Illinois Probate Records
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This entry was originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Probate jurisdiction was initially granted in 1819 to the clerk of a county’s commissioner’s court, a court that served as administrators for the county. The duties included all matters involving estates and the guardianships of minors. The circuit court for that county had jurisdiction in probate cases when actions of the commissioners were appealed. In 1821 probate functions were moved from commissioner’s courts to the county’s probate court.
When county courts (see Illinois Court Records) were established in 1848, jurisdiction of probate matters was transferred to them. Beginning in 1870, counties with a population of over 50,000 had probate courts separate from county courts. However, the minimum population number changed several times after that. Effective 1 January 1964, probate functions were turned over to circuit courts.
Illinois Regional Archives Depositories has an unusually large collection of probate records and continues to acquire these genealogically valuable resources. Their collection includes files beginning in 1813. Some very early estate records are included in the Kaskaskia manuscripts and in the Perrin collection (see Illinois Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections) in the Springfield depository.
Where extant, records not accessioned by the Illinois State Archives and the regional depositories presumably are at the office of the circuit court clerk serving that county. The FHL catalog should also be searched to determine what microfilms of county records are in its collection as well.