Kentucky Probate Records
Probate is the “court procedure by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid” and encompasses “all matters and proceedings pertaining to the administration of estates, guardianships, etc.” Various types of records are created throughout the probate process. These may include, wills, bonds, petitions, accounts, inventories, administrations, orders, decrees, and distributions. These documents are extremely valuable to genealogists and should not be neglected. In many instances, they are the only known source of relevant information such as the decedent’s date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their places of residence. They may also include information about adoption or guardianship of minor children and dependents. For further information about the probate process, types of probate records, analyzing probate records, and to access a glossary of probate terms, see United States Probate Records.
Probate records of Kentucky are kept by the county clerk.
Before 1748 there were few American settlers in the area of present-day Kentucky. In the ensuing years boundary disputes continued between Tennessee and Kentucky, which were not firmly settled until 1859. As a result, some families were unsure which state they lived in. Often, records for them are found in both states.
A loss of records occurred in some of the 120 counties of Kentucky by either fire or accident. Fortunately, some of these lost records were later re-recorded, making it necessary to extend a search in those counties well past the years in which the records were destroyed.
- A brief history of the settlement and boundary changes of Kentucky and the resultant effects on record keeping can be found on Ancestry.($)
- A discussion of Kentucky Probate Records written by Wendy Bebout Elliott for Red book: American State, County, and Town Sources can be found at Ancestry. ($)
Understanding the Kentucky probate laws and how they changed over time can help us learn how the estate was administered, taxed, and distributed and might help to solve difficult genealogical problems.
Additional information about Kentucky state statutes relating to probate matters can be found at law libraries. Online digital versions of state statutes can often be found by conducting a search engine search for the term, "Kentucky statutes."
- Probate records of Kentucky are kept by the county clerk.
- Copies of probate records are also available at the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives.
- The Family History Library located in Salt Lake City, Utah Kentucky probate records available on microfilm. For collection details see the Family History Library Catalog. Use the "Place Search" option to search for a specific Kentucky county. Then look for topics labeled "Probate Records" or "Guardianship."
Statewide Record Collections
- Index to Kentucky Wills to 1851, the Testators. Salt Lake City, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems, 1979. FHL Collection, book 976.9 P22i.;This index shows the testator’s name, county, year of the will, volume, and page number.
- King, Junie Estelle Stewart. Abstract[s] of Early Kentucky Wills and Inventories. 1933; reprint, Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing, 1961. FHL Collection, book 976.9 P28k; film 897212 item 5; fiche 6051356. Includes surname index. Digital version at Ancestry ($).
Book J of the Kentucky Court of Appeals (1780-88) contains some wills and inventories. It can be found under the subject of Kentucky - Land and property in the FHL catalog:
- Cook, Michael L. and Bettie A. Cook. Kentucky Court of Appeals Deed Books Evansville, Indiana: Cook Publications, 1985. FHL Collection, book 976.9 R2c v.2. H-N.
- Bennett, R. Terry, Sean E. Mumaw and National Business Business Institute. Kentucky Probate: Beyond the Basics. Eau Claire, WI : NBI, Inc., ©2005. WorldCat entry.
- Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."