Michigan 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 and estate matters in Michigan were recorded by the clerk of the probate court in each county. Probate records were kept beginning in 1817, except in Wayne County, which began keeping probate records in 1797.
These records include wills, guardianships, administrator bonds, estate inventories, and other records. They are usually indexed and the records may be obtained through correspondence or visiting the county courthouse.
Understanding the Michigan 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. Online digital versions of state statutes can often be found by conducting an online search for the term, "Michigan statutes."
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of probate files from most Michigan counties up to the year 1900, and some indexes or calendars to 1970.
Statewide Record Collections
A wiki article describing an oline colleciton is found at:
- Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."