The primary objectives of First Families of Athens County, Ohio are to identify the early persons in the area that is Athens County and to honor their lasting contributions to the history of the area by recognizing their descendants. The compilation of documents copied by descendants for their applications provides an invaluable resource for genealogical and historical research in Athens County.

Requirements for Membership

Only members of the Athens County Historical Society and Museum may apply for membership in First Families of Athens County, Ohio. Applicants must complete an application proving their ancestor’s presence within the boundaries of Athens County in or before 1830 and proving their descent from that ancestor. Admissible evidence must be supplied as proof. Applications must be accompanied by a processing fee. Multiple lines may require an additional application and fee-when several lines are attached to the same application, they are not only difficult to process, they are difficult for researchers to use. Fees are non-refundable.

Rules of Evidence

The nature and extent of evidence submitted for membership in First Families of Athens County must be sufficient to prove:

  • the presence by 1830 of the ancestor within the 1830 boundaries of Athens Co
  • that the applicant is directly descended from the early Athens Countian
  • differentiation between any two persons of the same name residing in the same area at the same time. DOCUMENTS USED AS PROOF MUST BY THEMSELVES OR IN CONJUNCTION WITH OTHER DOCUMENTS ACTUALLY STATE THE FACT TO BE PROVED. More than one document may be needed to prove one fact.

Admissible Evidence

  • Evidence from vital statistics, court house or other government records, church and school records, etc… usually is considered to be beyond doubt and provides excellent proof. Census records, newspaper clippings, old letters, bible or other family records CONTEMPORARY TO THE FACTS REPORTED are also admissible.
    Old letters, biographies, obituaries, death records, etc… can be accepted as proof for only the facts the informant could have known firsthand. They cannot be accepted as proof for facts the informant could have obtained only by hearsay from older generations or from other sources. Identification of the informant and the date of the record are necessary to evaluate this type of evidence.
  • A tax list of 1831 is usually a record of taxes levied in 1830, and, therefore, can prove residence during 1830 if the individual is shown as a resident and not as an absentee owner. Inclusion in the 1830 census for Athens County is admissible. Census records cannot establish 1830 or before residency for a female ancestor unless she was the head of a household. A record of a sale of land made during or before 1830 mentioning the wife by name can establish her residency. The birth of her child in Athens County during or before 1830 is proof of her presence in the county.
  • Female ancestors must be proved by their maiden name. Marriage, church, and divorce records, obituaries, and bible records sometimes show maiden names. The maiden name can sometimes be established from an estate settlement mentioning a daughter as the wife of a particular man. African-Americans who had no surname and Native Americans can be accepted without surnames provided their identity is clearly established.
  • Proven ancestor’s children born by 1830 cannot be accepted as first persons in Athens County on this basis alone. Some documentary evidence must be included to prove they actually were in the county by 1830. The 1830 census cannot be accepted as evidence alone in this respect since names and relationships are not given for household members.
  • Tombstones usually prove only dates of birth and death but sometimes do prove relationships. Tombstones erected by later generations long after the burial are not proof.

Inadmissible Evidence

  • Circumstantial evidence or implied facts are not considered proof.
  • Hearsay is not admissible.
  • Oral, written, or published family traditions are often wrong and are inadmissible.
  • Printed or manuscript genealogies are not acceptable as proof. Family group sheets and unsupported information from an amateur or professional genealogist are also unacceptable.
  • Lineage papers from other pedigree societies are not acceptable.
  • Material authored by the applicant or family members is not proof unless it is first-hand knowledge.
  • A bible record written long after an event by a person not in a position to have known the facts first-hand is not proof.
  • When a father/mother are above or below the normal age for having children, parentage is suspect and must be proved beyond all doubt.
    • The expressions “heirs” or “heirs-at-law” are used in some estate settlements. These expressions mean different things in different states at different times. Ohio’s laws on inheritance have changed many times through its history and what is true at one period is not true at another. It is possible that a document using the expression “heirs” might be supplemented with a copy of the state inheritance law showing that at the date the document was written “heir” meant in the blood-line and the nature of the kinship.
    • Census records which show the name of the head of the household only and which list others in the household by age groupings do not prove the residence of the wife or children of the head of the household. Next door or close neighbors are not proved as related by their closeness in the census.’
    • Census records which do name all the members of a household but which do not indicate relationships cannot be used to prove relationships but can be used to prove residence.
    • Descent is not proved by owning the same land as an earlier owner of the same name.
    • Land transactions (deeds, warrants, grants, etc.) only can be accepted as evidence of settlement in Athens County, Ohio by 1830 if the record actually states that the grantee or grantor was a resident of Athens County. There were many absentee land owners in early Ohio.

How to prepare your documents

  • NEVER SUBMIT AN ORIGINAL DOCUMENT: SUBMIT ONLY PHOTOCOPIES. Original photographs of tombstones may be submitted.
  • Typed, hand-written or printed copies of original DOCUMENTS MUST BE CERTIFIED AS A “TRUE COPY” BY A LIBRARIAN, COURT HOUSE OFFICIAL OR SOME OTHER AUTHORITY. An applicant cannot certify his own copies as true.
  • Married female applicants must include a copy of their marriage license or a record to prove their married name.
  • Bible records must be submitted with their title page showing publication date.
  • Newspaper clippings must be identified by the name of the newspaper and date of the clipping.
  • All documents must indicate their source and date, e.g. a will should be identified by county court, volume and page numbers.
  • Copies of pages of all appropriate INDEXES TO THE FEDERAL CENSUSES for OHIO showing the ancestors surname MUST be submitted. In order to evaluate your application the committee must be able to know how many persons of the same name were in the area during the relevant period of time. Alternate spellings MUST be included.
  • If more than two ancestral lines are submitted, an ancestral chart showing the interconnections should be included.
  • Do not “correct” or otherwise change photocopies of original documents. The committee will not consider evidence that appears to have been altered.


In order to evaluate your application the committee needs to know how the claims about your ancestors are proven. You must submit with your application photocopies of the documents which prove EACH claim. (Certified transcriptions may be accepted.) The claims and documents must be cross-referenced so the committee can find in your envelope the particular document(s) which prove each claim. Footnote lines are provided on the inside back page of the application so you can make the necessary references.

  • FIRST, number all documents being submitted.
  • SECOND, on the corresponding footnote line write a description of the document (e.g. bible record of Morris Murphy)
  • THIRD, note in the box at the end of the line on which you have made a claim about your family members in the application the number of the document which proves the claim. If more than one document is needed to prove a claim, you may add boxes or you may staple the documents together and reference them under one footnote number.

Additions which would be appreciated but which are not required

  • The easiest to accomplish and most wanted item we would like in addition to your documentation is a 5-generation chart filled in as much and as accurately as you can.
  • Secondly, we would appreciate if you can manage it, a narrative summary of your data emphasizing your Athens County ancestor(s). This would include such information as where they came from, their settlement date, all children, etc…. Here is a chance for you to include data which you may not have documented in your application. Please be sure, however, to indicate what support you have for believing such undocumented data to be true. This narrative will help make your Athens County ancestors “live,” and it will help researchers put the documents into perspective. We might like to publish your narrative in our Bulletin if you indicate your permission to do so.



Thank you for submitting an application to First Families of Athens County.

Click here to see an alphabetical list of all pioneers proven thru June 13, 2013, along with the year proven to be in Athens County