered generation were located here in our records and many were right after the America Revolutionary War – due to land grants, etc. This happens as well with parts of Brooke and Hancock counties in WV (then VA,) as well as all of our neighboring Ohio counties. Study maps of this area before you arrive and get a “lay of the land” first. Many of our surrounding counties were part of Jefferson County in 1797 and up until they formed from us. Are your ancestors Quakers? Note the time frame and where the migration route was for the Quakers before they settled here. Many came from NC. You can do the same for specific religious groups and also nationalities.

Keep good notes! I can’t emphasize this enough. I have seen it time and time again, researchers putting there research aside, for a long time or a short time and then having no idea what sources they already referenced. Save yourself a lot of trouble and time – document your sources.

  • Make sure to take pictures of your tombstones.
  • Make sure to take clear images of your documents and always take an image of the journal or cover page so when you get home you don’t wonder “where did I get this from?”
  • Make sure to write (on the back) of your copies where the source came from
  • Make sure to sight every source that you have poured over – so you don’t keep pouring over it time and time again. Bring a notebook or your laptop and record everything.
  • Make sure to check occasionally for new sources imaged from our county and all over the world for that matter!
  • Most locations offer free Wi-Fi so bring your laptop, your digital cameras, your cell phones. They are welcome in most research locations. If in doubt, ask before you arrive.

Always remember that no one searches for your ancestors the way you search for your ancestor. It is always worth a trip to the place where your ancestors lived. It gives you a feel for where they lived and how they lived. It makes a connection that a computer or online searching can’t make for you. If at all possible, I would strongly encourage you to prepare and visit our county and seek our your Jefferson County ancestors! You know them and many times you feel them helping you.

Written and submitted by Flora L. VerStraten-Merrin

June 13, 2017