Probate Records Quick Start Click here for expert help | Click here for additional research at Wiki
Start with what you know:
My ancestor’s name_____________________________________________ Names of siblings_______________________________________________ Names of parents, uncles, etc______________________________________ State and County where he lived____________________________________ About when did he die____________________________________________ Notes:
Refer to Carter, Fran, Searching American Probate Records 973 A1 No. 345 (Reference) Refer to Greenwood, Val D., The Researchers Guide to American Genealogy, 3rd edition 973 D27g (Reference) Refer to [State] Research Outline, “Probate Records” www.familysearch.org (Hover over “Research Helps” tab, click “Articles”, click “Sorted by Document"
Click “Research Outline”, scroll to desired state and click)
1. Search by the deceased [Usually heirs are not indexed.]
2. Search broadly [Some probates may start late and last many years. See neighboring counties as necessary.]
3. Seek and use books [official court books] and papers.
4. Search for the following types of records [Not all of them will exist for your ancestor; but don’t miss the ones that do.]
Wills (Testate versus Intestate) Petition for Letters of Administration Inventory or Appraisal Estate Sale and other Estate Papers Administrators Accounts Guardianship Records Partitions or Divisions Loose Papers Generally probate records are kept at the county level.
Find the county in The Handybook - 973 D27e (Reference)
Probate records may be found at the state level (possibly the state archives)
Refer to “Court Records, Probate and Wills,” The Handybook
For what years are probate records available______________________________________
Consult the Family History Library Catalog https://familysearch.org/#form=catalog (many probate records have been microfilmed)
Click on Place Search Type name of county in top box (exclude the word county) Type the full name of the state in bottom box (exact spelling is a must) Click on Probate Records Choose probate records for the years to include when your ancestor may have died You may see docket, journal, will record, complete record, bonds, letters, abstracts First try to choose a microfilm of a records created by the county clerk, recorder, etc. Click on the “View Film Notes” Look for an index Obtain the microfilm of the index and scroll to the desired surname Carefully examine the index looking for your ancestor’s surname Record the book, volume or liber number and the page number Using the volume number, find the microfilm number in the FHLC Using the microfilm number, check to see if it is in the Mesa Family History Center http://www.mesarfhc.org/search/film.asp If it is not here, order it in the Copy Room Once you have the microfilm of the deed book scroll to the page number you found in the index You may need to look at microfilm of various types of probate records (see list under No. 4 above)
Read every line of each type of probate record
Keep a readable copy of the record (you may scan it and save it on a flash drive)
Record a proper citation of your source
List positive or negative searches in your research log
Important information you should record
Who witnessed wills _______________________________________________________ Who were the executors or administrators _______________________________________ Who was appointed as guardian_______________________________________________ Who bought property from estate sales _________________________________________ Who was assigned to take the inventory _________________________________________ Who did the land go to ______________________________________________________ Who were the heirs_________________________________________________________ Who were the creditors______________________________________________________ What records should you search now____________________________________________ If probate records for your ancestor’ county have not been microfilmed
Email or phone the courthouse Refer to the Handybook for the name of the repository Ask the clerk of the court to search for the name of your ancestor in the index Obtain a price for the copies and order the record Solving the Puzzle
Research the names of individuals named in estate sales (they may be relatives) Watch for names in the final settlement. Heirs may be required to sign for assets received. If the courthouse was burned look for newspaper announcements in neighboring counties. You may find evidence of the probate in surrounding counties. Study all of the documents.
Coordinate information from various kinds records (i.e. land records with probate records)
Indirect evidence may answer your questions. If you don’t see a microfilm of the original record refer to compiled records including abstracts When you find an abstract use the information to help you locate the original