Pennsylvania Probate Records - FamilySearch Historical Records

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Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Pennsylvania, 
United States
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Flag of Pennsylvania
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Location of Pennsylvania
Record Description
Record Type Probate
Collection years 1683-1994
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Archive
County courthouses, Pennsylvania.


What is in This Collection?[edit | edit source]

This collection includes probate records created in Pennsylvania counties for the years 1683 to 1994. The records include wills, estate records and indexes.

Probates have been recorded on a county basis since the origin of the Commonwealth in 1682. Some major cities, such as Philadelphia, also kept probate records. Complete records are available in most counties. Probate actions taken in a locality before the present county was formed are found in records of the parent county. Probate records were used to legally dispose of a person’s estate after his or her death. If the deceased had made a will, the probate process transferred the following from the deceased to an executor or executrix: legal responsibility for payment of taxes, care and custody of dependent family members, liquidation of debts, and transfer of property title to heirs. If there was no will, the transfer went to an administrator or administratrix. A guardian or conservator was appointed if the deceased had heirs younger than 21 or if the heirs were incompetent due to disability or disease.

The death date, residence, and other facts that were current at the time of the probate proceedings are reliable, but realize that there is still a chance of misinformation. The records may omit the names of deceased family members or those who had previously received an inheritance. In some cases, the spouse mentioned in the will was not the parent of the children mentioned. Also, some wills do not name family members.

Image Visibility[edit | edit source]

Whenever possible FamilySearch makes images and indexes available for all users. However, rights to view these data are limited by contract and subject to change. Because of this there may be limitations on where and how images and indexes are available or who can see them. Please be aware some collections consist only of partial information indexed from the records and do not contain any images.

For additional information about image restrictions see Restrictions for Viewing Images in FamilySearch Historical Record Collections.

To Browse This Collection[edit | edit source]

You can browse through images in this collection using the waypoints on the Collection Browse Page for Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994.

What Can These Records Tell Me?[edit | edit source]

The following information may be found in these records:

Probate records include petitions, inventories, accounts, decrees and other court documents.

  • Name of the testator or deceased
  • Names of the heirs, such as spouse, children, other relatives, and friends
  • Name of the executor, administrator, or guardian
  • Names of witnesses
  • Residence of the testator
  • Dates the documents were written and recorded (used to approximate event dates since a will was usually written near the time of death).

Collection Content[edit | edit source]

Sample Image[edit | edit source]

How Do I Search This Collection?[edit | edit source]

Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The name of your ancestor
  • The approximate date of death

View the Images[edit | edit source]

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:

  1. Select the Place name
  2. Select the Record Type, Date, Volume or Surname Range to view the images.

How Do I Analyze the Results?[edit | edit source]

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?[edit | edit source]

Whenever possible, view the original records to verify the information and to find additional information that might not be reported. These pieces of information can lead you to additional records and family members.

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Use the probate record to identify adoptions, guardians, heirs and relatives
  • Use the will to approximate a death date, then find a death certificate
  • Use the information in the probate record to substitute for civil birth and death records for earlier years
  • Use the information to locate census, christenings, marriage and land records
  • Use the occupations to find employment or military records

I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Collect entries for every person who has the same surname. This list can help you identify possible relatives
  • If you cannot locate your ancestor in the locality in which you believe they lived, then try searching records of a nearby locality
  • Standard spelling of names typically did not exist. Try variations of your ancestor’s name while searching the index or browsing through images
  • Remember that sometimes individuals went by nicknames or alternated between using first and middle names, or even initials

Research Helps[edit | edit source]

The following articles will help you in your research for your family in the state of Pennsylvania.

Known Issues[edit | edit source]

Click here for a list of known issues with this collection.

Citing This Collection[edit | edit source]

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation:
The citation for this collection can be found on the Collection Details Page in the section Citing this Collection.
Image Citation:
When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen.

How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?[edit | edit source]

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Historical Records/Guidelines for Articles.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.