Thursday, September 22, 2016

Status of Land and Probate Records on FamilySearch

The LDS Family History Library has over 2.5 million microfilms of records on every conceivable type of historical record, including land and probate records for almost every county in every state in the United States.

1)  Land Records on FamilySearch

There are land records for only four states (Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Washington, and some individual counties for other states) on FamilySearch, and they are all browsable collections (meaning there is no index for them).  Those collections are waypointed by counties and then by record book titles.  The grantor and grantee indexes are part of the digitized collections, are can be used to find individual deeds for a specific person.

Why aren't there statewide, or even individual county, land record collections on FamilySearch in browsable collections?  Those records are very useful, and we know they have the microfilm images.  Perhaps they need approval from the individual counties or states to digitize them and publish them on FamilySearch.  Are there projects to digitize and index those land records - especially the grantor and grantee indexes that provide information for individual records?  I hope so - the indexes are name-rich, while the actual deeds are not that name-rich, although having an index of the witnesses and neighbors mentioned in a deed would be very useful.

2)  Probate Records on FamilySearch:

The situation is better for Probate Records.  There are statewide (or individual county) probate or estate record collections on FamilySearch  for 31 states the last time I checked.  These are not indexed, but are browsable.  They are usually waypointed by county, and then by the probate record book titles.  They can be efficiently used by finding index entries in the probate indexes that define either/and an estate file name or entries in the probate court clerk record books.

Why aren't there statewide (or individual county) digitized probate record collections on FamilySearch in browsable collections for the other states?  These records are very useful to researchers, and we know they have the microfilm images.

We know that there are statewide collections of probate record images, taken from the microfilms, because they provided statewide collections to back in 2013, and Ancestry indexed them (albeit poorly) and put them online as statewide databases in September 2015.

3)  My view has been that "many 'brick wall' problems will be solved once land and probate records are available to researchers in digitized record collections."

I appreciate that we have so much digitized now, but there is so much more almost there.  I'm just impatient, I guess.


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Wonderland Girl said...

I think patience *is* the keyword here. I think it was about 10 years ago that the LDS announced plans to digitize and put online their microfilm collection. At that time they were thinking it would take some huge amount of time (thinking 50-60 years maybe?) to accomplish this--I wouldn't be around to see them all online. They've cut that time down a great deal now--don't remember what it was but perhaps 20-something years.

I spent a few hours last evening searching probate records--going back and forth between Family Search and Ancestry to browse what they had. Didn't find what I was really looking for, although I did find my subject's father's (5gg grandfather) will.

Unknown said...

Keep in mind that your research needs, although common, are not universal. I think FamilySearch is doing a good job of balancing its customers needs. Some don't do US research (or only briefly, being only a few generations from the emigrant ancestor), some who do US research don't need deeds or wills/admons as much as you do. In my own research, my US folks are laborers in a city where home ownership was not common until the 1930s. I rarely need deeds, and only sometimes find relevant wills/admons (because the estates, if any, are too small). Deeds and wills/admons are much further down on my priority list than they are on yours. Just another perspective...

Lisa S. Gorrell said...

I agree with you, Randy. I, too, wish that more land records were available on FamilySearch. It seems that since they would be browse-able, it would be easy to just post them. I think once all the probate and land records are online, I won't need to visit the Family History Library as often. Which is a shame, as I enjoy my yearly trek there!

I spent several hours last night looking at probate records. They are partially indexed on Ancestry, which gave me the clue they were available. I then went to FamilySearch where I find it easier to browse and save.

Geolover said...

A large organization, such as LDS, has priorities influenced by and influencing many directions and projects.

If you take a look at the FamilySearch message board occasionally,

you can get an idea of the pressures on alone.

Each of us doing active genealogical research occasionally wishes that it all would be handed to us free on the web. But then where would the fun be in that?

Barb said...

Put me in the same "boat" as the comment made by "Unknown". I have very little research, before 1940, in the Probate & Land Records category. About 95% of my US ancestors were NYC dwellers with very little in the way of real estate, or any other assets to probate.