Thursday, April 14, 2016

Finding Caleb Beck's Will on Ancestry's New York Wills and Probate Records Database

I noted this morning that has updated the Wills and Probate Records for several states today, including New York.  I recalled that I had searched for probate records for some of my New York ancestors on FamilySearch and Ancestry, but not for all of them.

I went through my RootsMagic database to find ancestors who died in New York, and searched for them in the New York, Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999 database.  I didn't find many, and I almost missed Caleb Beck's entry, but managed to find it.

I kbnew that Caleb Beck died in about 1733 in Schenectady, Albany County (at that time), New York.   I did an "exact search" for the name "caleb" and "beck" and received 15 matches, but none were for a probate in about 1735.  I made the names "not exact" and chose 1735 for the probate date, plus or minus 5 years.  There were no matches.

I decided to make the names and probate date "not exact."  Here is the search screen for this database with Caleb Beck's name entered (not exact) and a probate year of 1735 (not exact):

There were 318 matches, including 11 persons named "Caleb Beck" and two named "Caleb Beek:"

After checking all of the Caleb Becks and not finding the one for about 1735, I checked the two "Caleb Beek" entries.  One was for an index, which said there was a will on Volume 12, page 84 of New York,County, Wills, Volume 12, page 84.

The second "Caleb Beek" match is below:

Here is the entry when I click on the "View" link (image 109 of 813):

It was for the index for Volume 12 - it says the will is on page 84.  So I guessed, calculated and guessed again and quickly found the record on page 84 (image 156 of 813):

The will for my 7th great-grandfather, Caleb "Beek" (1675-1733) starts at the bottom of page 84, continues on page 85, and the letter testamentary is on page 86.

How do I know this is the right Caleb Beck?  It is for Caleb Beek of Schenectady in the County of Albany, written on 8 March 1728.  It names his wife Anna and daughter Engeltie but no other children.  Those names are correct as far as the family goes.  The will was proved on 3 October 1733 in New York County by the Captain General and Governour-in-Chief of the provinces of New York, New Jersey and Territories, William Cosby.

I will transcribe this will eventually in my Amanuensis Monday series.

Again, the index did notl ink to the actual document - itl inked to an index for the record volume with the document, and I had to browse the record volume in order to find the document.

The search using an exact name of "Caleb Beck" did not work because the name was spelled "Beek."  A date range search with the approximate record date did not work because the date was not indexed by  This particular record was filed in New York County, not Albany County.  I would not have thought about looking there without an index.  The searcher has to expand the search sometimes in order to find the record of interest - as we've seen before, Ancestry indexes are not perfect.


The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2016, Randall J. Seaver

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest using the icons below.  Or contact me by email at


Unknown said...

A beautiful and instructive example of "state of the art" when it comes to extracting information from Ancestry probate records in their current presentation. I hope many will learn from this, and, who knows, maybe Ancestry will be encouraged to practice a little CQI for this essential database. Thanks!

Claudia said...

The German deaths for Hamburg have been published recently. I searched for Daniel Zacharias Johannes BArtels, but the search came up negative. I went through about three or four pages and there he was with the exact name that I had entered, ????? I just can't figure it out myself. The good thing I found was his date of marriage and the town where it occurred. His wife must have given that information.

His wife died sometime in the late 1950's or early 60's because I remember my grandmother flying to Germany for the funeral. She isn't in the database, but I do not know where she was living at the time of her death.