1) I knew that there are probate records for my 5th great-grandfather, Thomas Dill (1710-1761) in Barnstable County, Massachusetts based on my research done back in the 1990s. I knew that there was a letter of administration, an inventory, a distribution and guardianship appointments for his children. But I didn't have record images for these documents, and I wanted record images.
2) I thought that the Ancestry.com collection of Massachusetts, Will and Probate Records, 1635-1991 might have them. I put Thomas Dill in the search field in this collection, and added Barnstable County to the place name as below:
There was one search result that matched my criteria:
Yep, that's the one I want. Thomas Dill in Barnstable in 1761. I clicked on the "View Record" link:
To see the record, I clicked on the green "View" button:
There is the Letter of Administration, clear as a bell. Cool. I saved it to my Dill file folder.
3) But wait - the search did not find any other of the probate documents.
I knew that I could browse through these records in a County, so I went back to the database search page and scrolled through the "volumes" in the collection for Barnstable County, on the right-hand side of the screen below. I found two volumes of interest (highlighted below):
The two volumes are:
* Consolidated General Index to Probate Records and Cases, A-L, 1686-1950
* Consolidated General Index to Probate Records and Cases, M-Z, 1686-1950
4) I selected the first of these, since Dill would be between letters A and L, and quickly found the Dill listings on image 233 of 531:
Lookee there, my Thomas Dill has a number of records in his probate file, including:
* Letters Administration Volume 10, page 81
* Inventory 12 221
* Dower 12 278
* Appraisal of 2/3 of Real Estate 13 167
* Account 13 24
* Receipt 13 235
* Settlement 13 168
* Children's Guardian (Moses, Thomas, Betty) 11 196, 197, 207
There were two other Thomas Dill entries on the Index page also.
5) However, the Ancestry.com indexing for this database listed only one item - the 1761 Letter of Administration. I would have missed finding the other papers if I had relied solely on searching of this database,
This is very frustrating for any researcher. Ancestry said they indexed this database for Massachusetts, and the other 49 states plus D.C. Yet, it is apparent that the indexing is incomplete.
6) I think that there should be an index entry for every item on the list noted above - the "Consolidated General Index" provides all of the necessary data, but Ancestry apparently ignored it in their indexing.
7) The bottom line here is that a dedicated researcher needs to browse the "volumes" listed in the "Browse this Collection" for an index, and double check that index to ensure that they have not missed something. That is what we had to do "back in the good old days" turning microfilm reels of FHL microfilms.
My lesson learned is: Don't Trust the Ancestry.com Probate Record Indexes to find all of the probate papers for a specific person in their Will and Probate Records collections. Researchers need to Browse these collections.
Copyright (c) 2016, Randall J. Seaver