Massachusetts, Middlesex County Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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United States Gotoarrow.png Massachusetts Gotoarrow.pngMiddlesex County

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This article describes a collection of records scheduled to become available at FamilySearch.org.
Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
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Location of Middlesex County, Massachusetts
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Location of Massachusetts
Record Description
Record Type Probate
Collection years 1648-1967
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites



What is in the Collection?

This collection contains various probate records from the Middlesex County Probate Court. The collection includes records from 1648 to 1967.

You will be able to browse through images in this collection when it is published.

Collection Content

Sample Images

Probate records were court documents and may have involved loose papers and/or bound volumes. These records were generally known as an estate file or probate packet. Files included all documents related to estate settlement, including settlement papers, inventories, receipts, and wills. Other estate records listed in these files may include accounts, administrations, appraisals, minutes, bonds, petitions, and guardianships.

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 to heirs from the deceased to:

  • An executor or executrix (if the deceased had made a will)
  • An administrator or administratrix (if the deceased had not made a will)
  • A guardian or conservator (if the deceased had heirs under the age of twenty-one or if the 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.

What Can this Collection Tell Me?

Probate records include:

  • Petitions
  • Inventories
  • Accounts
  • Decrees
  • Oaths of executors
  • Forms about guardians
  • Other court documents

The records usually include:

  • 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 Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search you will need to know:

  • The name of the deceased
  • The place of residence
  • The approximate death or probate date


View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:
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"
⇒Select the "Volume Title and Year" which takes you to the images.

Look at the images comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the 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.

What Do I Do Next?

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.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

  • Use probate records to identify heirs and relatives.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • You may be able to use the probate record to learn about adoptions or guardianship of any minor children and dependents.
  • You may be able to use the probate record to learn about land transactions.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Look for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.

Citing this Collection

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information; that is, cite your sources. This will help people find the record again and evaluate the reliability of the source. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records. Citations are available for the collection as a whole and each record or image individually.

Collection Citation:

"Massachusetts, Middlesex County Probate Records, 1648-1967." Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. Citing Middlesex County Probate Court, Cambridge.

Image Citation:

The image citation will be available once the collection is published.

How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.