British Columbia Estate Files (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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British Columbia, Estate Files, 1859-1949 .
This article describes a collection of records at
British Columbia,  Canada
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Location of British Columbia, Canada
Record Description
Record Type Probate and Estate
Collection years 1859-1949
Languages English
Title in the Language
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
British Columbia Archives and Records Service

What is in this Collection?

These records include probate estate files for the Judicial Districts of British Columbia. The Records were created by either the County Court or the Supreme Court. The years vary by court and locality, and indexes exist for the following districts, Vancouver and Victoria. The Victoria index is found in this record collection: British Columbia Wills, 1861-1939; Index, 1861-1981.

In British Columbia, estates were probated for perhaps 10 percent of the heads of household before 1900.

The clerk of the court retained all original documents about a case in a probate packet or probate estate papers (also known as estate packets, case files, or estate files). The estate files contain the original wills, petitions, letters, bonds, inventories, settlements, and other records. Some or all of these documents may also have been copied in separate books. Not every locality covers the entire date range or contains every kind of probate record mentioned above.

Probate records were kept by probate or surrogate courts. Often the size of the estate determined which court held jurisdiction. Search the records of all probate courts in all places where the individual had property.

The article Canada Probate Records contains more information about this collection.

Collection Content

Sample Images

Probate and estate files are especially useful when trying to prove a relationship between two or more individuals. To ensure that the property went to the correct person, relationships (such as 'son,' 'aunt,' or 'sister-in-law') were often named in detail. This is ideal for a genealogist who needs proof to move on to the next generation in a family or needs help fleshing out a complete family group.

In cases where birth, marriage, and death records began too late, probate and estate records may be completely necessary to prove family connections.

What Can this Collection Tell Me?

Will records may include the following information:

  • Name of deceased
  • Death place
  • Names of children, spouse and other family members
  • Names of witnesses
  • Date of will (may include death date)

Letters of administration records may include the following information:

  • Name of deceased
  • Date of death and place of death
  • Name of spouse and children

How Do I Search the Collection?

View Images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒Select "Browse Images" on the initial search page
⇒Select the appropriate “Judicial District/Locality”
⇒Select the appropriate “Court”
⇒Select the appropriate “Record Type, Date Range, File or Volume Numbers” which will take you to the images.

Important: Please note that there are indexes available in this collection of images that were not indexed through FamilySearch. These indexes were handwritten and included in the images found in the individual folders. Find your ancestor's name and look for the page, entry, certificate number or book number next to their name. This will help you find the records you are looking for in this collection.

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.

What Do I Do Next?

When you have located your ancestor’s probate or estate record, carefully evaluate each piece of information about them. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

  • If you haven't already done so, see if you can find your ancestor's death registration for the possibility of more information on his or her death.
  • Use the name of the spouse and your ancestor's name to search for a marriage record.
  • Search for the names of the family members found in the record in the British Columbia Birth Registrations collection to find their birth dates.

While probate records are one of the most accurate sources of genealogical evidence, use them with some caution because:

  • They may remove the names of deceased family members or those who previously received an inheritance.
  • The spouse mentioned in a will may not be the parent of the children mentioned.
  • Relationships noted in the records may not have the same meaning today. (Pay special attention to in-law relationships.)

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

  • If you haven't already done so, see if you can find your ancestor's death registration for the possibility of information on his or her death. This may also give a place of death, which could indicate property held in that place for further searching in the estate files.
  • Look where your ancestor was living at the time of the last census. That will give you a clue to finding the county of the death place where your ancestor was probated.
  • Search the Canadian Mortality Schedules to find a death place for your ancestor.
  • If your ancestor was an immigrant, look in the British Columbia, Naturalization Records, 1859-1926 collection. This could give you a clue as to where your ancestor was residing at the time of naturalization, which could possibly help narrow down a locality that your ancestor lived and died in.
  • Probate records were kept by probate or surrogate courts. Often the size of the estate determined which court held jurisdiction. Search the records of all probate courts in all places where the individual had property.
  • While it's worth looking for, keep in mind that not every individual had a documented probate. It's possible that there may not be a probate record available for the ancestor at all. In this case, you may need to look at other record types to prove relationships.
  • Don't forget that the use of nicknames was common, as well as alternate spellings of surnames. Make sure you are looking at all records using possible nicknames or spelling variations.

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:

"British Columbia, Estate Files, 1859-1949." Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2016. Citing British Columbia Archives and Records Service, Victoria.

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 British Columbia, Estate Files, 1859-1949.

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.