Virginia, County Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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|This article describes a collection of historical records scheduled to become available at FamilySearch.org.|
This collection includes images of probate records for some counties in Virginia. The records include wills, inventories, and other court documents. This collection includes the following counties:
- Suffolk (Independent City)
The collection includes records from 1752 to 1983. Exact content and time period varies by county.
For a list of records 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 Record collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.
- “Virginia, County Probate Records, 1752-1983” Images. FamilySearch. http://familySearch.org : accessed 2013.
These records may contain any of the following:
- Name of testator or deceased
- Event year
- Event place
- Names of heirs such as spouse, children, and other relatives or friends
- Sometimes the date of death
How to Use the Record
To begin your search it is helpful to know the name of the deceased and some other identifying information such as the place of residence or the approximate death or probate date
Search the Collection
To search the collection image by image select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒ Select the appropriate 'County'
⇒ Select the appropriate 'Record Type, Year Range, and Volume number or letter' category which takes you to the images.
Look at the individuals in the list or in the images comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the entry or image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination. Keep in mind:
- There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
- You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
- Your ancestor may have used different names or variations of their name throughout their life.
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.
- 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.
- Use the recording date approximate the death date. (For example, a letter of administration was usually written shortly after the time of death.)
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 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.
- 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.
Unable to Find Your Ancestor?
- Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
- Check for an index. There are often indexes created by the court or local historical and genealogical societies.
- Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
Additional Information About Probate Records
Probate records fall into two general categories: wills and estate papers. The records include petitions, inventories, accounts, decrees, oaths of executors, forms about guardians and other court documents.
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.
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.
Most probate records were created on a county level, though many were later sent to the Archives. The contents of probate records vary greatly depending on the prevailing law and the personality of the record keeper.
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.
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
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