Tips to Finding Unindexed Probate Records
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Last year, Ancestry put more than 170 million U.S. Wills and Probate Records online for all 50 states. If you haven't already discovered these records, you really need to check them out. Probate records offer unique insights into who and what was important to our ancestors and can often establish relationships not found in other records. In this video, Amy Johnson Crow walks us through how to find our ancestors' records, even when his or her record isn't indexed in the database.

Search Tips

  • While estate files can include names of witnesses, heirs, and other associates, only the name of the testator has been indexed.
  • Although there is a field to include a death date and place in the search form, keep in mind that some of the records may not list a date or place of death. And for some of the records, Ancestry has inferred the death date and place based on the probate location. Death location is only inferred to the state level, so specifying a particular county and then choosing Exact (or Exact/Adjacent) will turn up no results. In addition, the date of a court record (for example, an accounting) may be recorded years after the probate process began.
  • Use the Any Event field to enter a more precise probate location and date. That said, keep in mind that there may be probates in any location where the testator had property, so don't skip hits because the location doesn't match exactly, particularly if the person was wealthy and may have had property in other jurisdictions.
  • Once you're through examining a probate packet, you can return to the main search form for that state by clicking on the title in the gray bar above the image.
  • The probate process can go on for many years, depending on the estate and provisions in the will, so be flexible with dates.
  • In jurisdictions where records were parsed out into different record groups, as opposed to bundled into one probate packet, there may be more than one record for your ancestor, so be sure to look at all the possible references to your ancestor in the search results.
Search the new probate collection on Ancestry. Download a free guide to the collection and learn 5 Things You Should Know to Get the Most from the Probate Collection on Ancestry.  - Juliana Szucs
Want more helpful tips in 5 minutes or less' Visit our 5-Minute Finds playlist on YouTube here.