United States Probate Records

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''[[United States|United States&nbsp;]] [[Image:Gotoarrow.png]]&nbsp; [[United States Probate Records|Probate Records]]''  
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''[[United States|United States&nbsp;]] [[Image:Gotoarrow.png]]&nbsp; [[United_States_Probate_Records|Probate Records]]''  
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See also ''[https://www.familysearch.org/learningcenter/results.html?fq=place%3A%22United+States%22&resultListItem=2 Ancestors Season 2: Probate Records]'' in the FamilySearch Learning Center.
  
 
=== Record Overview  ===
 
=== Record Overview  ===
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Estates were probated for approximately 25 percent of the heads of households in the United States before 1900, whether or not the individual left a will. The percentage was higher for rural areas than for urban areas because of the greater likelihood of land ownership for farmers. Because wills often list the names of many family members, as much as half the population either left a will or was mentioned in one. <br>  
 
Estates were probated for approximately 25 percent of the heads of households in the United States before 1900, whether or not the individual left a will. The percentage was higher for rural areas than for urban areas because of the greater likelihood of land ownership for farmers. Because wills often list the names of many family members, as much as half the population either left a will or was mentioned in one. <br>  
  
=== Cautions  ===
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While probate records are one of the most accurate sources of genealogical evidence, they have [[United States Probate Limitations|limitations]]. <br>  
 
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While probate records are one of the most accurate sources of genealogical evidence, they must be used with some caution. For example,<br>  
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*Not eveyone left an estate that was probated by a court.
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*Those named in the will are not necessarily related to the testator.
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*A wife is not necessarily the mother of the children named.
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*Deceased family members or those who previously received an inheritance might not be mentioned in the records.
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*Probate records can be filed in more than one cabinet, ledger, or packet and in more than one office.
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*Transcribed records might be incomplete, misread, or incorrectly transcribed so consult the original when possible.
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*The county of residence at the time of death usually must be known in order to locate probate records.
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*Rarely do indexes of probate records include every name mentioned in the records.
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=== Jurisdiction  ===
 
=== Jurisdiction  ===
  
 
Probate is a function of state governments. Therefore, the laws and resulting records vary from state to state and changed over time. Probate records for many states can be found at the local county courthouse. The particular office of jurisdiction might be that of the Probate Court, the Equity Court, the Register of Wills, the County Clerk, the Circuit Court, or others. Some colonial records were kept by the town or the colony. See the wiki pages of each state for more information on pre-statehood, historical, and current probate records and jurisdictions.  
 
Probate is a function of state governments. Therefore, the laws and resulting records vary from state to state and changed over time. Probate records for many states can be found at the local county courthouse. The particular office of jurisdiction might be that of the Probate Court, the Equity Court, the Register of Wills, the County Clerk, the Circuit Court, or others. Some colonial records were kept by the town or the colony. See the wiki pages of each state for more information on pre-statehood, historical, and current probate records and jurisdictions.  
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 +
The U.S. government had jurisdiction over the probate records for Native American or Indian tribes. The Bureau of Indians Affairs had agencies responsible for regional groups of recognized tribes. The Field Office of the appropriate tribal agency kept any probate records. These are found at the [http://archives.gov/ National Archives] branch designated to archive the records for the pertinent agency. <br>
  
 
=== Historical Background  ===
 
=== Historical Background  ===
  
United States probate law derived from English common law and from Spanish community property law, depending on the state. Under English common law, a married woman could only make a will of real property with her husband's consent or with an antenuptial contract. Under Spanish community property law, property acquired while married belongs equally to husband and wife. Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington are community property states. Probate matters for the original English colonies were handled under English law. Some important sources for these colonial records are:
+
United States probate law derived from English common law and from Spanish community property law, depending on the state. Under English common law, a married woman could only make a will of real property with her husband's consent or with an antenuptial contract. Under Spanish community property law, property acquired while married belonged equally to husband and wife. Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington are community property states.  
  
'''Proved in London'''<br>American wills and administrations proved in London have been abstracted and published multiple times. Each edition is listed here, as some are available online, while others are not. In addition, publishers included more detailed abstracts in some editions than&nbsp;others. The 2007 edition includes a place-name index that enables users to pluck out references to specific colonies or states:
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Probate matters for the original English colonies were handled under English law. In fact, some American wills were proved in England and Scotland. The [[American Colonial Probate Records|American Colonial Probate Records]] article further explains how to find these wills.  
 
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*Coldham,&nbsp;Peter Wilson. ''English Estates of American Colonists: American Wills and Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1610-1699''. Baltimore:&nbsp;Genealogical Publishing Co., 1980. Digital version at [http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=48506 Ancestry]&nbsp;($).
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*Coldham, Peter Wilson. ''English Estates of American Colonists: American Wills and Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1700-1799''. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1980. Digital version of 1991 reprint available at [http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=48554 Ancestry] ($).
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*Coldham, Peter Wilson. ''English Estates of American Colonists: American Wills and Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1800-1858''. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1981. Digital version at [http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=48507 Ancestry] ($).
+
*Coldham, Peter Wilson. ''American Wills &amp; Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1610-1857''. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1989. {{FHL|942 P27c}}; digital version at [http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=48453 Ancestry] ($). Lists over 4,800 wills with name, residence, relatives, and date.
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*Coldham,&nbsp;Peter Wilson. ''American Wills Proved in London, 1611-1775''. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992. {{FHL|973 P27ca}}; digital version at [http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=48497 Ancestry] ($). Abstracts over 6,800 wills showing name, residence, occupation, date, and relatives.
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*Coldham, Peter Wilson. ''North American Wills Registered in London, 1611-1857''. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007. {{FHL|942 P27c 2007}}
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If you find a will abstact that interests you&nbsp;in Coldham's books, it is now possible to view digital images of the original Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills online at two United Kingdom pay-per-view websites:
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*[http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/wills.asp Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills (1384-1858)], courtesy: The National Archives,&nbsp;UK.
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*[http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/user/subscriptions.php#record_sets PCC&nbsp;Wills Index and Images (1384-1858)], courtesy: The Genealogist. (in progress)
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'''Proved in Edinburgh'''<br>Other American wills were proved in Edinburgh, Scotland, see:
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*Dobson, David. ''Scottish-American Wills, 1650-1900''. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1991. {{FHL|973 P22}} Over 2,000 citations including name, occupation, residence, and date.
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Most of these references were taken from the Commissariat Court of Edinburgh (now the Sheriff Court of Edinburgh) and the Index to Personal Estates of Defuncts, 1846-1866. If you find a will abstact that interests you in Dobson's book, it is now possible to view digital images of the original records online at a United Kingdom pay-per-view website:
+
 
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*[http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/ Wills &amp; Testaments (1513-1901)], courtesy: Scotlands People
+
  
 
=== Sources  ===
 
=== Sources  ===
  
*Black, Henry Campbell. Black's Law Dictionary: Definitions of Terms and Phrases of American and English Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern. 4th edition. St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing, 1951.  
+
*Black, Henry Campbell. ''Black's Law Dictionary: Definitions of Terms and Phrases of American and English Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern.'' 6th edition. St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing, 1990. {{FHL|340.03 B564L 1990}}
*Eichholz, Alice, Editor. ''Redbook: American State, County, and Town Sources.'' Third Edition. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004. There is a Probate Records section under each state's listings.  
+
*Carter, Fran. ''Searching American Probate Records''. Bountiful Utah: American Genealogical Lending Library, 1993. {{FHL|973 P27c}}
*Greenwood, Val D. ''The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. ''Of particular interest are the chapters, "Understanding Probate Records and Basic Legal Terminology," "What About Wills?" and "The Intestate—Miscellaneous Probate Records—Guardianships."<br>
+
*Eichholz, Alice, Editor. ''Redbook: American State, County, and Town Sources.'' Third Edition. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004. There is a Probate Records section under each state's listings. {{FHL|973 D27rb 2004}}
*Rose, Christine. ''Courthouse Research for Family Historians: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures.'' San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2004. Of particular interest are the chapters, "Estates Galore," "Estate Documents," "Millking Every Clue from Estates," and "Strategies that Work."
+
*Greenwood, Val D. ''The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy.'' Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000. Of particular interest are the chapters, "Understanding Probate Records and Basic Legal Terminology," "What About Wills?" and "The Intestate—Miscellaneous Probate Records—Guardianships." {{FHL|973 D27g 2000}}
 +
*Rose, Christine. ''Courthouse Research for Family Historians: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures.'' San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2004. Of particular interest are the chapters, "Estates Galore," "Estate Documents," "Milking Every Clue from Estates," and "Strategies that Work." {{FHL|929.1072 R72c}}
 +
*Szucs, Loretto Dennis and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, editors. ''The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy.'' Third edition. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, Inc., 2006. Of particular interest is the section, "Probate," pages 268 - 277. {{FHL|973 D27ts 1997}}
  
Many early probate records have been transcribed, indexed, and published. The Family History Library has statewide indexes or transcripts of large collections of wills that have been published for Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. These are listed in the&nbsp;Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
+
Many early probate records have been transcribed, indexed, and published. The Family History Library has statewide indexes or transcripts of large collections of wills that have been published for Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. These are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog.  
 
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:[STATE] - PROBATE RECORDS
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== Testate Records vs. Intestate Records  ==
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Whether a person has a will or not affects the type of records that will be created in the probate process:<br>'''Testate--'''The deceased individual had a will.<br>'''Intestate--'''No will was created by the deceased.
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{| width="503" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1" border="5"
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|-
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| valign="top" align="center" | '''Testate Estate Records'''
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| valign="top" align="center" | '''Intestate Estate Records'''
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|-
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|
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Will<br>Estate File/Probate Case File<br>Letters Testamentary<br>Dower Rights<br>Guardianship<br>Settlements<br>Distributions<br>
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|
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Administration<br>Letters of Administration<br>Dower Rights<br>Guardianship<br>Settlements<br>Distributions<br>
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|}
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== Probate by State  ==
 
== Probate by State  ==
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*[[Indiana Probate Records|Indiana]]  
 
*[[Indiana Probate Records|Indiana]]  
 
*[[Iowa Probate Records|Iowa]]  
 
*[[Iowa Probate Records|Iowa]]  
*[[Kansas Probate Records|Kansas]]
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*[[Kansas Probate Records|Kansas]]
*[[Kentucky Probate Records|Kentucky]]
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| valign="top" align="left" |  
 
| valign="top" align="left" |  
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*[[Kentucky Probate Records|Kentucky]]
 
*[[Louisiana Probate Records|Louisiana]]  
 
*[[Louisiana Probate Records|Louisiana]]  
 
*[[Maine Probate Records|Maine]]  
 
*[[Maine Probate Records|Maine]]  
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*[[New Mexico Probate Records|New Mexico]]  
 
*[[New Mexico Probate Records|New Mexico]]  
 
*[[New York Probate Records|New York]]  
 
*[[New York Probate Records|New York]]  
*[[North Carolina Probate Records|North Carolina]]
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*[[North Carolina Probate Records|North Carolina]]
*[[North Dakota Probate Records|North Dakota]]
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*[[Ohio Probate Records|Ohio]]
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| valign="top" align="left" |  
 
| valign="top" align="left" |  
 +
*[[North Dakota Probate Records|North Dakota]]
 +
*[[Ohio Probate Records|Ohio]]
 
*[[Oklahoma Probate Records|Oklahoma]]  
 
*[[Oklahoma Probate Records|Oklahoma]]  
 
*[[Oregon Probate Records|Oregon]]  
 
*[[Oregon Probate Records|Oregon]]  
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*[[West Virginia Probate Records|West Virginia]]  
 
*[[West Virginia Probate Records|West Virginia]]  
 
*[[Wisconsin Probate Records|Wisconsin]]  
 
*[[Wisconsin Probate Records|Wisconsin]]  
*[[Wyoming Probate Records|Wyoming]]
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*[[Wyoming Probate Records|Wyoming]]
*[[United States Probate Records|United States]]
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|}
 
|}
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== Web Sites  ==
 
== Web Sites  ==
  
*Anne Roach, ''[https://fch.ldschurch.org/WWSupport/Courses/FamilyHistoryLibraryExport/Goldmine__Beyond_the_Court_Order_Book/Player.html Courthouse Records Overview]'' (35 minute online video) [http://www.familysearch.org/eng/library/education/frameset_education.asp?PAGE=education_research_series_online.asp%3FActiveTab=2 FamilySearch Research Classes Online], 2010.
+
*Anne Roach, ''[http://fch.ldschurch.org/WWSupport/Courses/FamilyHistoryLibraryExport/Goldmine__Beyond_the_Court_Order_Book/Player.html Courthouse Records Overview]'' (35 minute online video) [http://www.familysearch.org/eng/library/education/frameset_education.asp?PAGE=education_research_series_online.asp%3FActiveTab=2 FamilySearch Research Classes Online], 2010.
  
*[http://www.sampubco.com/index.htm Sampubco] A gateway to Indexes of Will, Guardianships, Probate Records, and Letters Testamentary&nbsp;
+
*[http://www.sampubco.com/index.htm Sampubco] A gateway to Indexes of Wills, Guardianships, Probate Records, and Letters Testamentary&nbsp;
  
*[http://www.usgenweb.org The USGenWeb Project]
+
*[http://www.usgenweb.org The USGenWeb Project] A cooperative volunteer effort with links to resources in the state and counties.
 +
 
 +
'''Wiki articles describing online collections arefound at:'''
 +
 
 +
*[https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Iowa,_Fayette_County_Probate_Case_Files_%28FamilySearch_Historical_Records%29 Iowa, Fayette County Probate Case Files (FamilySearch Historical Records)]
 +
*[[Ohio Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)|Ohio Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)]]<br>
  
 
{{Place|United States}}  
 
{{Place|United States}}  
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__NOTOC__ <!-- Add Categories BELOW -->  
 
__NOTOC__ <!-- Add Categories BELOW -->  
 
<div></div></div>  
 
<div></div></div>  
[[Category:Record_Types_of_the_United_States]] [[Category:United_States]] [[Category:United States Probate Records]]
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[[Category:Record_Types_of_the_United_States]] [[Category:United_States]] [[Category:United_States_Probate_Records]]
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<br>

Revision as of 16:04, 6 July 2012

Beginner's Corner

What will I find?
Getting started
The first research steps
Finding your ancestor

Topics

Analyzing Probate
Limitations
Probate Process
Glossary
Wills

 

United States  Gotoarrow.png  Probate Records

See also Ancestors Season 2: Probate Records in the FamilySearch Learning Center.

Record Overview

Probate records are court records created after an individual's death that relate to a court's decisions regarding the distribution of the estate to the heirs or creditors and the care of dependents. This process took place whether there was a will (testate) or not (intestate). Various types of records are created throughout the probate process. These may include wills, bonds, petitions, accounts, inventories, administrations, orders, decrees, and distributions. These documents are extremely valuable to genealogists and should not be neglected. In many instances, they are the only known source of relevant information such as the decedent’s date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their places of residence. You may also learn about the adoption or guardianship of minor children and dependents. Additional clues often found in probate records are an ancestor's previous residence, occupation, land ownership, household items, former spouse(s), religion, and military service.

Probate records are essential for research because they often pre-date the birth and death records kept by civil authorities.

Estates were probated for approximately 25 percent of the heads of households in the United States before 1900, whether or not the individual left a will. The percentage was higher for rural areas than for urban areas because of the greater likelihood of land ownership for farmers. Because wills often list the names of many family members, as much as half the population either left a will or was mentioned in one.

While probate records are one of the most accurate sources of genealogical evidence, they have limitations.

Jurisdiction

Probate is a function of state governments. Therefore, the laws and resulting records vary from state to state and changed over time. Probate records for many states can be found at the local county courthouse. The particular office of jurisdiction might be that of the Probate Court, the Equity Court, the Register of Wills, the County Clerk, the Circuit Court, or others. Some colonial records were kept by the town or the colony. See the wiki pages of each state for more information on pre-statehood, historical, and current probate records and jurisdictions.

The U.S. government had jurisdiction over the probate records for Native American or Indian tribes. The Bureau of Indians Affairs had agencies responsible for regional groups of recognized tribes. The Field Office of the appropriate tribal agency kept any probate records. These are found at the National Archives branch designated to archive the records for the pertinent agency.

Historical Background

United States probate law derived from English common law and from Spanish community property law, depending on the state. Under English common law, a married woman could only make a will of real property with her husband's consent or with an antenuptial contract. Under Spanish community property law, property acquired while married belonged equally to husband and wife. Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington are community property states.

Probate matters for the original English colonies were handled under English law. In fact, some American wills were proved in England and Scotland. The American Colonial Probate Records article further explains how to find these wills.

Sources

  • Black, Henry Campbell. Black's Law Dictionary: Definitions of Terms and Phrases of American and English Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern. 6th edition. St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing, 1990. FHL 340.03 B564L 1990
  • Carter, Fran. Searching American Probate Records. Bountiful Utah: American Genealogical Lending Library, 1993. FHL 973 P27c
  • Eichholz, Alice, Editor. Redbook: American State, County, and Town Sources. Third Edition. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004. There is a Probate Records section under each state's listings. FHL 973 D27rb 2004
  • Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000. Of particular interest are the chapters, "Understanding Probate Records and Basic Legal Terminology," "What About Wills?" and "The Intestate—Miscellaneous Probate Records—Guardianships." FHL 973 D27g 2000
  • Rose, Christine. Courthouse Research for Family Historians: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures. San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2004. Of particular interest are the chapters, "Estates Galore," "Estate Documents," "Milking Every Clue from Estates," and "Strategies that Work." FHL 929.1072 R72c
  • Szucs, Loretto Dennis and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, editors. The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy. Third edition. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, Inc., 2006. Of particular interest is the section, "Probate," pages 268 - 277. FHL 973 D27ts 1997

Many early probate records have been transcribed, indexed, and published. The Family History Library has statewide indexes or transcripts of large collections of wills that have been published for Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. These are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog.

Probate by State

Web Sites

  • Sampubco A gateway to Indexes of Wills, Guardianships, Probate Records, and Letters Testamentary 
  • The USGenWeb Project A cooperative volunteer effort with links to resources in the state and counties.

Wiki articles describing online collections arefound at: