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Contents

Record Synopsis

Probate is the “court procedure by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid” and encompasses “all matters and proceedings pertaining to the administration of estates, guardianships, etc.”[1] Various types of records are created throughout the probate process. These may include, wills, bonds, petitions, accounts, inventories, administrations, orders, decrees, and distributions. These documents are extremely valuable to genealogists and should not be neglected. In many instances, they are the only known source of relevant information such as the decedent’s date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their places of residence. They may also include information about adoption or guardianship of minor children and dependents. For further information about the probate process, types of probate records, analyzing probate records, and to access a glossary of probate terms, see United States Probate Records.

History

Probate records prior to 1800 for the District of Columbia were kept by the appropriate courts of Virginia and Maryland. The National Archives has a series of will transcripts from 1801 to 1888, probate administrations (1801-36 and 1854-78) and guardianship papers (1801-78). They also have an index to administration dockets, guardian dockets, and case files.

A history of the creation of the District of Columbia and the resultant record-keeping services can be found at Ancestry. ($)

State Statutes

Repositories

Local

Addresses for District of Columbia Archives, Libraries, and Societies can be found at Ancestry. ($)

Regional

Maryland State Archives
361 Rowe St.
Annapolis, MD 21401
Internet: Maryland State Archives

District of Columbia
Office of Public Records
1300 Naylor Court NW
Washington, DC 20001-4225
Tel: 202-727-2052
Internet: District of Columbia Archives

A series of transcripts from 1801 to 1919 and the original wills from 1801 to the present are available at:

Register of Wills and Clerk of the Probate Court
U.S. Courthouse
500 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Room 5000
Washington, DC 20001
Telephone: 202-879-1499
Internet: http://www.dccourts.gov/dccourts/superior/probate/links.jsp

Wills after 1888, and administrations after 1878, are also at the:

U.S. District Court
333 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
Telephone: 202-273-0555
Internet: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

National

  • The National Archives has probate administrations (1801-36 and 1854-78) and guardianship papers (1801-78). They also have an index to administration dockets, guardian dockets, and case files.
  • The Family History Library has a collection of both Probate and Guardianship records and for the District of Columbia.

Statewide Record Collections

Abstracts of many early wills are in

  • Mrs. Alexander H. Bell, Abstracts of Wills in the District of Columbia, 1776-1815, Two Volumes. (Washington, D.C.: Bell, 1946) FHL Collection, book 975.3 S2b; vol. 2 on film 207695; vols. 1 and 2 on fiche 6051443).
  • Another index is Dorothy S. Provine, Index to District of Columbia Wills (1801-1920). (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992) FHL Collection, book 975.3 P22p.

Learn More

Published Materials

Websites

  • The Probate Division has up-to-date information regarding probate policies in the Superior Court of DC.
  • A discussion of District of Columbia Probate Records written by Johni Cerny in Red book: American State, County, and Town Sources can be found at Ancestry. ($)

References

  1. Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."

 

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