Illinois Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Access the records: Illinois Probate Books, 1819-1970 .

Collection Time Period

The records in this collection cover the years 1819 to 1970.

Record Description

Probate records were court documents and may have involved loose papers and/or bound volumes. These records were generally known as a case file or 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 which may have carried many titles such as accounts, administrations, appraisals, minutes, petitions, guardianships, inventories, settlements, and so forth. Wills are normally transcribed into a bound volume.

Counties in Browse

As of July 2011, the following counties are found in the browse list:

Illinois Probate Books
Name of County Recorded Year Range Will Registers Probate Records Bonds and Letters
Alexander 1829-1902 1850-1902 1829-1867 1860-1886
Brown 1817-1936 1869-1890 1849-1923 1849-1936
Calhoun 1829-1916 1870-1916 1829-1874 1859-1904
Champaign  1851-1921 1851-1921 N/A N/A
Coles 1866-1946 1866-1925 1900-1923 N/A
De Witt 1862-1923 1862-1923 N/A 1850-1901
Effingham 1838-1920 1838-1920 1838-1893 1871-1894
Fayette 1821-1917 1859-1917 1847-1881 N/A
Franklin 1835-1919 1848-1970 1875-1884 N/A
Gallatin 1813-1931 1814-1931 1815-1884 1859-1901
Greene 1836-1917 1845-1915 1836-1923 N/A
Hamilton 1823-1933 1838-1883 1823-1933 N/A
Hancock 1827-1938 1833-1918 1898-1923 1849-1922
Henderson 1843-1939 1841-1850 1850-1928 1846-1939
Henry 1861-1926 N/A 1894-1901 N/A 
Jasper 1856-1921 N/A 1856-1921 N/A
Jersey 1839-1940 1852-1931 1872-1933 1839-940
Jo Daviess 1829-1921 1829-1921 1921 N/A
Johnson 1874-1965 1870-1926 1874-1865 N/A
Kankakee 1855-1924 1859-1924 1855-1921 N/A
La Salle 1844-1945 1847-1922 1844-1923 1883-1913
Livingston 1837-1905 1867-1901 1837-1849 1872-1905
Logan 1855-1963 1855-1922 1860-1920 1857-1963
Macoupin 1835-1939 1835-1925 1835-1926 1849-1939
Madison 1819-1929 1912-1922 1821-1911 1819-1929
Mason 1866-1934 1836-1934 N/A 1866-1898
Massac 1871-1883 N/A 1871-1883 N/A
McHenry 1840-1985 1886-1919 1840-1985 1924-1947
Menard 1839-1937 1860-1884 1839-1891 1868-1937
Montgomery 1849-1926 1849-1921 1850-1926 N/A
Morgan 1824-1925 1824-1825 1866-1894 N/A
Rock Island

N/A = Not available at this time

Record Content

Probate records include petitions, inventories, accounts, decrees and other court documents. Genealogical facts in entries are:

  • Name of testator or deceased
  • Names of heirs such as spouse, children, and other relatives or friends
  • Name of executor, administrator, or guardian
  • Names of witnesses
  • Residence of testator
  • Document and recording dates. (These are used to approximate event dates, i.e. a will was usually written near time of death.)

How to Use the Record

Probate records are arranged by county and then by date. To begin your search you will need to know:

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

Compare the information you find in the probate records to what you already know about your ancestors to determine which record is about your ancestor. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination.

Next, 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 employment records or other types of records such as military records.
  • 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.

Keep in mind:

  • 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.

Record History

County officials began keeping probate records from the time the county was formed. Probates are generally recorded in the county were the person resided. These records cover approximately 40 percent of adult males who left wills, but this may be less than 25 percent in some areas. Less than 10 percent of women had wills or estate inventories. Wills are more likely to be found in rural communities than in larger cities and industrial areas. A higher percentage of individuals died without a will, but they may have had their estates probated and distributed through the courts. Wills and other estate documents are found in the estate files.

Why this Record Was Created

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.

Record Reliability

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.

Related Web Sites

Illinois State Archives Online Databases

Cass County Probate Book A, July 1837 - January 1848

Cass County, Illinois Probate Book C, 1849-1852


Related Wiki Articles

Illinois Probate Records

Contributions to This Article

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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should also list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. 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.

A suggested format for keeping track of records thatyou have searched is found in the Wiki Article:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.

Examples of Source Citations for a Record in This Collection:

"Illinois Probate Books, 1819-1970." index and images, FamilySearch ( accessed 24 March 2011. entry for Winifred Hunton, died February 16, 1961; citing Probate Records, Rock Island, Probate Index Hu-Mc, Image 132. Digital images of originals housed in various county courthouses throughout the state of Illinois.

Sources of Information for This Collection

"Illinois Probate Books, 1819-1970," images, FamilySearch; (; from County Courts. Digital images of originals housed at various county courthouses throughout the state of Illinois. Marriage records. FHL digital images, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

We welcome your assistance in adding source citation information for individual archives when collection data was collected from various sources or archives. The format for citing FamilySearch Historical Collections, including how to cite individual archives is found in the following link: How to Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections