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# Tuesday, 18 March 2008
How to Find Your Ancestor's Will
Posted by Diane

Q I'm not sure if my grandparents ever had a will drawn up. They died 10 years apart. How would I go about checking to see if they ever filed a will? Whose death should I check first?

A We asked Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer, author of Long-Distance Genealogy (Betterway Books, out of print), to weigh in on this question:

Your grandparents didn’t necessarily have one will in common. While that's possible, a will is usually made for one person. In pre-feminist days, any land probably would've been in your grandfather's name, so he might've been the only one with a will—but your grandmother might've had a separate will. It's also possible neither had a will.

Your ancestor’s will would be in his estate file. An estate file might exist even if neither ancestor left a will. They're often more interesting without a will, because they could include papers listing names and relationships, filed to prove the heirs’ identities.

Estate files may contain many types of documents other than wills, including:
  • letters of administration
  • list of the deceased's heirs, including their relationship
  • list of who bought what at the estate sale
  • final account of the estate (who got how much money), which can help you deduce relationships from the differing amounts each person received
  • petitions, which may state the relationship of heirs to the deceased
Check for an estate file for each ancestor. If a female ancestor remarried, look for her under her the last surname she used.

To locate estate files, write to the probate court in the county where the ancestor resided at death. Give the name and death date of the ancestor, and ask for photocopies of the estate papers for that person.

Several books list addresses for probate courts, including:
You'll find more on researching wills in the September 2008 Family Tree Magazine, on newsstands in July.

birth/death records | court records
Tuesday, 18 March 2008 14:56:09 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
Friday, 16 May 2008 16:34:28 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
If your grandparents had disposed of all of their property prior to death, there is probably not a will or, at least, no record of probate. Also, depending on the nature of any property they might have had and the size (in $) of the estate, there might simply be an "Affidavit of Heirship." This last document was what was filed with the court when both of my parents died. That way, we avoided probate.
Margaret McCleskey
Sunday, 09 November 2008 06:19:30 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
criminalsearches is a great site, but I would say still do your other checks on other sites. Some time it doesn’t show the guy I am looking for, and the state has a record for him a mile long. Sometimes it gives me things the state doesn’t, so it is worth using.
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