South Africa, Orange Free State, Estate Files (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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South Africa

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South Africa, Orange Free State, Estate Files, 1951-2006 .
This article describes a collection of records at
Orange Free State, South Africa
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Location of Orange Free State, South Africa
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Record Description
Record Type: Estate Files
Collection years: 1951-2006
Languages: Afrikaans Word List, English
Title in the Languages:
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Master of the Free State High Court, Bloemfontein

What is in the Collection?

This collection of estate files from Orange Free State, South Africa includes the period from 1951 to 2006.

Each estate file contains several documents; some files are extensive as others are smaller in size. These files may include death notices, death certificates, other vital records, wills, liquidation and distribution accounts, duty accounts, inventory of goods, acceptances of trust as executor, letters of administration, notary public documents, pension documents, bank and stocks documents, valuation of properties, other assets, etc.

Documents are written in English and in Dutch. The estate files are arranged in chronological order and by the first letter of the surname. Groups of documents often span many years beyond the year of death of the deceased. The death notice is the most important piece of genealogical information in these files; it typically contains the full name of the deceased, date and place of death, birth place, age at death, nationality, parents, occupation, residence, marital status, spouse(s), children, if the deceased left any goods and a will. Cause of death is found only on the brief death certificate.

Estate files, created at the Master of the Supreme Court in Orange Free State, South Africa commenced in the year 1951. Not all deceased persons have estate files. Estate files are not opened for those who owned little or no assets, therefore these records cover only a certain percentage of the population. Estate file prior to 1951 may be found in the relevant Archives Repositories.

The purpose of the estate files at the Master’s Office is to administer the liquidation and distribution of the estates of deceased persons, administer trust property given under the control of any person by a deceased person, administer the property of minors and persons under curatorship, administer derelict estates, regulate the rights of beneficiaries under mutual wills made by any two or more persons. The Master’s Office keeps records for every estate within the jurisdiction of the Office, and documents are available for inspection and certified copies may be made for documents.

The fullness and accuracy of the information appearing on death notices is dependent on the knowledge of the informant, often the next-of-kin. If the informant is not a family member, details may be sketchy. However, additional information may be added after the completion of the death notice, which is a reason for seeing all the papers in the file.

The documents inside the estate files give much information about the deceased including personal details, those of his/her spouse(s), children and other beneficiaries. Addresses often also give clues to the researcher about where to find relatives of the deceased. It is suggested to look at all the documents in the file, not simply the death notice and will.

Sample Images

Click on images for a larger view.

Death notices may contain the following information:

  • Name of deceased
  • Age of deceased in months and years
  • Birth place and nationality
  • Date and place of death
  • Names of parents
  • Occupation and residence of deceased
  • Marital status and date of last marriage
  • Name of surviving spouse
  • Names of children of deceased

Will records may contain the following information:

  • Full name of deceased
  • Name of spouse
  • Names of heirs and family members
  • Date and place of will
  • Names of witnesses

How Do I Search the Collection?

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for South Africa, Orange Free State, Estate Files, 1951-2006.

To search this collection by name: Fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. 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.

To search the collection by image:

⇒Select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒Select the appropriate "Year"
⇒Select the appropriate "File Number" which takes you to the images.

To search the death notices, it would be helpful if you knew the following information:

  • Name of ancestor
  • Place of residence
  • Approximate year and place of death

Search the collection by image 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.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

  • Use the age in the citizen to find an approximate birth year to begin your search in church or civil records.
  • Continue to search the records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives who may have moved, been recruited or lived nearby. This can help you identify other generations of your family. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify. Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual. This compiled list can help you identify possible relations that can be further verified by researching vital records indexes in the country.
  • When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. Save a copy of the image or transcribe the information. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details such as a title, an occupation, or land ownership. Add this new information to your records of each family. You should also look for leads to other records about your ancestors.
  • 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?

  • Switch to a different record collection. Depending on the time period, either Civil Registration records or Church Records may be more useful.
  • While searching, it is helpful to know such information as the ancestor’s given name and surname, some identifying information such as residence and age, and family relationships. Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name as an ancestor and that the ancestor may have used nicknames or different names at different times.
  • Keep in mind that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • Standard spelling of names typically did not exist during the periods our ancestors lived in. Try variations of your ancestor’s name while searching the index or browsing through images. Pay special attention to how the name should have been pronounced and try variations on the pronunciation.
  • 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 local genealogical societies.
  • Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after the late 1800.
  • There is also some variation in the information given from one record to another.
  • Be aware that there may have been some transcription errors.

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:

"South Africa, Orange Free State, Estate Files, 1951-2006." Database with Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2016. Citing The Master of Supreme Court. Master of the Free State High Court, Bloemfontein.

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 South Africa, Orange Free State, Estate Files, 1951-2006.

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 South Africa, Orange Free State, Estate Files, 1951-2006.

How You Can Contribute

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