Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower

Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

Nov 09

Property Research 101: Using Greene County Records

Posted on November 9, 2018 at 8:45 AM by Melissa Dalton

Have you ever attempted to do research on your property or tried to do a house history? Did you quickly learn that it is a long, and involved, process? More than once, we have undoubtedly crushed someone’s spirits when they came in asking “for all our records on” fill in the blank. Unfortunately, we do not house our records in such a way, and there is a process to doing property research. This week, we would like to highlight Greene County records that are useful when conducting property research, as well as provide a guide we created to assist our patrons in their research.

When thinking of property research, one of our most widely used records are the Tax duplicates, which date from 1806 through 2007 (Fig 1). These records are essential for property research, and list landowners by township and/or city. Tax records also indicate location of property, when property was bought/sold and by whom, and sometimes they demonstrate when buildings were added or if there was a loss. In some of the records (which date from 1826-1930, but are incomplete), taxable personal property might be identified as well (person owns cattle, carriage, etc).

Fig 1. Example of tax record (JPG)
Fig 1. Example of tax records

Another valuable resource are the deed records and indexes. The Archives holds the deed records from 1803 through 1864, as well as the indexes (on microfilm) from 1803 through 1909, however, these are incomplete. Deed records provide researchers the legal description of the property, value of property, when property was bought/sold and by whom, and these records allow researchers to trace the history of the property (Fig 2). Many times, researchers use the tax duplicates in conjunction with the deed records to identify and trace the property through time. We also house a small sampling of the mortgage records, dating from 1939 through 1959, which also can be used with the tax and deed records.

Fig 2. Example of deed record (JPG)
Fig 2. Example of deed records

Engineer Maps are a great resource in property research as well. These records provide a visual illustration of the property, which include names of property owners, names of streets and other landmarks, property boundaries, and sometimes where buildings were located on the property. The Archives houses county maps dating from 1870 through 2001.

Fig 3. Example of engineer map (JPG)
Fig 3. Example of engineer maps

Survey records provide much of the same information as the engineer maps – names of landowners, names of neighbors or adjacent property – but these records also furnish the researcher with legal descriptions and land features, and many times, a sketch of the property (Fig 4). You may have noticed that we highlight one Greene County Surveyor every week on Facebook with our Fieldbook Friday posts. Washington Galloway was the surveyor from 1840 through the 1880s, and we have many of his fieldbooks from that time frame. Additionally, we have the survey records from 1792 through 1995. Frequently we use the Greene County Atlases with the survey records to gain a better understanding of the property. The atlases we have available are from 1855, 1874, and 1896.

Fig 4. Example of survey record (JPG)
Fig 4. Example of survey records

In last week’s blog, we discussed records useful for genealogy, and there are two types of records that are quite beneficial in property research. The first are the will and estate records. These records provide the researcher with the value of property, changes in ownership, and how property has been passed down through generations. These records date from 1803 through 2017.

The second type are our Common Pleas Court records. Disputes of land ownership, and petitions to partition land, can be found in the Common Pleas records. These petitions might be due to dower rights, disputes over property lines, partitions of land for heirs, and part of divorce proceedings. These records vary, but date from 1804 through 1981.

Lastly, we have a terrific guide to researching Greene County properties, which you can access here. And remember, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us! We are here to help and serve!

Until Next Time…
Nov 02

Using Greene County Records for Genealogy Research

Posted on November 2, 2018 at 12:37 PM by Melissa Dalton

We have many people who stop in the Archives hoping to do family histories. Although we do not have personal collections, many of our records are incredibly useful when conducting your research. This week, we thought we could offer some advice on places to go and records to consider when doing your genealogy.

Some of the most requested records are birth and death records. Here in Greene County, our records date from 1869 through 1909; however, not all births and deaths were recorded regularly, so if someone never got to town to report it, it may have gone unrecorded. These records can provide valuable information, such as names of parents, location of birth/death, date of birth/date, cause of death, and age at death (Fig 1). Please note that all birth and death records after 1909 are held at the Greene County Combined Health District.

Fig 1. Example of Birth records (JPG)
Fig 1. Example of Death records (JPG)
Fig 1. Example of birth/death records

Another one of our frequently requested records are marriage records. These records date from 1803 through 2012. Unfortunately, early marriage records do not include the names of parents, and it is not until 1899 that these names appear in the records. These records can provide information such as names of bride and groom, date of marriage, name of the officiant, previous marriages/divorces, and if any children from previous marriage (Fig 2). It should be noted, however, that up until the late 1970s, the law required the marriage license be obtained from the county of residence of the bride. It does not matter which county one was married, but where the license was obtained. This is important to keep in mind when looking for marriage records.

Fig 2. Example of Marriage records (JPG)
Fig 2. Example of marriage records

Wills, estates, and guardianships can provide valuable insight in the family history, and our records date from 1803 through 2017. These records provide names and relationships of family members, indicate ownership of property, and cane provide an interesting look into family dynamics (family feuds/disputes, etc.) (Fig 3). We actually have a blog that was written earlier this year that shows just the type of family disputes one might run across in these records (link to blog).

Fig 3. Example of Estate records (JPG)
Fig 3. Example of will/estate records

An unconventional record to check might be our Commissioners’ Minutes, which date from 1803 through 1995. There may be times one knows their family lived in a particular area, but they never owned property. Family surnames are provided in meeting minutes for various reasons, so you may have success locating a family member in these records.

Common Pleas Court Records are another great resource. The time range for these records varies based on the type of record, but the overall range is 1804 through 1981. These records provide research information about divorces, financial cases, petitions for partition of land, and criminal cases.

One of our most valuable resources are our manumission/emancipation records (Fig 4). These records document the freed blacks living in Greene County from 1805 through 1861. Emancipation/manumission records can demonstrate where family members were born and/or living prior to being emancipated, as well as physical descriptions, and personal comments of owners.

Fig 4. Example of Emancipation/Manumission records (JPG)
Fig 4. Example of Emancipation/Manumission Records

One type of record people may not know we have are naturalization records. These were found in the Common Please minutes/journals from 1822 through 1958. They indicate names, country of origin/allegiance, date of arrival, country of residence, and date they became a citizen (Fig 5).

Fig 5. Example of Naturalization records (JPG)
Fig 5. Example of Naturalization records

The Greene County Records Center and Archives has many wonderful resources for genealogists. Many of these records are now available on FamilySearch, which offers users free access with the creation of an account. Additionally, we provide a full inventory on our website, and I highly recommend you check it out when beginning your research. Also remember, you are more than welcome to contact us at the Greene County Archives with any questions!

Next week, we will provide information about records useful to conduct property research, so be sure to check back next Friday!

Until Next Time…
Oct 26

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Posted on October 26, 2018 at 9:26 AM by Melissa Dalton

Halloween is right around the corner and we have two Greene County murders (and maybe hauntings??) to consider this week. Wednesday we told you about two of Igo’s stories, “Cut Throat in the Kitchen” and “The Ghost of the County Jail”. These two stories have a connection, and we’ve actually written blog posts about both of these murders (links below). Before we distinguish fact from fiction, let’s recount the ghost stories of each.

The first story, “Cut Throat in the Kitchen,” explores the tale of a haunting in Fairfield (now part of Fairborn). Matthew Geiss and his wife moved into a rundown house in Fairfield. There were rumors of ghosts, but Geiss didn’t care. However, one night he left his wife alone and made his way to Dayton. While out, his wife decided to do some knitting while she sat in the kitchen. She suddenly heard the door creaking, but saw nothing. She went back to her knitting humming to herself as she worked, but then the creaking came again, and when she turned around, she saw a dead man’s hand reach inside. Mrs. Geiss screamed and fainted, being found by her husband upon his return. When the story was told to the neighbors, they told the Geisses about a murder that took place in their very kitchen. The claim was that a man – drunk, angry, and jealous – slashed his wife’s throat and left to the bleed to death on the kitchen floor. Their children ran from the home in fear, hiding in the corn field behind the house (Fig 1).

Fig 1. "The Cut Throat in the Kitchen" by Harold Igo (JPG)
Fig 1. “Cut Throat in the Kitchen” by Harold Igo (Greene County Archives)

Does this story sound vaguely familiar? It should! This is the Ransbottom murder, and we covered it in a three-part blog post in February 2018 (,, and We have provided links to the blogs, but here’s a quick recap of what really happened in on the Fairfield property. Ransbottom was in and out of jail, and his wife and children received help from neighbors. One night, shortly after being released from jail, Ransbottom came home to find his wife out. When she returned, he was drunk and angry. Realizing he meant to do her harm, she ran from the house. Ransbottom caught her in the back on the yard, slashed her throat, and then went into the house and attempted suicide by cutting his own throat. Ransbottom was charged and convicted of murder, and was hanged in Greene County, which was the only legal hanging in Greene County (Fig 2).

Fig 2. Notice in the Cambridge Reveille, dated October 27, 1849 (JPG)
Fig 2. Notice in Cambridge Reveille, dated October 27, 1849 (

The second story, “The Ghost of the County Jail”, recounts a story that a local man claims his father told him about a meeting with Ransbottom while he awaited his execution, and the suicide of a murderer roughly thirty years later. It is the second part of the story that is of consequence here. Igo’s story describes the indictment of a farmer, McCaslin, of the murder of his neighbor, Fogwell. McCaslin proclaimed innocence, but the evidence against him was enough to seal his fate. The authorities tried to wear McCaslin down, and told him the story of old Ransbottom. They told him if he didn’t confess, he would meet the same doom. McCaslin was left in his cell to contemplate. The next morning, the sheriff found McCaslin had hanged himself in his cell. The story claims he had a note pinned to his shirt that said, “Ransbottom, I’m coming” (Fig 3).

Fig 3. "The Ghost of the County Jail" by Harold Igo (JPG)
Fig 3. “The Ghost of the County Jail” by Harold Igo (Greene County Archives)

You may recognize this story as well. We covered it back in 2015 ( and! There are some inconsistencies in the story above. The main issue is that Fogwell was murdered by William Ritchison (also recorded as Richardson), not McCaslin. Fogwell and Ritchison were neighbors, and had been feuding for years. One night, Ritchison decided to end the feud once and for all. He ambushed Fogwell, shooting him several times (Fig 4). Fogwell didn’t die immediately, and revealed to authorities that Ritchison was the shooter. Ritchison was tried and convicted of murder, and sentenced to death by hanging (Fig 5). Ritchison appealed and was granted a second trial. To his dismay, the second trial ended with the same fate. Ritchison tried to escape, starved himself, and upon realizing he was not getting out of his cell alive, he took his own life.

Fig 4. Washington Galloway sketch of crime scene (JPG)
Fig 4. Washington Galloway sketch of crime scene (Greene County Archives)

Fig 5. Excerpt from 1873 Washington Galloway Diary, pg 61 (JPG)
Fig 5. 1873 Washington Galloway Diary, page 61 (Greene County Historical Society)

Both Ransbottom and Ritchison were men who met similar fates, and at no fault to anyone but themselves. They let anger and jealousy get the best of them, and suffered the ultimate price for their wicked ways. However, one might ask, was the ghost of Ransbottom in that jail cell with Ritchison? Was Ritchison being haunted and terrorized by Ransbottom, slowly driving him mad? Was the thought of suicide implanted by Ransbottom? Only you can decide what you believe happened…

Until Next Time…

Greene County Archives
Greene County Historical Society
Igo, Harold. (1943). Haunted Houses: Spooky Tales of Yellow Springs. Yellow Springs Historical Society.