Tennessee Probate Court Files - FamilySearch Historical Records

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Tennessee Probate Court Files, 1795-1955
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Tennessee, 
United States
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Flag of Tennessee
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Location of Tennessee
Record Description
Record Type Probate
Collection years 1795-1955
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites


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

The court files collection contains case files that are either loose papers or packet style for the years 1795 to 1955. The records are arranged by county and then by date. The files include several smaller sets of records which may include indexes. The collection includes the following types of records:

  • Wills
  • Deeds
  • Inventories
  • Settlements
  • Administrations
  • Guardianships
  • Bonds
  • Divorce records'


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 Tennessee Probate Court Files, 1795-1955.

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

The following information may be found in these records:

Probate

  • Name of testator or deceased
  • Names of heirs such as spouse, children, and other relatives or friends
  • Names of witnesses
  • Residence of testator
  • Lists of belongings, property, and so forth
  • Document and recording dates (Sometimes the date of death will be given. Recording dates are also used to approximate event dates, i.e. a letter of administration was usually written shortly after the time of death.)

Collection Content[edit | edit source]

Sample Image[edit | edit source]

Probate records in the state fall into two general categories: wills and estate papers. Most records mention the names of heirs and frequently specify how those heirs are related. Names of children may be given, as well as married names of daughters. Probate records may not give an exact death date, but a death most often occurred within a few months of the date of probate.

Probate records are used to legally dispose of a person’s estate after his or her death. The probate process transfers the legal responsibility for payment of taxes, care and custody of dependent family members, liquidation of debts, and transfer of property title. The transfer is to an executor or executrix if the deceased had made a will, to an administrator or administratrix if the deceased had not made a will, or to a guardian or conservator if the deceased had heirs under the age of twenty-one or if heirs were incompetent due to disease or disability.

The contents of probate records vary greatly depending on the prevailing law and the personality of the record keeper. The death date, residence, and other facts that were current at the time of the probate proceeding are quite reliable, though there is still a chance of misinformation. The records may omit the names of deceased family members and those who have previously received an inheritance, or the spouse mentioned may not be the parent of the children mentioned.

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
  • The approximate date of probate
  • The place where your ancestor resided

View the Images[edit | edit source]

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:

  1. Select the County
  2. Select the Court Name and Record Type
  3. Select the Date Range
  4. Select the Surname or Folder 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]

When you have located your ancestor’s probate record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family.

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

  • Use probate records to identify heirs and relatives
  • Use the document (such as the will) or the recording dates to approximate a death date
  • Use the information in the probate record to substitute for civil birth and death records since the probates exist for an earlier time period
  • Use the birth date or age along with the residence or place of birth of the deceased to locate census, church, and land records
  • Use the occupations listed to find other types of records such as employment or military records
  • You may be able to use the probate record to learn about
Adoptions or guardianship of any minor children and dependents
Land transactions
  • Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname as the deceased; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual
  • Continue to search the records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives who may have died in the same county or nearby. This can help you identify other generations of your family or even the second marriage of a parent. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct
  • The information in the records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the deceased or the testator
  • Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after 1900
  • There is also some variation in the information given from one record to another record

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

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names
  • Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties

Research Helps[edit | edit source]

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

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.