Hamilton County was originally part of the Northwest Territory, which roughly extended from the Ohio River to the northern part of Lake Huron and included parts of the present states of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. This was in 1787, before the Constitution of the United States was formally approved. John Cleves Symmes, by virtue of a government grant, became the owner of practically all of what is presently Hamilton County and made the original survey dividing it into townships, sections and ranges. The office of Recorder was established in April 1794 - being one of the first offices in the County. At that time, all of Ohio was divided into only two counties.
In 1803, Ohio was granted statehood and divided into four counties and Hamilton County comprised the southwestern portion of the state. As population grew, various divisions were made, and about 1805 the present county lines were established.
In 1818, the first elected Recorder, Griffin Yeatman, was elected to a three-year term. Prior to this date Recorders were appointed by the Board of Commissioner.
The office of Recorder was established to record, preserve and make available for inspection documents relating to real estate. This involves not only the sale, lease or transfer of property, but also encumbrances (such as mortgages and liens) that would either block or affect the title of a piece of property. All records are maintained for viewing by the public and copies can be made. The direct and reverse index for all documents are available on computer. Examples of non-real estate documents recorded and maintained by the office include: partnerships, military discharge papers, living wills and medical powers of attorney. Veterans' IDs are issued as of December 5, 2016.
Originally, all documents were transcribed in pen and ink and recorded in one book in the order in which they were filed. Later, as the counties were further redefined, the records were recopied and only papers pertaining to Hamilton County were left of record here. Records of other counties were sent to their proper county seat. Also, deeds, mortgages, leases, liens and miscellaneous papers were recorded in books, each under their proper heading and numbered consecutively.
The Court House Riot and fire of 1884 destroyed most of all the County records. A quote from the The Evening Post, Sunday March 30, 1884 stated, "The only combustible thing in the whole courthouse certainly safe is the set of records of the recorder's office. The Recorder's records had been saved!
About June 1908, the pen and ink recording system (transcribing) was dropped and records were typewritten. The Recorder still indexed documents in sectional indexes by hand. This continued until the legislature amended the law allowing the photostating of records. The Hamilton County Recorder introduced the Photostat on December 2, 1929. Documents were filmed with 35mm film, then 16mm film.
On May 31, 1988 the Recorder stopped producing typed Grantor/Grantee Index sheets and entered the information into an online computer system. This changed how the Title Examiners retrieved information.
The Recorder continued microfilm for many years and introduced the current digitized imaging system (scanning) on September 10, 1996 while still maintaining microfilm records.
In 2002, the Recorder's Office scanned official records to be included in the electronic database of existing images, which contains documents going back to 1988. In 2009 the Recorder's Office began scanning other old documents (indexes, deeds, mortgages, leases) and releasing them on the Recorder's Office web site.
As of 2016, the Recorder's Office has all plats online (1850 to present), document Indexes from 1789 to present online and is currently loading early deeds books on a weekly basis for online retrieval.