Friday, January 22, 2016

Found Barnstable County (Massachusetts) Probate Records on

I wrote RootsTech Conference and the Family History Library - a Win-Win-Win-Win For Me yesterday, and after I finished it, I wondered what I had missed in terms of records I should seek out.

I went browsing through my RootsMagic database, and noted that I had several ancestors that had a will, but that I did not have a copy of the will and had only paraphrased the will contents in my Notes; usually, that occurred when I obtained an abstract of the information from a published book or periodical article.  Two ancestors that I identified were William Gifford (1620-1688), who died in Sandwich, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, and Stephen Wing (1621-1710) of Sandwich, Barnstable County, Massachusetts.

Before I went to look up the FHL microfilm numbers in the FamilySearch Library Catalog, I recalled that the NEHGS site had some Barnstable County probate records.  

Sure enough - they have a database titled "Barnstable County, MA: Probate Records, 1685-1789."  The database description says:

"The town of Barnstable on Cape Cod is one of the earliest settlements in Massachusetts and home to many Mayflower families and their descendants. Gustavus Aldolphus Hinckley (1822-1905) transcribed the records from the Barnstable County Probate Court. 

"The transcribed records include all extant Barnstable County probate records for the period 1685–1723, and records of residents of the town of Barnstable only for 1723–1789. 

"This six-volume collection of probate records was originally published by NEHGS in 2002 as part of the Records of Barnstable, Massachusetts, CD-ROM. This database, which contains only the probate records from the CD, indexes references to 11,773 names. Images of the 1,184 record page transcriptions as compiled for the CD are available from the search results pages. 

"These records were taken from the Gustavus Adolphus Hinckley papers, 1883-1905, which are available to members at the NEHGS research library, call number Mss 419. The Records of Barnstable, Massachusetts on CD-ROM is also available in the microtext department, call number F74.B14 R43 2002 CD."

I logged into, and clicked on the "Search" and "Databases" buttons, then selected "Advanced Search" and then entered William Gifford into the name fields and selected the "Court, Land and Probate Records" category and then the Barnstable records from the dropdown list of databases:

I clicked on the "Search" button and received a short list of 8 matches, including two for William Gifford for 1687.

I clicked on the first match, from Volume 1, page 17, and saw the record image:

This is a typed transcription of the will of William Gifford.  The next page has the proving statements by the witnesses and an inventory of William Gifford's property.  I downloaded the two pages to my computer, renamed the files, and put them in my file folder for the William Gifford family.

I then easily found the Stephen Wing file in Volume 3, and downloaded three pages, and saved them to my Stephen Wing family file folder.  

I decided to start with Volume 1, which has 131 pages, and browse through it rather than searching for other ancestors.  In Volume 1, I found probate records for these ancestors:

*  Elizabeth (Ring) Cook, died 1687, in Volume 1, pages 18-20.
*  John Young, died 1691, in Volume 1, pages 45-46.
*  Jabez Snow, died 1690, Volume 1, pages 43-44.
*  Abigail (Howland) Young, died 1692, in Volume 1, pages 71-72.
*  William Brown, died 1694, in Volume 1, pages 107-109
*  Jabez Snow, died 1690, in Volume 1, pages 130-131.

I also browsed through Volume 2, which has 181 pages.  I found one ancestor in that volume:

*  Ralph Allen, died 1698, in Volume 2, pages 58-60.

Now the challenge is to transcribe them and include them in my Notes for each person.

A source citation, you ask, for these transcribed records published in a book from the original handwritten probate records?  Here is the source citation format:

“Barnstable, MA: Probate Records, 1685–1789.” Records of Barnstable, Massachusetts. CD-ROM. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002. (Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2008.)

Using the "Digital Archives" source template in RootsMagic, I crafted this source citation:

"Barnstable, MA: Probate Records, 1685-1789," New England Historic Genealogical Society, American Ancestors ( : accessed 22 January 2016), indexed database with digital images, transcription of original records, Vol. 1, pages 17-18, William Gifford will; citing Gustavus Adolphus Hinckley transcriptions of Barnstable County Probate Court Records.

Well, that was a fun four hours spent finding more records that are very useful in defining family relationships.

If you have early Barnstable County ancestors, this record collection on may be very useful.


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