Maryland Probate Estate and Guardianship Files (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Maryland, Probate Estate and Guardianship Files, 1796-1940 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Maryland, United States
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Flag of Maryland
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Location of Maryland
Record Description
Record Type Probate and Guardianship
Collection years 1796-1940
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Archive
County Courts, Maryland.


What is in the Collection?

The collection includes name indexes and images of probate estate files from county offices for the years 1779 to 1940. The exact offices differ by county.

Currently, the following are included in this collection:

  • Allegany County (1779-1946)
  • Baltimore City (1920-1941)
  • Calvert County (1882-1940)
  • Caroline County (1838-1940)
  • Cecil County (1851-1940)
  • Garrett County (1920-1940)
  • Kent County (1749-1940)
  • Prince George's County (1796-1940)
  • Queen Anne's County (1833-1940)
  • Somerset County (1789-1946)
  • Wicomico County (1868-1940)

The loose records were generally known as a case file or a 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 that may have been labeled with such titles as accounts, administrations, appraisals, minutes, petitions, guardianships, inventories, or settlements.Each county began keeping probate records from the time the county was created. Orphan’s Court was the name of the probate court at the county level. Probate records were generally recorded in the county where the person lived. 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. Wills were more likely to have been found in rural communities than in larger cities and industrial areas.

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.

To Browse this Collection

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Maryland, Probate Estate and Guardianship Files, 1796-1940.

Image Visibility

Whenever possible, FamilySearch makes images available for all users. However, rights to view images on our website are granted by the record custodians. Images in this collection are available for viewing if you are a registered FamilySearch user. You can register for a free FamilySearch account here.

For additional information about image restrictions, please see the Restrictions for Viewing Images in FamilySearch Historical Record Collections page.

What Can these Records Tell Me?

Probate records include petitions, inventories, wills, guardianships, accounts, decrees, and other court documents. They include the following information:

  • Name of testator or deceased
  • Names of heirs, such as spouse, children, relatives, and friends
  • Name of executor, administrator, or guardian
  • Names of witnesses
  • Residence of testator
  • Dates the documents were written and recorded

Collection Content

Sample Images

How Do I Search the Collection?

You can search the index or view the images or both. To begin your search, it is helpful to know:

  • The name of the individual
  • The location or date of the event

Search the Index

Search by name by visiting the Collection Page.

  1. Fill in the search boxes on the Collection Page with the information you have
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

View the Images

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page.

  1. Select County
  2. Select Surname Letter
  3. Select 'Individual's Name and File Number

How Do I Analyze the Results?

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images.


For more tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line article FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

What Do I Do Now?

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

  • Use a Probate record to identify adoptions, guardians, heirs and relatives.
  • Use a will to approximate a death date, then find a death certificate.
  • Use the information in the probate record to substitute for civil birth and death records for earlier years.
  • Use the information to find other church and vital records such as birth, baptism, marriage, and death records. Also search for immigration, military, land and probate records.
  • Use the information to find additional family members in censuses.
  • Repeat this process with additional family members found, to find more generations of the family.
  • Church Records often were kept years before government records were required and are a good source for finding ancestors before 1900.

I Can’t Find Who I’m Looking for, What Now?

  • Try viewing the original record. Indexes and transcriptions may not include all the data found in the original records. Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • If your ancestor does not have a common name, collect entries for every person who has the same surname. This list can help you identify possible relatives that can be verified by records.
  • If you cannot locate your ancestor in the locality in which you believe they lived, then try searching records of a nearby locality in an area search.
  • Try variant spellings of your ancestor’s name.
  • Remember that sometimes individuals went by nicknames or alternated between using first and middle names. Try searching for these names as well.
  • Search the indexes and records of Maryland, United States Genealogy.
  • Search in the FamilySearch Library Catalog


Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Citing this Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:

"Maryland, Probate Estate and Guardianship Files, 1796-1940" Database with Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2017. County courts, Maryland.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for Maryland, Probate Estate and Guardianship Files, 1796-1940.


Image Citation:

The image citation is available by clicking on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Maryland, Probate Estate and Guardianship Files, 1796-1940.


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