Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Finding Genealogy Gems in the New York Probate Records on FamilySearch

 Last Friday, as I was preparing for my presentation of online resources for New York State at the monthly Chula Vista Genealogical Society Workshop, I wanted to find a "simple" example to demonstrate how to pursue and find New York Probate Records on FamilySearch (with over 14 million images).  I created a step-by-step list as a handout for this specific record collection because the "search and find" process is fairly complex and requires several forays into different record books in a specific county and "guess and revise" tactics to find the correct page image in a record book.

I thought that I had found all of the probate records in Erie County, New York for my Vaux and Underhill ancestors, but I was wrong.  I easily found the County List in the record collection, and clicked on "Erie" to see the list of all of the record books, including the Estate File Index.  I had found the Estate File Indexes before, and had used it to identify the volume and page in the Letters of Administration volumes, and had captured the page image for the appointment of the wife and two sons of James Vaux (1787-1839) in late 1839.  I had noted the Estate File number 23181, but had not looked for it for some reason (I must have forgotten to do it).

I found the Estate File 23181 in the Estate Files, 1800-1929, Case 23178-23220.  Finding Case 23181 was a struggle - I figured that 23181 was the fourth case out of 42 case files, and there were 1536 images, so perhaps it started on image 150 or so.  Unless you get lucky and find an image with your target decedent's name on it, you really need to find the Case File number on an image, like the one below:

That Case File number was on image 304 of 1536.  None of the pages in these case files have the Case File number on the pages themselves.  There were 33 images for the James Vaux Estate File, and I downloaded every one of them, even the blank ones.  I renamed them by name, county, volume, case number, and image number so I knew what they were.  I put them in a Probate Record file in James Vaux's file folder.

What genealogy gems did I find?

*  Oath of appraisers of inventory
*  The inventory lists the household items, plus a list of mortgages owed by two creditors, and undivided Company debts owed by James Vaux Jr.
*   The list of assets in the undivided half of the Company.
*  The list of Company Notes listed as "good," "doubtful" and "bad," and the list of Company Accounts of debts owed the company, classified as good, doubtful or bad.
*  Bond, letter of administration, oath of administrators
*  Petition and oath of the widow, noting death date of decedent
*  Request for guardianships of three minor children
*  Petition to sell real estate of decendent
*  Report for Return of sale of real estate
*  Letter of Administration in Surrogate Court Probate book for Letters of Administration.

Based on the papers in this Estate File, it is apparent to me that James Vaux and his son, James P. Vaux, had a brewery company business.  I didn't know that, and it is significant to the family history.

I will use some of the more interesting and genealogically significant papers in this Estate File for Amanuensis Monday and Treasure Chest Thursday posts.

If I had not gone looking for a "simple" example for my presentation that included searching for New York Probate Records on FamilySearch, I might have never found this Estate File, which I, apparently, had overlooked the first time around.

None of the attendees at the CVGS workshop on Saturday had ventured into the New York Probate Records on FamilySearch, mainly because they are not indexed and are not searchable by entries in search fields.  All of the attendees had ancestors who died in the 18th and 19th century in New York, and several had Erie county ancestors.  Hopefully, my demonstration and step-by-step handout will help them find probate records that will add significantly to their genealogical and family history research.

It is extremely important for genealogical societies to provide opportunities to demonstrate how to use websites to find online records, and how to use genealogy software features, in a workshop environment where attendees can work on their laptops or tablets to work through examples, and ask questions.  CVGS has been doing this through a monthly Wednesday Computer Group and Wednesday Research Group for over ten years, and a monthly Saturday Workshop for the past three years.

Records like this are great examples of the "Forrest Gump Principle of Genealogical Research" -- "Genealogy research is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to find, but you have to look everywhere your 'genealogy gem' might be hiding."

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2014/04/finding-genealogy-gems-in-new-york.html

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

Dona said...

Randy, is your handout guide available? I'm sorry to have missed this talk, and would love to see the guide.