Ancestry.com‘s huge “probate database” contains images of hundreds of thousands of probate materials from across the United States. This collection appears to have been taken almost completely from microfilmed materials of the Family History Library.
Some of that microfilmed material has been put online, but a significant portion of it has not and Ancestry.com‘s publication of the material is the first time it has been put online. For those whose ancestors are from areas where the microfilm has not been digitized, the publication is significant.
As of this writing, the indexes are not the everyname indexes that genealogists dream of. The indexes currently appear to be to the deceased person whose estate is being settled or the child who is having a guardian appointed (there are exceptions). Most of these records are local court records that typically have indexes of this type already and those indexes are typically microfilmed by the Family History Library when the materials are filmed. Those who knew where their ancestor had a probate could already find the records if they knew how to use the records. The problem was that not all of the microfilm the Family History Library had was online. For some places one had to use the microfilm and that took even more time.
Ancestry.com’s indexes are helpful in that they make it faster for the user unfamiliar with these records to find people in them. They also make it helpful for those to find materials when they do not know where the person lived.
But not everything in the courthouse was filmed by FamilySearch when they microfilmed the probate or estate records for a certain location. Users of these probate records need to know all the records that were created and maintained at the local level. There could be:
- Record copies of the will
- Record copies of bonds (executor’s, administrator’s, guardian’s)
- Records of inventories, appraisements, and accountings
- Various other court journals related to probate
- Case files with actual will and other original materials
Ancestry.com probably doesn’t have everything on your area of interest. Always browse the materials at the county level to see exactly what they have for the area where you people lived.
Make certain your county of interest actually has records in the database.
They don’t have everything ever created in the courthouse.
They don’t have a full name index–you still need to search for ancestral siblings, associates, etc.
Stay tuned. We’ll have a few discoveries from this database over the next few weeks.
Note: the database is free until 7 November.