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Probate records are court records that describe the distribution of a person’s estate after he or she dies. Information in the records may include the deceased’s death date, heirs and guardians, relationships, residences, estate inventory, and witnesses. These records are of great value for genealogical research because they identify family relationships and clues.
The most common wills and probate records kept by the notaries in Brazil are listed under Brazil Notarial Records. Wills made by the ecclesiastical authorities are found in diocese archives, archdiocese archives, or occasionally the parish archives. Often these wills have been deposited in municipal archives. There were also some wills written by the individual without the aid of a notary or clergy. These are found in public registries, private homes, and museums.
About 65 percent of the records in the legislative and judicial section of the National Archives, in Rio de Janeiro, are inventories and wills. There is a partial name index to these records that includes about 40,000 individuals’ names.
In the state archives of São Paulo there is a collection of inventories and wills (inventários e testamentos) covering 1578 to about 1800. This collection contains about 2,000 volumes. These records were originally compiled by notaries and orphan-court judges. They often give the deceased persons’ names, places of birth in Portugal, and children’s names and ages. A few of these (from 1633 to 1651) have been published by the archive in:
- Inventários e testamentos (Inventories and Wills). Vol. 41. São Paulo: Departamento do Arquivo do Estado de São Paulo, 1966. (FHL book 981.61 V4s; film 0962230 item 1)
The Family History Library does not have copies of the probate records for Brazil, so these records would have to be obtained from the archives in Brazil.
An additional resource to help in searching for probate and other inheritance records is Linda Lewin's two volume work:
- Lewins, Linda. Surprise Heirs. Vol 1 and 2. Standford, Calif: Standord University Press, 2003. (Vol. 1 and 2 accessable through the Harold B Lee Library at Brigham Young University.)
Volume 1 covers illegitimacy, patrimonial rights, and legal nationalism in Luso-Brazilian inheritance from 1750-182, and volume 2 covers illegitimacy, inheritance rights, and public power in the formation of Imperial Brazil from 1822-1889.