Illinois Probate Records (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.
Access the records: Illinois Probate Books, 1819-1970 .

Contents

Record Description

This Collection will include records from 1819 to 1970.

Probate records were court documents and may have involved loose papers and/or bound volumes. These records were generally known as a case file or probate packet. These files normally included wills, settlement papers, inventories, receipts, and other records pertaining to the estates. Some probate records were recorded in books which may have carried many titles such as accounts, administrations, appraisals, minutes, petitions, guardianships, inventories, settlements, and so forth. Wills are normally transcribed into a bound volume.

In addition, the following counties in this collection have non-probate records such as naturalizations, marks & brands, and county commissioner's records included with the probates: Coles, Franklin, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Jersey, Johnson, Madison, McHenry, Randolph, Rock Island, and White.

For a list of localities currently published in this collection, select the Browse link from the collection landing page.

Citation for This Collection

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

Illinois County Courts. Illinois Probate Books. Marriage records. Illinois Circuit Clerks.

This collection may include information previously published in the International Genealogical Index or Vital Records Index collections. 

Suggested citation format for a record in this collection.

Counties in Browse

As of October 2011, the following counties are found in the browse list:

Illinois Probate Books Year Ranges
Name of County Recorded Year Range Will Registers Probate Records Bonds and Letters
Alexander 1829-1902 1850-1902 1829-1867 1860-1886
Brown 1817-1936 1869-1890 1849-1923 1849-1936
Calhoun 1829-1916 1870-1916 1829-1874 1859-1904
Champaign 1851-1921 1851-1921 N/A N/A
Coles 1866-1946 1866-1925 1900-1923 N/A
De Witt 1862-1923 1862-1923 N/A 1850-1901
DeKalb 1837-1921 1862-1921 1837-1924 N/A
Effingham 1838-1920 1838-1920 1838-1893 1871-1894
Fayette 1821-1917 1859-1917 1847-1881 N/A
Franklin 1835-1919 1848-1970 1875-1884 N/A
Gallatin 1813-1931 1814-1931 1815-1884 1859-1901
Greene 1836-1917 1845-1915 1836-1923 N/A
Hamilton 1823-1933 1838-1883 1823-1933 N/A
Hancock 1827-1938 1833-1918 1898-1923 1849-1922
Henderson 1843-1939 1841-1850 1850-1928 1846-1939
Henry 1861-1926 N/A 1894-1901 N/A 
Jasper 1856-1921 N/A 1856-1921 N/A
Jersey 1839-1940 1852-1931 1872-1933 1839-940
Jo Daviess 1829-1921 1829-1921 1921 N/A
Johnson 1874-1965 1870-1926 1874-1865 N/A
Kankakee 1855-1924 1859-1924 1855-1921 N/A
La Salle 1844-1945 1847-1922 1844-1923 1883-1913
Livingston 1837-1905 1867-1901 1837-1849 1872-1905
Logan 1855-1963 1855-1922 1860-1920 1857-1963
Macoupin 1835-1939 1835-1925 1835-1926 1849-1939
Madison 1819-1929 1912-1922 1821-1911 1819-1929
Mason 1866-1934 1836-1934 N/A 1866-1898
Massac 1871-1883 N/A 1871-1883 N/A
McHenry 1840-1985 1886-1919 1840-1985 1924-1947
Menard 1839-1937 1860-1884 1839-1891 1868-1937
Montgomery 1849-1926 1849-1921 1850-1926 N/A
Morgan 1824-1925 1824-1825 1866-1894 N/A
Ogle 1838-1942 1838-1934 1841-1942 1857-1932
Piatt 1843-1918 1850-1918 1843-1885 N/A
Pope 1819-1888 N/A 1819-1888 N/A
Randolph 1809-1884 N/A N/A N/A
Rock Island 1837-1962 1837-1923 1857 1859-1962
Schuyler 1827-1926 1870-1926 1827-1926 1844-1862
Shelby 1827-1922 1870-1918 1827-1922 1859-1905
Tazewell 1827-1926 1830-1924 1827-1923 1862-1926
White 1820-1914 1893-1914 1820-1843 1860-1898
Whiteside 1839-1931 1845-1922 1858-1874 1839-1931
Williamson 1853-1919 1853-1919 N/A N/A
Woodford 1845-1963 1869-1925 1845-1916 1866-1963

N/A = Not available at this time.

Record Content

Probate records include petitions, inventories, accounts, decrees and other court documents. Genealogical facts in entries are:

  • 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
  • Document and recording dates (Used to approximate event dates, i.e. a will usually written near time of death)

How to Use the Record

To begin your search it is helpful to know:

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

Search the Collection

To search the collection:
⇒Select the "Browse" link in the initial search page
⇒Select the appropriate "County" link which takes you to the images
⇒Select the appropriate "VolumeTitle and Year" link which takes you to the images

Look at the images one by one 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.

Using the Information

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.
  • 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 records or military records.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • 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 also died in the same county. 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.
  • Probate records often have information about adoptions or guardianship of any minor children and dependents. Be aware that the spouse named may not be the parent of the children listed.
  • The records may omit the names of deceased family members and those who have previously received an inheritance.
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
  • There is also some variation in the information given from one record to another record.
  • The death date, residence, and other facts that were current at the time of the probate proceeding are quite reliable, though there is still a chance of misinformation.

Unable to Find Your Ancestor?

  • Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
  • Check for an index. Local genealoical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.

General Information About Probate Records

County officials began keeping probate records from the time the county was formed. Probates are generally recorded in the county were the person resided. These 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.

Probate records are used to legally dispose of a person’s estate after his or her death. The probate process transfers the legal responsibility for payment of taxes, care and custody of dependent family members, liquidation of debts, and transfer of property title. The transfer is to an executor or executrix if the deceased had made a will, to an administrator or administratrix if the deceased had not made a will, or to a guardian or conservator if the deceased had heirs under the age of twenty-one or if heirs were incompetent due to disease or disability.

Probate records fall into two general categories: wills and estate papers. Most records mention the names of heirs and frequently specify how those heirs are related. Names of children may be given, as well as married names of daughters. Probate records may not give an exact death date, but a death most often occurred within a few months of the date of probate. The exact contents of probate records vary greatly depending on the prevailing law and the personality of the record keeper.

Known Issues with This Collection

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See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

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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

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.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections

Citation Example for a Record Found in This Collection

"Illinois Probate Records, 1819-1970," digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org familysearch.org: accessed 25 April 2012), Brown > Miscellaneous probate 1879-1917 > image 20 of 120, Joseph A. Curry; citing Illinois Probate Books, 1819-1970 from County Courts. Digital images of originals housed at various county courthouses throughout the state of Illinois.


 

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