Vermont, Washington County, Probate Estate Files (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.

Contents

Record Description

Probate records are court documents may have included both loose papers and bound volumes. These records were generally known as an estate file, case file, or probate packets. These files normally included the following types of documents:

  • Wills
  • Letters of administration
  • Settlement papers
  • Guardianships
  • Inventories
  • Receipts
  • Distributions
  • Name changes
  • Adoptions
  • Any other records pertaining to estates

This collection consists of images of probate papers located at the Washington District Probate Court in Montpelier, Vermont. This collection is being published as images become available.

Vermont was originally part of Massachusetts. In 1749, New Hampshire claimed a large portion of the area. In 1764, New York claimed jurisdiction over a large portion of the land held by New Hampshire. In 1777, Vermont became independent and was made a state in 1791. Probate records for those who died before 1777 may be in the records of the county and state who claimed the area before Vermont was formally created. Probate courts began recording probate records soon after the county was created. There are 14 counties, but 18 probate districts. The four southern counties have 2 districts each. Probate records cover approximately 40 percent of adult males who left wills, but this may be less than 25 percent in some areas. Less than 10 percent of women had wills or estate inventories. Wills are more likely to be found in rural communities than in larger cities and industrial areas. A higher percentage of individuals died without a will, but they may have had their estates probated and distributed through the courts. Wills and other estate documents are found in the estate files. 

The records cover the years 1862 to 1915. 

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
  • 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.

For a list of records by alphabet or numbers currently published in this collection, select the Browselink from the collection landing page.

Record Content

Information in probate records includes:

  • Name of testator or deceased
  • Names of heirs such as spouse, children, and other relatives or friends
  • Name of executor, administrator, or guardian
  • Names of witnesses
  • Residence of testator
  • Dates the documents were written and recorded (Used to approximate event dates, i.e. a will was usually written near the time of death)
  • Description and value of personal property or land owned by the deceased.

How to Use the Records

To search the collection, select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒ Select the "Record Type"
⇒ Select the "Box\File Number or Surname Range, Date Range" which takes you to the images.

Search the collection by image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine which one is your ancestor. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to make this determination.

Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the index. Name indexes make it possible to access a specific record quickly. Check the index for the surname and then the given name. Remember that these indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

When searching the index it is helpful to know the following:

  • The place of residence
  • The approximate death or probate date
  • The name of the deceased

Use the locator information found in the index (such as page, entry, or certificate number) to locate your ancestors in the records. Compare the information in the record to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination. When you have located your ancestor’s 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.

For example:

  • Use probate records to identify heirs and relatives.
  • You may be able to use the probate record to learn about adoptions or guardianship of any minor children and dependents.
  • 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.
  • You may be able to use the probate record to learn about land transactions.
  • 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.
  • 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. Keep in mind that wills are more likely to be found in rural communities than in larger cities and industrial areas.

Related Websites

Access Vermont Genealogy

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. Guidelines are available to help you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide. If you would like to get more involved join the WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

Citations for individual image records are available for this collection. Browse through images in this collection and click on the "Show Citation" box: Vermont, Washington County, Probate Estate Files, 1862-1915

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.


Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in FamilySearch.org Historical Record collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher and archive for the original records.

"Vermont, Washington County, Probate Estate Files, 1862-1915" Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. Citing Probate Court. Supreme Court of Vermont, Montpelier.

 

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  • This page was last modified on 10 June 2014, at 21:05.
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