Using probate records such as wills and estate inventories to find ancestors

Genealogy counts solely of various sources to find one’s ancestors. It could be historical records, online accounts, census records and one, which can be quite detailed are probate records.

What are probate records and how can you use them to know more about your ancestors?

What are probate records?

Probate records are documents that are formulated by a court of law more often after a person’s death. These could include the following:

  • Estate inventories
  • Wills
  • Distribution of assets
  • List of heirs
  • Accounts of debts

For a step-by-step process on how probate records come into form, learn about it here: http://genealogy.about.com/cs/wills/a/probate.htm.

Why do you need probate records for genealogy?

The beauty of probate records is it can be quite personal and detailed. Information like the their favorite hobby, who they were really close with or even the family dog they used to have are only found in probate records.

So why do you need these records?

  1. They can reveal many names involved with your ancestors that wouldn’t be easily found in other records.
  2. They can clarify certain data, such as referring to “orphan” whose father may have died but with his or her mother still living.
  3. They can tell you other personal information you’ll need in order to learn more about your ancestors.
  4. They can let you in on their financial records that will help you understand how they lived their lives before.

How can you get a hold of these probate records?

There are different steps in order for you to obtain probate records. Here are the essential ones.

  1. You should know where exactly your ancestor died.
  2. Get a hold of the local probate in that area and ask about the procedures and fees.
  3. Certain offices of court allow for a free access into the listings and indexes, which include probate records.
  4. Have someone help you if you need to translate any documents, read illegible penmanship and for other purposes.

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