New York Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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New York Probate Records, 1629-1971 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
New York, United States
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Location of New York
Record Description
Record Type Probate
Collection years 1629-1971
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites



What Is In the Collection?

The records are probate records in various county Surrogate Courts in New York. The content of the probate records and their year range vary by county. Most records end in the 1920s with some indexes continuing to the year 1971. This collection does not include records from metropolitan New York at this time. Records in this collection include:

  • Wills
  • Executor and administrator accounts
  • Petitions
  • Administrators bonds
  • Oaths to inventory and other loose papers
  • Appraiser appointments and letters
  • Guardianship letters
  • Real estate decrees and sales
  • Letters testamentary
  • Books of dower
  • Registers and indexes of undertaking
  • Judicial statements
You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for New York Probate Records,1629-1971.

Collection Content

Sample Images

Information that my be found in the records include:

  • Name of the deceased
  • Death date
  • Age or birth date
  • Name of spouse
  • Names of children, parents, siblings, or other relatives
  • Adoption or guardianships
  • Neighbors and associates
  • Residence
  • Occupations

General Information About These Records

New York has a complicated history regarding the recording of probates. Before 1787, probates were handled by a variety of courts whose jurisdictions changed often. 

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:

  • Legal responsibility for payment of taxes
  • Care and custody of dependent family members
  • Liquidation of debts
  • Transfer of property title to heirs

These documents are extremely valuable to genealogists and should not be neglected. In many instances, they are the only known source of relevant information.

For a summary of this information see the wiki article: United States, How to Use the Records Summary (FamilySearch Historical Records).

How Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search it is helpful to know:

  • Name of your ancestor
  • Identifying information such as age, place of residence or names of other family members

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒ Select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒ Select the "County" category
⇒ Select the "Volume Title and Year" category which takes you to the images.

Look at each image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names or variations of their name throughout their life.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

When you have located your ancestor’s record, 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.
  • Use the information in the probate record to substitute for civil birth and death records, since the probates exist for an earlier time period.
  • 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.
  • You may be able to use the probate record to learn about
Land transactions
adoptions or guardianship of any minor children and dependents

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • 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.
  • The information in the records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the deceased or the testator.

I Can't Find Who I'm Looking for, What Now?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for alias names, nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Look for an index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby localities.

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.


Citing This Collection

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information; that is, cite your sources. This will help people find the record again and evaluate the reliability of the source. 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. Citations are available for the collection as a whole and each record or image individually.

Collection Citation:

"New York Probate Records, 1629-1971." Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. Citing Surrogate Courts in New York. County courthouses, New York.

Image citation:

The image citation is available by clicking on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for New York Probate Records, 1629-1971.


How You Can Contribute

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.