Friday, September 25, 2015

What Happened to the 1656-1785 New Jersey Probate Records on

While I was writing the post How Complete Is the Wills and Probates Collection for one County? an hour ago, I was frustrated because a search of the New Jersey, Wills and Probates, 1656-1999 collection on did not show records that were previously found in the collection.  

Over the past three weeks, I have transcribed wills of three men in colonial New Jersey, including:

1)  Thomas Blomfield - see Amanuensis Monday - Post #286: 1684 Will of Thomas Bloomfield (1615-1686) of Woodbridge, N.J. (posted 21 September 2015).

Here is the search results in the collection today for Thomas Blomfield:

The 1684 will of Thomas Blomfield is not found in a search.  It was there last week.

2)  Peter Martin -- see Amanuensis Monday - Post #285: 1755 Will of Peter Martin (1693-1756) of Piscataway, N.J.  (posted 14 September 2015).

Here is the search results in the collection today for Peter Martin:

The 1755 will for Peter Martin is not listed.   It was there last week.

3)  Thomas Gach - see Amanuensis Monday - Post #284: 1763 Will of Thomas Gach (1702-1770) of Woodbridge, N.J. (posted 7 September 2015).

Here is the search results in the collection today for Thomas Gach::

The 1763 will of Thomas Gach is not found in a search.   It was there last week.

4)  I looked for the other 19 probate records I have downloaded over the past three weeks and found none of them.   They was there last week.  All but one of them were written before 1785.  I'm glad I captured the document images when I did!  Now what do I do about the source citations since they are no longer in the collection?

So where did these wills go in the  New Jersey, Wills and Probates, 1656-1999 collection on

Well, changed the name of the collection to  New Jersey, Wills and Probates, 1785-1999 and kept the URL to the collection.

Apparently, they eliminated the earlier wills, before 1785, from the collection for some reason.  My guess is that they did not have sufficient permissions or licenses to index, search and find the pre-1785 records in the State wills collection.

This is a terrible loss for those of us with New Jersey colonial ancestry.  Perhaps (I hope) will get the sufficient permissions or licenses to add these records back into the searchable collection.

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Unknown said...

Many thanks for posting this information so promptly. I made the same discovery late Friday morning, having spent a good deal of the past three weeks working with the new probate material. You probably noticed, as I did, that the transcription of names and the organizing of images was, well, let's say slipshod, but no matter: the records were online at last! Of course there was no online explanation. The "Updated" term was applied to the new listing on the Ancestry home page. If in the past we've ever wondered exactly what "Updated" means, we now know that one of the meanings in "Deleted." So I called the Ancestry 800 number immediately. Well, not quite, because it's no longer available on the home page, which has no "Contact us" prompt. I got through by calling the 800 number of the Ancestry genealogists-for-hire page. I reached a typically courteous representative, who knew nothing; put me on hold to explore the issue; and returned, still knowing nothing. So all we can do is hope, at this point. And put salve on our wounded pride, wounded from such crude mistreatment from the powers-that-be at Ancestry.

Marian said...

Possibly you can use any index information that you acquired earlier to find the the images on FamilySearch among its browsable images:
New Jersey Probate Records, 1678-1980

This situation compounds my worries about how Ancestry does business.

Sharon said...

As of Friday, Sept. 25, ALL of the probate records for Morris County were GONE. I have been working on Morris County estates as fast as I could, but I was far from done.

I know there are many gaps in these records. I discovered the same with Morris County records. Certain rolls of film were not included in the digitized records on Ancestry. Some of the indexing was pretty poor, and the breaks between records were often not right. But since Morris County was not included in the FamilySearch collection at all, I figured I was still ahead of the game with Ancestry's collection -- until yesterday.

I will be very interested to know what you hear from Ancestry about this. Are they working on it and it will be back up soon? I sure hope so.

Geolover said...

There have been times when parts or all of some databases were removed by accident, but since Ancestry went to the trouble of changing the name of the database this occurrence seems to be on purpose.

Geolover said...

Even more NJ estate records have been removed by Ancestry from the misnamed Wills and Probate Records collection. It is named "New Jersey, Wills and Probate Records, 1785-1924" (the word Probate should be Estates), but just try to find anything prior to 1804 now.

Sharon said...

Prior to 1804, estates were handled by the State. In 1804 county surrogates offices were set up for handling estates. It appears that any records in the possession of the State (which includes all records prior to 1804, and original wills, inventories, etc. up to 1901) are now gone. Although some of the county books may be labeled with dates starting in 1785, there are probably no records as far back as that date. The county records from 1804 to late 1800's are missing many years, many records, and are not well indexed. Looks like this long-touted collection is pretty much a bust for New Jersey researchers.