Illinois Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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Access the records: Illinois Probate Books, 1819-1970 .
Collection Time Period
The records in this collection cover the years 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.
Counties in Browse
As of July 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
Probate records are arranged by county and then by date. To begin your search you will need to know:
- The place of residence
- The approximate death or probate date
- The name of the deceased
Compare the information you find in the probate records to what you already know about your ancestors to determine which record is about your ancestor. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination.
Next, 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.
- Use probate records to identify heirs and relatives.
- You may be able to use the probate record to learn about adoptions or guardianship of any minor children and dependents.
- 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 or military records.
- 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 died in the same county or nearby; 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.
- When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
Keep in mind:
- Wills are more likely to be found in rural communities than in larger cities and industrial areas.
- The information in the records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the deceased or the testator.
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.
Why the Record Was Created
Probate records were used to legally dispose of a person’s estate after his or her death. If the deceased had made a will, the probate process transferred the following from the deceased to an executor or executrix: the legal responsibility for payment of taxes, care and custody of dependent family members, liquidation of debts, and transfer of property title to heirs. If there was no will, the transfer went to an administrator or administratrix. A guardian or conservator was appointed if the deceased had heirs younger than 21, or if the heirs were incompetent due to disability or disease.
The death date, residence, and other facts that were current at the time of the probate proceedings are reliable, but realize that there is still a chance of misinformation. The records may omit the names of deceased family members or those who had previously received an inheritance. In some cases, the spouse mentioned in the will was not the parent of the children mentioned. Also, some wills do not name family members.
- 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
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 thatyou have searched is found in the Wiki Article: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.
Examples of Source Citations for a Record in This Collection:
"Illinois Probate Books, 1819-1970." index and images, FamilySearch (familysearch.org): accessed 24 March 2011. entry for Winifred Hunton, died February 16, 1961; citing Probate Records, Rock Island, Probate Index Hu-Mc, Image 132. Digital images of originals housed in various county courthouses throughout the state of Illinois.
Sources of Information for This Collection
"Illinois Probate Books, 1819-1970," images, FamilySearch; (familysearch.org); from County Courts. Digital images of originals housed at various county courthouses throughout the state of Illinois. Marriage records. FHL digital images, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
We welcome your assistance in adding source citation information for individual archives when collection data was collected from various sources or archives. The format for citing FamilySearch Historical Collections, including how to cite individual archives is found in the following link: How to Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.