Illinois Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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|This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.|
Access the records: Illinois Probate Books, 1819-1970 .
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.
Counties in Browse
As of October 2011, the following counties are found in the browse list:
|Name of County||Recorded Year Range||Will Registers||Probate Records||Bonds and Letters|
N/A = Not available at this time.
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 "County" category
⇒Select the "Volume, Title and Year" category 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
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 email@example.com. 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.
- Illinois State Archives Online Databases
- Cass County Probate Book A, July 1837 - January 1848
- Cass County, Illinois Probate Book C, 1849-1852
- Menard County Illinois Probate File Index 1839 - 1963
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
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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," 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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