Tuesday, August 12, 2014

More Probate Records Added for Worcester County, Massachusetts on FamilySearch

I noted ecstatically that Worcester County, Massachusetts Probate Files (1731-1881) are on FamilySearch on 12 February 2014.  I was also dispirited that the probate files (images from the probate packet envelopes, not the Probate Court transcriptions) only went through Case 13682 for Stephen Corbin.

I noticed today that the collection on FamilySearch had been updated, and now extended through Case 35981 for Nahum Lackey.  This is a major extension of this record collection, but there are still several more updates to come, I think, to get to the end of the alphabet.

As I've noted before, these probate records are one of the most valuable record types of genealogical records to assert and prove names, death dates, relationships with parents, spouses, siblings, children other descendants, and family friends.  

FamilySearch has probate record collections (partial or complete) for 30 states, two Canadian provinces, three English counties, and more - see https://familysearch.org/search/collection/list and enter "probate" in the search field at the top left.

I went looking for a probate record in this collection for my fourth great-grandparents Nathan Gates (1767-1830) and his wife, Abigail (Knowlton) Gates (1774-1855) who died in Gardner, Worcester County, Massachusetts.  I didn't find them, but I found several other probate files for their children.

Here is how to access the Worcester County, Massachusetts Probate Files (1731-1925) record collection and find probate records for a specific person:

1)  After clicking on the link to the collection, the collection description appears.  There are now 513,629 images in this collection.  The user has to BROWSE through them - unfortunately, there is no index available online with a Case number.

2)  I clicked the link to "Browse through 513,629 images" and the link to the County appeared:

This appears to be superfluous at this time, but I think that FamilySearch will combine all of the County probate record files they digitize into a Massachusetts, Probate Records record collection in the future.

3)  I clicked on "Worcester" on the screen above opens the list of Case File Numbers and Year Range:

Scrolling down to the bottom of the Case File List:

4)  I went searching for a probate record of Jeremiah Knowlton Gates (1809-1845), who was the uncle and guardian of my second great-grandfather, Isaac Seaver (1823-1901).  It took awhile to find it in the 1134 images of the Case Files 23070-23163, but I found it in Case 23138.  Here is the first image for this Case File:

The next image is the start of the will of Jeremiah K. Gates,

I learned that Jeremiah K. Gates left everything to his wife and his son, and the probate record did not mention Isaac Seaver.

There were 30 images for this one Case File.

5)  The browsing process to find a specific case file can be a challenge.  Usually, the files are in alphabetical order.  The Case File after the one above is for Joanna Gates.  The user needs to guess an image number, determine who the file on that image is for, and guess another image number.  Eventually, the user finds the first image for the person of interest with the Case File on it.

These are images of the original papers for the Probate Case, and so they contain original handwriting and signatures of testators, appraisers, witness es, court personnel, etc.  If someone was not literate, they made a mark in the record.  The actual, original papers are in a Probate Packet envelope in a file drawer in the Worcester County, Massachusetts Courthouse.  I have visited that repository and have photocopies of some of the pages for some of my ancestors.

6)  I will use the current set of these records to obtain images of the probate records of my Simon Gates (1739-1809) and Edward Hildreth (1831-1899) for my digital file folders on my computer.  Eventually, I hope to capture more images for my Seaver, Whitney and Phillips and Richards ancestors.  The photocopies I have are not complete, and some of them are not easily readable.

7)  I urge my readers to avail themselves of these FREEly available probate records in their states or counties of interest.  Learn how to browse them, make good notes, and search for records of your ancestors.  If you find them, then click the Download button (top-right of the images) and save it to your digital file folders.  Make sure that you rename the image with a file name that makes sense to you, and put the file in a file folder that you easily can find.  Transcribe the records so that you know what it contains.  Add the Event to your genealogy software program, and craft a source citation for the record.

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2014/08/more-probate-records-added-for.html

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

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