Kentucky Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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Access the records: Kentucky Probate Records, 1792-1977 .
Collection Time Period
Records in this collection are for the years 1792 to 1977.
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:
Wills are normally transcribed into a bound volume.
Probate records include petitions, inventories, accounts, decrees, and other court documents. Genealogical facts found in entries include:
- 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 was usually written near time of death.)
How to Use the Record
To begin your search it is helpful to know the following:
- The place of residence
- The approximate death or probate date
- The name of the deceased
Compare the information in the records to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination.
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.
- 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.
- Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after the late 1900.
- There is also some variation in the information given from one record to another record.
If you are unable to find the ancestors you are looking for, try the following:
- Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
- Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume.
- Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
Each county began keeping probate records from the time the county was created. Until the establishment of separate probate courts in 1852, probate records were kept in the Courts of Common Pleas.
Why the Record Was Created
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 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 that were under the age of twenty-one or incompetent due to disease or disability.
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. The records may omit the names of deceased family members, those who have previously received an inheritance, or the spouse mentioned in a will may not be the parent of the children mentioned. Some wills do not name family members.
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Citation for This Collection
The following citation refers to the original source of the data and images published on FamilySearch.org Historical Records. It may include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.
Kentucky. Kentucky Probate Records, 1792-1977. Index from various county clerks throughout Kentucky. FHL microfilm, 956 reels, Family History Library Salt Lake City, Utah.
Information about creating source citations for FamilySearch Historical Collections is listed in the wiki article Help:How to Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.
Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
Example of a Source Citation for a Record Found in This Collection
"Kentucky, Probate Records, 1792-1977," digital images, FamilySearch, (https://www.familysearch.org: accessed 27 March 2012), Jefferson > will records 1887-1894 > image 8 0f 323,Darz Anderson, will probated 7 March 1878; Jefferson; Will records 2887-1894, vol.18; image 8, County Clerk, Jefferson County, Louisville. Kentucky, United States, FHL film 9043, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.