What are probate records? See the article here for more information about Probate Records.
Each state has a different set of papers, but in Jefferson County in New York State, there are Surrogate Court record files for Wills, Letters of Administrations, Letters Testamentary, Minutes, orders and decrees, Estate Papers, etc. I think that most New York counties have a similar system.
Where do you find probate records? In paper format - at the county courthouse or a local or state archive. However, many pre-1920 probate records are on microfilm at the LDS Family History Library Catalog - you can see the Jefferson County NY Probate Records available on microfilm from the FHLC here.
I searched the Estate Papers microfilms for the first part of the L surnames yesterday, and found five files for the surnames Lamphear/Lanphere/Lanfear, etc. As an example of what can be found, here is a letter written by a son of Isaac Lanfear (only the first page shown):
Surrogates Court / County of Jefferson
To James R.A. Per-
The petition of
That said deceased left him
Anna Shelmedine, wife of William Shelmedine
That said deceased & intestate
of his death was an inhabitant of
Wherefore he prays that
Dated September 6th 1853
/s/ Latham Lanfear
In my case, I hoped against hope that it would name "Devier Lanfear the son of my deceased son ... Lanfear who was adopted by Ranslow Smith now residing in Wisconsin" but my hopes were dashed. Oh well.
My purposes in transcribing this Estate Paper and posting it on this blog are twofold:
1) As an example of the type of information a researcher can find in Probate Records
2) In case a descendant of Isaac Lanfear is searching for information about him that they can find this post in an online search.
This is also an excellent example of the type of record found in the Family History Library microfilms that will eventually be digitized and indexed by the Family Search Indexing project.
When records of this type are available online for searching, then many brickwall research problems will be solved. These records are available to researchers, but they are well hidden right now. It certainly seems that not too many researchers understand that they are available now or that they even exist.