Genealogy Friday: 7 Items of Interest in Probate Records

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I just spent half a day combing through probate records in a neighboring town.

Probate records can be a great resource for information on your ancestor and his/her life.

So what can you find in probate records?

certificate of marriage

  1. Marriage Records—marriage records are filed in the probate court.  Marriage records usually began between 1909-1918 depending on the state where you live.  Marriage records provide information on the date your ancestor’s were married and the officiate that married the bride and groom.
  2. Estate Records—these are usually for those that have left no will, but have an estate.  Papers will be filed regarding the deceased property and how the estate was assessed.
  3. Wills—probate court has the will that your ancestor left.  A will provides information such as name of spouse, name of children, married names for daughters, an estimate of date of death, and signature or mark of your ancestor.
  4. Inventory of property—in many of the earlier wills {before the 20th Century} there are in-depth inventories of every items the deceased owned.  Often, if there was an auction or estate sale, there is a list of who bought what item and the amount last will and testamentpaid.
  5. Land information—if the deceased had not deeded all of his/her property to a spouse, child or relative, information on the land may turn up.  I have also found information about the deceased renting land and owning rent to the land owner.
  6. Disputes—often there are disputes between family members over a will or land owned by the deceased.  I have one ancestor where this was the case and the estate took over 30 years to close.  There are over 100 pages in the papers on this estate.
  7. Taxes and other expenses—often you will find where the estate owes for taxes, burial expenses, past rents and other expenses.

To search probate records, check with the local probate court where your ancestor died.

One important thing to remember is that not everyone has a probate record.  If you can’t find a probate record for an ancestor don’t be surprised.  Either your ancestor signed over all land and other property before his/her death or had no property to probate.

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