New Mexico 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.” Genealogists often refer to 'Probate Records' as "All records which relate to the disposition of an estate," whether the person died leaving a will (testate) or not (intestate).
Various types of records are created throughout the probate process. These may include, wills, guardianships, bonds, petitions, accounts, inventories, administrations, orders, depositions, 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.
The Spanish Archives and the Mexican Archives contain probate records for the Spanish and Mexican periods. In the 1840s and 1850s, prefect courts and probate courts kept records of the disposition of estates. Probate records from the 1850s to 1912 are in the records of the U.S. judicial district courts for the Territory of New Mexico at the National Archives Rocky Mountain Region (Denver).
Since statehood in 1912, probate matters have been under the jurisdiction of probate courts in each county. Records of guardianship and adoption have usually been transferred to the district courts. In 1953 the district courts were given concurrent jurisdiction with the probate court over all probate matters in each county.
The Family History Library does not have copies of the county probate records. They are available at each county courthouse. You can obtain copies by contacting the county clerk.
Further explanation of the records and laws dealing with probate affairs in the state is:
- Arie Poldervaart, New Mexico Probate Manual (Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1961).
- New Mexico Research Outline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001. (NOTE: All of the information from the original research outline has been imported into the FamilySearch Wiki and is being updated as time permits.)
- Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."
- Val. D. Greenwood, The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 3rd ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 2000), 309.