Where are Probate Records?
Vicki’s note – A good reminder of the importance of Probate Records in proving the relationships of people.
What are Probate Records? See this definition from Rock County Probate Court:
” Under the supervision of the Circuit Court, the Register in Probate oversees the administration of estates, “testamentary” trusts, guardianships, and mental health commitments. The Register in Probate also makes and keeps records of proceedings; and maintains records of wills admitted to probate, wills for safekeeping, guardianships, and mental health commitments.”
Currently, people do not have to go to Probate Court for a deceased person how has an estate of less than $50,000 in value, but there are other legal forms, or informal court proceedings that will be stored. And there are more possible records to find – for guardianships and mental health commitments.
I have made good use of the recent addition of the Probate materials added to Ancestry.com. I did not know that Ancestry had been so systematic in approaching all of the county courthouses. A newly added group of wills from Ohio proved the daughter/father status of one of my ancestor families. Until then, I could not definitively prove their connection.
Hint – try to prove your ancestor’s facts in three different sources, including a primary source like a will.
Finding Probate Records
“Probate records are some of the most valuable, informative genealogical records you will come across. There are several different kinds, and each one can tell you previously unknown things about your ancestors. You may find probate records that are simple inventories of estates, wills with varying amounts of personal information in them, and legal records from proving the will (and sometimes, contesting it). Probate records let you know what things your ancestors owned, how much money they had, how well they lived, and their family connections. If a will names children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, in-laws, and friends, as they often do, this information will allow you to confirm suspected relationships and learn new ones.
So, where do you find probate records? There are a few different places.
1. County Courthouses
County courthouses can contain probate records going back centuries…
Ancestry.com just added a huge new collection of probate records from around the United States this year. These are the same probate records you would find in county courthouses. Ancestry.com sent representatives out to county courthouses across the country to get the courthouses to allow them to digitize their probate records…
3. Older Relatives
If you have older relatives who have collected a large amount of family information over the decades, you should visit them and see what they have in their boxes, chests, and files… genealogical gold…
4. State or Local Archive Buildings
Probate records from colonial times may be found in county courthouses, but are more often found in archive buildings. If you are looking for the probate records for an ancestor who lived in America before the American Revolution, visit or write to the historical society in the city, town, or county in which they lived….
Will founded Ancestral Findings back in 1995. He has been involved in genealogy research for over 20 years. The thrill of the hunt, the adventure, and the excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his Moneymaker surname. Why I Love Genealogy (And You Should, Too!)“