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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.

Links to Probate-related Topics

Analyzing Probate · Probate Limitations · Probate Process
 · Glossary of Probate Terms · Wills · United States Probate Records

History

In 1791, the District of Columbia was created as the seat of the federal government. The areas chosen were taken from parts of Fairfax County, Virginia and Montgomery and Prince George's counties of Maryland. Probate records prior to 1800 for the District of Columbia were kept by the appropriate courts of Virginia and Maryland. After the relocation of the District of Columbia in 1810, local government offices were established. In 1846, the area taken from Virginia was returned with the pre-1846 records as well.
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. ($)
  • A discussion of District of Columbia Probate Records written by Johni Cerny in Red book: American State, County, and Town Sources can be found at Ancestry. ($)

State Statutes

Understanding the Delaware probate laws and how they changed over time can help us learn how the estate was administered, taxed, and distributed and might help to solve difficult genealogical problems.

Additional information about Delaware state statutes relating to probate matters can be found at law libraries. Online digital versions of state statutes can often be found by conducting a search engine search for the term, "Delaware 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 for the District of Columbia.

Statewide Record Collections

PROBATE INDEXES:

  • Provine, Dorothy S. Provine. Index to District of Columbia Wills (1801-1920). Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. FHL Collection, book 975.3 P22p.

  • Pippenger, Wesley E. Index to District of Columbia Estates: 1801-1929. Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Books, c2008. FHL Collection, book 975.3 P22pwe.

  • Pippenger, Wesley E. District of Columbia Guardianship Index 1802-1928. Westminster, Maryland: Willow Bend Books, c1998. FHL Collection, book 975.3 P22pw.

  • District of Columbia. Clerk of the Superior Court (Main Author). Guardianship Case Index (District of Columbia), 1801-1997. Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1997. FHL Collection, 4 films 2073131, 2073162-2073164.

PROBATE RECORDS:

  • Bell, Mrs. Alexander H. 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.

  • Pippenger, Wesley E. District of Columbia Probate Records : Will Books 1 through 6, 1801-1852 and Estate Files, 1801-1852. Westminster, Maryland: Family Line, c1996. FHL Collection, book 975.3 P28p.

  • Daughters of the American Revolution (District of Columbia), Genealogical Collection, ca. 1700-1900 [Daughters of the American Revolution (District of Columbia)]. Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1976. FHL Collection, 51 films 845766-870166.

  • District of Columbia. Register of Wills, Probate Records (District of Columbia), 1801-1930. Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1996-1997. FHL Collection, 133 films 2050077-2069435. Published indexes 1801-1950 FHL Collection, book 975.3 P22p.

  • Daughters of the American Revolution (District of Columbia). Record, Abstract of Wills, Municipal Court, Washington, D.C., vol. 4, 1828-1837.19--. FHL Collection, book 975.3 S2.

  • Virginia. County Court (Alexandria County) (main author). Will books, 1800-1878; Index to Wills, 1800-1951. Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1951. FHL Collection, 6 films 30499-30475.

  • Langille, Letitia A. Wills, Book IV, Dated 1799 to 1837: as recorded in the Office of Register of Wills, Municipal Court, Washington, D.C. Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1972. FHL Collection, film 907978.

Learn More

Published Materials

Websites

  • The Probate Division has up-to-date information regarding probate policies in the Superior Court of DC.

References

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

 

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