The Ohio Historical Society hosts an online index of Boys Industrial School inmates’ case records to improve access to this resource for genealogical and family history research. Currently, this database indexes the admission records from 1858 to 1944. The web address is www.ohiohistory.org/resource/database/industrial
The establishment of the Ohio Reform Farm (or School) was authorized by the Ohio General Assembly on April 7, 1856. A law enacted April 17, 1857, outlined in detail the organization of the institution. Located on 1,170 acres five miles south of Lancaster, Ohio, the Ohio Reform Farm was the first institution in the United States to be operated on the cottage or “family” plan rather than the “big-house” system. Each “family” of 40 boys, who ranged in age from ten to eighteen, was supervised by an “Elder Brother.” The Boys Industrial School was governed by a Board of Commissioners until 1911. At that time, control was given to the newly created Ohio Board of Administration, which in turn created a Bureau of Juvenile Research in 1913 to “test, examine, and evaluate delinquent juveniles entrusted to its care.” In 1921, this bureau was transferred to the Ohio Department of Public Welfare. The Ohio Department of Mental Hygiene and Correction began overseeing the Boys’ Industrial School in 1954. In 1963, the Ohio Youth Commission was created and assumed control of the Boys’ Industrial School. The institution ceased to operate as a juvenile reformatory in July 1980. The campus was converted to a medium security prison (Southeastern Correctional Institution) for adult offenders under the supervision of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Early records consist of a double page spread is divided into six columns: Name and Parentage (birthplace, date received, parents’ names and nationality); Commitment (offense, by whom committed); Education (including Sunday School for some years); Health and Special Marks; Employment (including parents’ occupations for some years); and Miscellaneous (bad habits such as tobacco, profane language, intoxicants, truancy; and remarks on discharge). Beginning in 1913, the form of the entries changed to one page per boy, and added more information, such as previous commitments and family data.
The Industrial School trained young men to specific trades and then placed the youth outside of the institution to work in these trades. In some cases, these placements were not successful, and the boys were re-committed to the School. Each time a youth was committed to the School, the original Inmate Number was used. Thus a name with multiple entries will have multiple commitment records.
You may use this index to obtain information about any admission records that you wish to order. You may use the microfilm containing the original inmate case records free of charge in the Microfilm Reading Room at the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus, and make copies there for a nominal fee, currently 25 cents per page. If you wish to mail in your request, Research Services staff will make uncertified copies and mail them to you for $7.00 per record.