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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1 Response to U.S. wills and probate records on Ancestry.com

  1. Art Petty says:

    This is a great addition to Ancestry’s database! The very first name that I typed in resulted in 135 pages of probate records for an aunt in Alabama. No will, so court records were extensive, including a detailed listing of all the heirs; children (many) and which ones were deceased, surviving in-laws, and all living grandchildren. Interestingly, one child died and one grandchild born between the death date and the probate settlement. These were noted in the records. Also from the distribution of funds, it was easy to determine the number of grandchildren in each family. Since the sale of some property was required to equitably distribute the estate, each heir of legal age and each minor child (via their legal guardian) was subpoenaed for input to the court prior to the sale of property. This provided the location (county and in some cases district) of each heir. This was particularly useful in a couple of cases where the grandchildren were living with other relatives following the deaths of their father and/or mother. It also provided clues to the location of legal guardianship appointments, also included in the same database. An incredible amount of new information was learned about this family from this single probate record. Art Petty

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