‘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‘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.’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 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.



12 Responses

  1. Free til Nov 7? I thought it was Labor Day weekend, endingon Sept 7 for the general public, and would be for all free for all members of who are paid members with a U.S. membership thereafter. Does this mean it’s only free to Ancestry members until November?

  2. Paying attention to the ‘what’ of the record collection is great. Family Search has a number of probate records in the browse only section of their site for my county of interest.

    Is this index a truly searchable one?

    That would be a great help as the records really are confusing. I played around from off the top of my head and didn’t discover anything. I will try again.

    • Browsing the records on is not the easiest thing to do. One really has to know what is there to begin with as the menu of what has online is not really designed for the user who is not already somewhat familiar with these records. The “inventory” is there, but there really is not a great deal of detail and the items are not really listed in any logical order–particularly for those locations where a lot of material has been microfilmed.

  3. I spent some time looking at the “free” Ancestry probate database and found it to be virtually worthless. I would NOT consider it “huge”. For most states, there are virtually no wills or probate records other than those mentioned in somebody’s family genealogy. If you look at the number of will/probate databases in the card catalog by state, the same 29 useless databases are all that exist for most states, and many of those are actually behind the Ancestry paywall. The only states with meaningful availability of will/probate records are NY, MA, NC, PA and a couple of others. Typical overhyped “free” offer, and the reason why I don’t subscribe to Ancestry. Familysearch has MUCH better will/probate collections for the few states that are available so far.

    • Like many collections, how valuable it is depends on your personal research areas of interest. There are significant amounts of material for many midwestern states, but there are entire counties that have no coverage even in states where there is significant coverage. Before subscribing or even contemplating a subscription, one should look at the drop down menu to determine what there is. There are also quite a few locations where FamilySearch has not yet digitized the material that is a part of the collection. If areas of interest are covered, a sub to, may be cheaper than ordering film or going to Salt Lake.

  4. My grandparets died in St Louis, MO, 1944 & 1962. Both left wills which were probated. Neither of their names appear in this index!!!

    • I’d look Barbara to see what they have for st. Louis in that time period. I doubt if they have digital copies of records online that late for St.Louis.

  5. Thanks for the head-up about the Porbate records becoming available. As it is summertime, I spend little time in genea. blogs.

    However, I went into my ancestry account, and for the state of Ohio, almost immediately found important wills of two ancestors with a very common surname `Newman`- Prussian Germans who arrived in the 1900s.

    The will of the wife was very very instructive, as it provided the names of all living children (in 1912) , particularly the two married daughters whose marreid names I did not know! Then I was quickly able to flesh out their married families just within

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Genealogy Tip of the Day Book
Recent Comments