User:Bloosgrl/sandbox1

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

Probate records are court records created after an individual's death that relate to a court's decisions regarding the distribution of their estate to their heirs or creditors and the care of their dependents. You may find the individual's death date, the names of family members, family relationships, and residences. You may also learn about the adoption or guardianship of minor children and dependents. These documents are essential for research because they usually predate the birth and death records kept by civil authorities.

Not everyone left an estate that was probated by a court. Estates were probated for approximately 25 percent of the heads of households in the United States before 1900, whether or not the individual left a will.

While probate records are one of the most accurate sources of genealogical evidence, they must be used with some caution. For example, they may omit the names of deceased family members or those who have previously received an inheritance, or the spouse mentioned in a will may not be the parent of the children mentioned.


Information Included on the Records[edit | edit source]

The information you find varies from record to record. These records may include:

  • Name of an ancestor.
  • Date and place of death.
  • Names of parents.
  • Names of spouse and children.
  • Lists of belongings, property, and so forth.
  • Biographical information.

Steps to Finding Information the Records[edit | edit source]

These 7 steps may help you find information in probate records.

Step 1. Determine the county or state where your ancestor lived.[edit | edit source]

Check the following to find the county where your ancestor lived:

  • Family records (histories, pedigree charts, family group sheets, etc.).
  • Published family histories.
  • Censuses. The following gives details about the US Censuses United States Census

For additional ways to find where your ancestor lived, see How to Locate Your Ancestor in the United States.

Step 2. Search for county collections for probate records in the FamilySearch Catalog.[edit | edit source]

Many probate records have been digitized in the FamilySearch Catalog. Once the record is located, it is possible to download the information, copy or print it. The citation information may also be available for the record. 

Since an index may be found with the record or separately, in the FamilySearch Catalog, search collections that include indexes and images, images only and indexes only. Follow the instructions below for searching that catalog:

To search for probate records at the state level, follow directions below.

  1. Go to the FamilySearch Catalog
  2. Enter: the name of the state to search in the Place box
  3. Click on: Search
  4. Click on: Probate Records

To search for probate records at the county, follow directions below.

  1. Go to the FamilySearch Catalog
  2. Enter: the name of the county in the Place box
  3. Click on: Search
  4. Click on: Probate Records


Step 3: Search for record collections in the Wiki[edit | edit source]

There are three ways to find probate record collections in the FamilySearch Wiki.

State Probate Records Pages[edit | edit source]

1. Go to the FamilySearch Wiki
2. Enter the name of the state followed by the words "probate records".
3. Find the heading that says "Online Records" or "Online Resources".
4. Look through those collections for additional collections to search.

Online Genealogy Records Pages[edit | edit source]

1. Go to the FamilySearch Wiki
2. Enter the name of the state followed by the words "genealogy records".
3. Find the heading that says "Probate Records".
4. Look through those collections for additional collections to search.

County Pages[edit | edit source]

1. Go to the FamilySearch Wiki
2. Enter the name of the county followed by a comma the name of the state and the words "genealogy".
3. Find the heading that says "Probate".
4. Look through those collections for additional collections to search.

Step 4. Get a copy of the record.[edit | edit source]

  • Some collections will include an index with images. In that case, a copy can easily be made and the information can be analyzed on the record (see analyze the information on the record below).
  • Some collections will only have an index. In that case, a copy of the record may need to be obtained from a courthouse or other repository. (See "how to request a record" below).
  • Some collections are comprised of online images. Determining how the images are organized will make it easier to find a record. See Browsable Images Instruction for FamilySearch Catalog for more help.
  • Some collections are on microfilm, fiche or hard copy books. A trip to the repository to view them or an interlibrary loan to request them will be needed.

Step 5. Analyze the information you found.[edit | edit source]

Study the document. Compare the information to what you already knew about your ancestor.

  • What does it tell you about your ancestor and about the people who were with him or her?
  • Does the record give clues about your ancestor which could guide you to other records?
  • Watch for dates, locations, relationships, etc.

FAQs[edit | edit source]

1. What can I do if I cannot find probate records for the area where my ancestor lived?[edit | edit source]

If you cannot find probate records, check:

  • Other types of records, such as church, land, etc., listed on the Search Strategy.
  • Another place where your ancestor lived.
  • PERSI, which is an index of magazines. Information which is too short for a book may be found in a magazine article. For information about PERSI, see Tip 3.

2. What Internet sites may help me?[edit | edit source]

Check the following general websites:

  • CyndisList which has links to thousands of sites that contain genealogy information of all kinds
  • USGenWeb
  • RootsWeb
  • Ancestry.com which has PERSI and has scanned many books and displays them at this site.

3. What is PERSI, and where can I find it?[edit | edit source]

PERSI is an index of about 5,000 historical and genealogical magazines. These magazines have articles with:

  • Family histories.
  • Abstracts of church, town, and other records.
  • Histories of towns.
  • Many other records and topics.

PERSI may be found at:

4. How can I use interlibrary loan?[edit | edit source]

Many public and college libraries can borrow books from other libraries and archives. Only public and college libraries with microfilm readers can borrow microfilms.

  • Go to your public or college library.
  • Ask the librarian to check out a book or microfilm for you through interlibrary loan. You need to give the librarian the title of the book and the name of the author. For a microfilm, give the name and address of the archive that has the microfilm and their microfilm number. The librarian may be able to find this for you.
  • The library staff will help you with their procedures. There may be a small fee.

Where To Find It[edit | edit source]

For information about contacting or visiting a family history center or the Family History Library, see Family History Library and Family History Centers: Library Services and Resources.

Family History Centers[edit | edit source]

Family History Centers can borrow microfilms from the Family History Library.

For the address and phone number of the center nearest you, see family history centers.

Family History Library[edit | edit source]

For descriptions of records available through the Family History Library, go to Introduction to the FamilySearch Catalog or

Use the search box in upper right of this page and search:

  • To find county records, use county and then state name
  • To find town or city records, use a town or city name and then state name.

Archives and Libraries[edit | edit source]

Records are available in many archives and libraries.

Some major archives and libraries in the United States are:

Some college and larger public libraries have probate records, particularly for their own areas. Public libraries may be able to obtain the records through interlibrary loan. For information about interlibrary loan, see Tip 4.
You can find addresses and phone numbers for town, county, and college libraries in the American Library Directory. The American Library Directory is available at most public and college libraries.

Most state archives and university libraries have probate records, particularly for their own areas. The "Archives and Libraries" FamilySearch [United_States_Archives_and_Libraries#Archives_and_Libraries_in_each_State Wiki article of a states lists] Internet and mailing addresses for several state archives, libraries, and historical societies. These organizations may have histories. Their Internet sites may list their records.


Genealogical and Historical Societies[edit | edit source]

Some records may be available at genealogical and historical societies.

You may find the names and addresses of societies in the following sources, which are available at many public and college libraries:


  • The Genealogist's Address Book, by Elizabeth Petty Bentley.
  • Directory of Genealogical and Historical Society Libraries, Archives and Collections in the US and Canada, by Dina C. Carson.
  • Directory of Genealogical Societies in the U.S.A. and Canada, by Mary Meyer.
  • Directory of Historical Organizations in the United States and Canada, edited by Mary Bray Wheeler.
  • The Encyclopedia of Associations, published by Gale Research Co.

You can also check Internet sites such as this one for information about societies:

CyndisList, which has links to thousands of sites that contain genealogy information of all kinds.

Genealogical Search Services[edit | edit source]

 Many genealogical search services will search probate records for a fee. These sources can help you find a genealogical search service:

CyndisList gives many companies and individuals who do research and lists publications that explain how to hire a professional genealogist.
Advertisements in major genealogical journals may help you find a researcher.

For more information, see Hiring a Professional Researcher.