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Lake County Ohio GenWeb

Visitor Information

Welcome to Lake County! On your genealogical research trip we want you to be as successful as possible. You can accomplish this by planning ahead and knowing what awaits you in the area. This writing is intended to give you some ideas of how to go about researching in this county, where to find the things you need, and where to find help.

Geography Lake County was created from Geauga County in 1840. It was too small, so they connected Chagrin (now Willoughby area) from Cuyahoga County. It was still too small to be a county, so they made the north border at the international line in the middle of Lake Erie, making more than half of the county under water! Lake county initially consisted of eight townships, approximately 5 miles square. Much of the township acreage has now been annexed into municipalities. The land is rolling, with an actual mountain in Kirtland Hills known as Little Mountain. The four main west-east roads are SR 2, US 20 (North Ridge), SR 84 (South Ridge), and I 90.

The glacial ridges are generally three in number, although this varies. North Ridge is US 20. South Ridge is SR 84, and Middle Ridge is between, especially noted in Perry and Madison. The glaciers left spots of different types of soil which made the land perfect for nurseries, with the ability to grow plants requiring different types of soil from clay to sand within very close proximity.

Several north-south roads tend to be "center" roads, which means they run through the center of the original townships. From the west, the big north-south roads are SR 91 (SOM Center or Solon-Orange-Mayfield), SR 306 (Reynolds, Broadmoor, Chillicothe), SR 615 (Center St., Chillicothe Rd.), SR 44 (new), Old SR 44, (now Richmond St., Liberty St., and Painesville-Ravenna Road), Vrooman Road, SR 528 (Lake St., Hubbard Rd., Madison-Thompson Road), and County Line Road.

Rivers Cunningham Creek (now Arcola) was the center of Madison's shipbuilding industry.

Grand River winds scenically through Ashtabula County, Madison, Perry, Leroy, and curves north heading through Painesville, ending between Grand River and Fairport. The mouth of this river was a natural harbor and was large enough for ships. Fairport and Grand River history is mainly based on the immigration and industry afforded by this harbor, still a major shipping dock area.

The Chagrin River, with its two branches winding scenically through Geauga County, added to the Willoughby area industry. There is a wonderful sport boating harbor where this river meets the lake.

Climate The area tends to have lovely seasons, often over 80 degrees in summer, and below freezing in winter. The humidity is generally high due to Lake Erie's proximity. The weather changes quickly, so prepare with layered clothing and an umbrella.

Accommodations Most people stay in Concord or Mentor for a variety of reasons, but there are motels or hotels in several municipalities. Rates often change depending on the conferences in Cleveland and the day of the week. Most hotel chains call this area, especially western Lake County, Cleveland-East. The county now sports several bed and breakfast facilities. A listing is included at the Lake County Visitor's Bureau at

Restaurants Here is a map of some convenient Painesville eateries and research sites available. A fuller list of Painesville dining spots with addresses is here. In Mentor, SR 306 between SR 2 and US 20 might be considered the county's restaurant row. Many chains from fast food to much more formal are located here or nearby.

Here and elsewhere, there are a few restaurants of historical interest:

Vault Steak House and Wine Room in Madison Village in the old bank building (limited hours)
Tony's Subway Inn in Painesville
Silvestro's Depot Café in Painesville
Rider's 1812 Inn on US 20 west of Painesville
Hellriegel's Inn on US 20 further west.
Sawyer House, even further west on US 20 in Mentor
Brennan's Fish House is in Grand River.
The Arabica Coffee House in the old Willoughby Hardware Store.
The Willoughby Brewing Company in Willoughby.
Gavi's in the old interurban power house in Willougbhy.

Shopping Many shopping complexes are available throughout the county. Most can be found on US 20. When the Great Lakes Mall was built in Mentor in the 1960s, it was the largest in the country.

Family entertainment The county sports several places of interest and the Visitor's Bureau keeps up with these things. Here are some highlights:

The beaches-- Fairport (has parking fee) and Headlands State Park
President James A Garfield Historic Site in Mentor
The Kirtland Temple in Kirtland
The Newell K. Whitney Store, an ashery and a sawmill are included in a tour of Historic Kirtland Mormon sites
Lake MetroParks (listed in the telephone book with map), including
Lake Farm Park with living farm displays and demos
Lake County History Center along with the historical society in its new home - the County Home in Painesville Township
Many golf courses
Painesville Speedway
A cruise line and fishing charter boats at Grand River
Coho salmon fishing capitol of the world at Arcola Creek and Chagrin River in season (license required of adults)
Several theater complexes, in Willoughby Hills, Willoughby, Mentor, Painesville Twp.
Many municipal swimming pools and parks
Fine arts complexes in Willoughby, Mentor and Madison
Eastlake is home to AA baseball team, the Lake County Captains.

If this does not keep the family busy while you are researching, send them to Cleveland to the Rock Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History, or the new Aquarium. If you go to research at the Western Reserve Historical Society, besides the library there is a wonderful mansion museum and the Crawford Auto and Aviation Museum.

Researching Most people begin in Painesville, the county seat of Lake County. Depending on what is sought, Morley Library may be a good place to begin. Here you find the obituary index, newspapers on microfilm, many indices to records, some transcriptions, maps, local census, genealogies, local clipping files, etc. (You must ask for the yearbook and older city directory collections.) Assistance is usually more plentiful in the mornings and computers are more free during school hours. The Genealogy and Local History room has pamphlets to assist and the reference librarians,usually on the third floor, can direct you to materials within the library as well as other resources in the area.

For eastern Lake County research, Madison Public Library has an index of obituaries from the Madison Press, and a small genealogy room. For Western Lake County, Willoughby Public Library has microfilm of the Willoughby newspapers. Other public libraries may also have items of interest on their local pioneers and historical events and buildings.

A trip for the Lake County Court records will be beneficial. For the most part, no records are accessible from the court house itself. The probate records are located in the West Annex, the old post office building, just to the west of the court house at 25 North Park Place. The back door is the entrance. You will find marriage records, probate birth and death records (1867-1908), guardianships, estates, minister records, probate naturalizations, and other probate records. Because not all of the records fit in the new offices, call ahead in case records must be retrieved. This is especially true if you need to research estates and you have only one day.

The front door of the West Annex building leads to the lower level and the Common Pleas Court offices. Here you find records pertaining to divorces, criminal cases, lawsuits, and Common Pleas naturalizations.

Land and tax records are located at the Lake County Administration Building complex at 105 Main Street. Current plat maps are digitized and found at the map department on the lower level. The Recorder's office is on the lower level across from the tax map department. The treasurer's office in the south of the building has the tax records on microfilm. The west end of the complex, the old bank building, is the home of the election board and voter registration (1961 to current only).

While in Painesville, you may wish to visit the Lake County General Health District, 33 Mill Street. Here you can obtain copies of birth and death certificates from 1909 to current. These are not browseable except certain hours. Call ahead for a computer spot. Birth certificates (not deaths yet) from anywhere in Ohio can be obtained at any county health department. Certificate cost is less than 25.00 each. Ask for the "long" form or genealogy copy rather than the computerized certificate.

The Lake County Historical Society is a wonderful place to see a piece of history, and it has a good research library as well. Many of the books and records are indexed into a surname file. There are multiple genealogy and history files and a large collection of manuscripts and photographs. This organization certifies the research for heritage home and building plaques and has the paperwork for these.

Many smaller local historical societies have collections of materials on pioneer families, and local information. Do call ahead to arrange a visit, as most have very limited hours, and many are happy to open by appointment.

Kirtland Family History Center is a branch of the Mormon Family History Library in Salt Lake City. There is a collection of permanent loan films there, as well as a nice collection of books and indexes especially for Kirtland and Lake County. For Mormon history, there is a special area in the Historic Kirtland area with a large set of Mormon genealogies, and a good collection of land abstracts for the Kirtland area. The Mormon movement in Kirtland occurred in the 1830s, and there is much history involved with this. Hours are limited. Call to be sure they are open. Historic Kirtland is also a wonderful area to tour at no cost, and they have an interactive display of early Kirtland pioneers and Mormons in general.

Cemetery offices tend to be open in the mornings. Contact information is available elsewhere on this site. Inscriptions can be found for all of the county's cemeteries at the Lake County Genealogical Society Projects Page at

If you are researching prior to 1840, you will want to visit Chardon, the county seat of Geauga County (pronounced Gee awe' gah, with the first G soft, and the second hard.). The best place to start is Geauga County Library in Chardon. They have on microfilm many county records, as well as large surname indices. They are most helpful. The courthouse records for the most part are on microfilm at the library, and the court clerks will refer you there. Yuo must have permission to view probate records since 1950 and it must be at the courthouse. (A devastating fire burned the courthouse to the ground, but fortunately, no records were lost.) The land records are at the Recorder's office across the street from the court house (opposite the library on the square) in a storefront, although the older originals are better seen at the archives. The Geauga County Archives is at 470 Center Street, (SR 44) on the north side of the road, west of town. It is way in the back of the complex in Building 8. They may have limited hours, and a call ahead is a wise idea.

Prior to 1840 Willoughby Township (now Eastlake, Lakeline, Timberlake, Waite Hill, Wickliffe, Willoughby, Willoughby Hills, and Willowick) was called Chagrin and was part of Cuyahoga County. The place to start there is the Cuyahoga County Archives on Franklyn Blvd. near West 28th Street in Cleveland.

Maps A free Lake county map is available at the Engineers office on Blackbrook Road off New SR 44. You may also be able to get one at the tax map department in the Administration Bldg. If you do a large amount of Lake County research, the Engineer's office and its tax map department also sell a CD ROM of the retired tax maps, generally from early 1900s to 1960s plus. They include successive owners and deed sources.

Copies For reasonable photocopies in Painesville, try Morley Library. Closest FedEx Office Print & Ship is at 8390 Mentor Ave., Mentor, OH 44060.

Most of all, enjoy your visit, and we wish you successful ancestor hunting!

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Last updated 7 July 2013

© Cynthia Turk 2002-13. All Rights Reserved.