U.S. wills and probate records on Ancestry.com

There are new databases of will and probate records at Ancestry.com. They contain over 170 million documents from all 50 states. In the past, to see these documents, you probably had to visit the county courthouse. I don’t remember Ancestry digitizing other county-level documents; this may be a big step forward.

Their gateway page for this new collection is at U.S. Wills and Probate Records. Unfortunately this was designed by their marketing staff, not their genealogists. The page encourages you to type in a name and a death date but that’s not a good way to search. Crista Cowan explains the right way to search in a half-hour YouTube video she published last week, “Getting started with probate records.” There’s also a 5-page research guide called “Finding your family in wills and probate records.”

I’ll be monitoring this Wednesday afternoon from 1 to 3. I don’t know much about these new databases but if you’d like to look at them together please stop by.

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