Kentucky Probate Records

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Record Synopsis

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.”[1] 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.

To see a coverage map of FamilySearch's holdings of Kentucky county probate records, click here.


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, They 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.

State Statutes

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."





Statewide Record Collections

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 FamilySearch Catalog:

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Published Materials


A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:

     Kentucky Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)


  1. Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."
  2. May be used for free at Family History Center. To locate a center near you, click here.
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