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Understanding Probate Records Review

Val D. Greenwood’s “The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy” has a wealth of genealogical information. Chapter 15, “Understanding Probate Records & Basic Legal Terminology” has some very important terms and facts that will greatly help you when researching your ancestors. There were times when I would be researching wills and probate records, where I never really understood the entire value of the document because I was not educated in probate or the terminology used in the document. While there are many books on this topic, Greenwood’s simplified teachings have helped me have a better understanding of these records as I revisit them.

Probate Records are all records which relate to the disposition of an estate after its owner’s death. There are two types we normally see: testate – died leaving a will; and intestate – died without leaving a will. The state handles the wills and the rules can vary state to state.

There are basic requirements in writing a will: A will becomes invalid if: When referring to early time periods, wills were more common than you would think. Land was inexpensive, so many purchased land as property was greatly sought after. While some records may not be found for your ancestors, probate records may just be found as our ancestors did own land and properties. They did not have to be wealthy to dictate a will.

One statement in this chapter really stood out to me, “Probate records were not designed as a genealogical source, but rather as a legal vehicle for settling estates in the most equitable manner and for legally transferring the deceased property rights. No original record was kept as genealogy as its prime objective. However, we must make the good of what we have available, including Probate Records."

There are some important things that can be found within a will: I came across some other terms in FamilySearch Probate Terms that may help you:

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