Wisconsin 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.
In the territorial era, probate records were kept by probate courts. These files were eventually transferred to the clerk of the circuit court, where current records are also kept. You may obtain probate records by contacting the office of the clerk of circuit court.
Understanding the Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin 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, "Wisconsin statutes."
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of probate files and indexes from many Wisconsin counties. For example, Milwaukee County microfilms include probate packets on 1,097 films from 1850–1910 FHL Collection and a general card index on 73 films for 1838–1915 FHL Collection.
Statewide Record Collections
- Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."