Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Worcester County, Massachusetts Probate Files (1731-1881) are on FamilySearch

I browsed through the recently added record collections on FamilySearch yesterday (see, and click on the "Last Updated" link).  One of the recently added collections was the "Massachusetts, Worcester County, Probate Files, 1731-1881" collection.

I was ecstatic!!!  These are the entire Case Files, on original paper, not the Probate Court Clerk record books.  But they are digitized and presented in black and white, not in color.

That's the good news.  The bad news is that the collection is not complete.  The files available go from Case 1 through Case 13,682 (Stephen Corbin).  I think that they will add more Case files incrementally.

I went hunting for Buck folks (since that's the only name in my ancestry in Worcester County before 1881 in the A to C range) just to see what I could find:

1)  Here is the search page for this collection:

The page above notes that there are 198,028 images in this collection at present, and they must be browsed (i.e., there is no index).

2)  I clicked on the link to "Browse through 198.028 images:" 

3)  I clicked on the "Worcester" link on the screen above:

The probate Case records are arranged alphabetically, with 70 to 100 cases in each "section."  Here's the bottom of the list as of today:

4)  I wanted to look for siblings of my Sophia Buck (1797-1882), daughter of Isaac and Martha (Phillips) Buck.  I looked in the "section" for "Case no 8646-8732, Bryant, Richard-Bucknam, Clarissa, 1731-1881" and browsed a bit and found the probate Case No. #8689 for Pliny Buck (1790-1874).  Here is one paper in the Probate Case file:

And further along in the Case File was:

As with other probate files on FamilySearch, the user can print the image, or save the image to their computer file folders.

5)  I guess I'll have a long wait to "harvest" this collection for my Gates, Hildreth, Phillips, Richards, Seaver and Whitney family members that left probate records.  I'll try to be patient.

While there is no Case Number index for these probate records on FamilySearch, there is a Case Number Index on - see Worcester County, Massachusetts, Probate Index, Vol. 1 & 2 A - Z, July 1731-1881.

6)  Once again, I make the point that:

"Many so-called "brick-wall" problems will be broken down once there is access to digital images and indexes to probate, land, town, tax, church, and other records.  However, researchers NEED TO LEARN how to browse through collections."

These digital collections on FamilySearch are essentially "digital microfilm."  The sooner that researchers learn how to browse collections, the more records they will find that really help them solve their research problems.

By the way, do you know what FREE browsable historical record collections are available for your states and countries of interest?  Do you know how to find them on FamilySearch?  Check out  Tuesday's Tip - Use the Collections Search on FamilySearch.

Off the soapbox...

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


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