Tennessee Probate Court Files (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: Tennessee Probate Court Files, 1795-1927 .
The court files collection contains case files that are either loose papers or packet style. These files include several smaller sets of records. Some of the smaller sets include indexes. The collection includes the following types of records:
- Divorce records
The contents of probate records vary greatly depending on the prevailing law and the personality of the record keeper.
Probate records in the state 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.
These collections include county probate records for the years 1795 to 1927.
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.
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 and those who have previously received an inheritance, or the spouse mentioned may not be the parent of the children mentioned.
Citation for This Collection
- County Court Clerks in Tennessee. Probate Court books. Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, Tennessee.
Probate records usually include the following facts:
- Name of testator or deceased
- Names of heirs such as spouse, children, and other relatives or friends
- Names of witnesses
- Residence of testator
- Lists of belongings, property, and so forth
- Document and recording dates (Sometimes the date of death will be given. Recording dates are also used to approximate event dates, i.e. a letter of administration was usually written shortly after the time of death.)
How to Use the Record
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒Select the "Browse" link in the initial search page
⇒Select the "County" category
⇒Select the "Court Name and Record Type" category
⇒Select the "Date Range" category
⇒Select the "Surname or Folder Range" category which takes you to the images.
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.
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 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.
For a summary of this information see the wiki article United States, How to Use the Records Summary (FamilySearch Historical Records).
Known Issues with This Collection
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
Citation Example for a Record Found in This Collection
"Tennessee Probate Court Files, 1795-1927." digital images FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: accessed 24 June 2011). r Jennie and Sam Sutherland, 13 April 1940, Citing Probate Court Records, Franklin, Probate Court, Wills, 1812-1918, Abernathy, J.J. - Woods, Thomas H., Images 14-20; Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, Tennessee, United States. From the Davidson county clerk’s office along with the Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville. FHL microfilm, 394 reels. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
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