Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dear Randy: How Do You Save and Organize all of Those Probate Records?

I had an email recently from a correspondent who wishes to remain anonymous asking "Dear Randy, how do you save and organize all of those probate records that you found on"

Here is the step-by-step process that I use to find, capture, rename, save in a computer file folder, and work with a probate record file for one of my ancestors.

1)  I've been working through my Connecticut ancestors, and searched for the Oatley surname in the Connecticut, Wills and Probates, 1609-1999 database on  There were 11 matches listed:

The fourth one on the list is Amy Oatley, dated 1865, who may be my third great-grandmother, Amy (Champlin) Oatley (1798-1865, who died in Killingly, Windham County, Connecticut. But the record says the Probate County was Hartford.

2)  I clicked on the link for Amy Oatley, and saw the record summary for this probate record:

The record summary says that there are images for the Cover Page, two pages of Will Papers, two pages of Administration Papers, two pages of Petition Papers, two pages of Inventory Papers, and 8 pages of Account Papers.

3)  I clicked on the green "View" button on the image above, and saw the Cover Page in the window:

So this probate record does appear to be the Amy Oatley who died in 1865 in Killingly Probate District, some miles from Hartford.  Note the film strip below the record image - I can navigate forward or backward in the file for the next or previous page.  Note also the record image number in the overlay on the record image - the one above says "480 of 1439."  I can navigate to the previous or next image by using the left and right arrows, respectively.  Over on the right margin is the "Detail" summary of the record.  There are also "Related" and "Source" buttons there.

4)  Now I want to capture these 17 pages in this probate record and save them to my computer file system.

As you can see in the screen below, there is a green "Save" button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen:

When I click on the green "Save" button, there are three options:

*  Save to person in your tree
*  Save to your computer
*  Save to your Shoebox

5)  I chose "Save to your computer" and the file downloaded to my "Downloads" file folder on my computer.  The file name for the image above was 007627931_00480.jpg.  The file name of the next page in the file was 007627931_00481.jpg.  Note that the first image in this probate record is image 480 and the file name downloaded has "480" in the last three digits.

6)  I downloaded all 17 images, with file names from 007627931_00480.jpg to 007627931_00496.jpg.  I went to my "Downloads" folder on my computer. I  highlighted all 17 of the images saved, and then "Cut" them, and went to my file folder system.  In my system, I have these file folders for this family on my computer (the nesting is as shown):

*  My Documents
**  Genealogy
*** Ancestor Files
**** Family History - Seaver-Hildreth-Richmond-White
***** 01-jonathan oatley & amy champlin
****** Documents
******* Probate

I "Pasted" the 17 files into that folder.  Then I changed all of the file names so that I knew what they were.  So the file 007627931_00480.jpg became AmyOatley-1865-ProbateRecord-KillinglyCT-image480of1439 . Having done one of them, I copied that file name and edited the next one, Pasting the file name in and editing to change the image number.

The resulting file folder for Probate" with the 17 images now looks like this:

7)  Now I can work with these files.  The tasks I usually perform are:

*  Create a source citation for the probate record using RootsMagic.  In this case, it is:

Connecticut, Probate case files, Hartford Probate Packets, Mague-Russell, 1845-1880, images 480-496 of 1439, Amy Oatley case file; "Connecticut, Wills and Probates, 1609-1999," digital images, ( accessed 8 October 2015); citing Probate Files Collection, Early to 1880, Connecticut State Library (Hartford, Connecticut), Hartford, Connecticut.

*  Create a Probate event in RootsMagic with the probate date and location, and then attach the source citation to the event.
*  Transcribe the will into a word processing document, and then publish it in my Amanuensis Monday blog post series.  Summarize (or transcribe) the other papers in the probate file.
*  Copy and paste the transcribed and/or summarized records into the Note for the Probate event.
*  Attach the pertinent probate record images to the Probate event.
*  Attach the Event, Note, and Image to the person in the FamilySearch Family Tree.

Now I have these files on my computer and can use them as I wish.  I don't need to worry about having an Ancestry subscription in the future, or that will remove these records for whatever reason.  I will back them up to my external hard drive, to a cloud file retrieval service (I use now), and to my laptop computer.

8)  What I found out from the probate record is that Amy Oatley was the owner of the real estate, not her husband, Jonathan Oatley.  Because the property could not be easily divided (it was only 1/4 of an acre - just a home lot), it was put up an estate sale, and William H. Oatley, one of the sons of Jonathan and Amy Oatley, purchased the property.

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Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

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Robbhaas said...

Randy, I follow pretty much the same route you described. I go one step further. I convert the 17 .jpg images into one .pdf file which I then attach to my RootsMagic source citation. I use to make the conversion. Once I have a good .pdf created and backed up I discard the .jpg files.

Thanks for all your great and helpful posts
Walt Robbins, Jr.

Dana Leeds said...

Thanks for giving such detailed steps. That's really helpful!

Nancy said...

Thanks for sharing the details of your process, Randy, and especially for sharing what you do after you've saved and renamed the images. I did always wonder about the order you used for adding a document to RootsMagic. Thanks.