Sunday, January 3, 2016

New York State Probate on Ancestry

Oh wow! Just found out in the latest edition of NYG&B magazine The New York Researcher that the New York Wills and Probate Records 1659-1999 database is now on Ancestry! You might feel it’s not a big deal as they’ve been on Family Search for quite awhile.

All you do is go to the database on Family Search, select the county, find the book for the correct time period and then page through looking for you person in the index at the front of the book. Then you try to locate the page the probate is on. You can go page by page or jump ahead and try to narrow down to the page you’re looking for as the digital file numbers don’t correspond with the actual pages. Sometimes it’s one for one, but they started numbering in a different place. Sometimes two pages were filmed so that they appear in the file as one. It’s always an adventure getting to that correct page.

But! But on Ancestry you can not only do this, but you can also put the person’s name in the search box and get a listing of where they appear. Don’t know the county they might have had probate in? No problem, it gives you a list of every county they appear. Well, yes, if you’re looking for something like “John Smith” that still might be a problem, but you get the idea.

Looking at a “random” county—Cayuga— the one where I was born and a number of my relatives have lived in for years, not all the records are to 1999. Cayuga County has wills up to the year 1952 and guardianship records to 1905. I’m sure it varies from county to county what is available, but is similar to what has been on Family Search, if not exactly the same, only indexed.

I tried doing a search on a couple people noted within the wills and cannot bring them up in the search. I was using rather broad search interpretation of the names and the writing was fairly clear on the ones I tested, so I believe they weren’t indexed.

Even if it is only the testate that is indexed and the person in need of guardianship, this will be a great help in finding those that we don’t know what county they were in! Hopefully these databases will continue to improve with more wills in them and more names involved being indexed. But even if they don’t get any better this is a wonderful improvement and makes for much easier access! I can’t wait to dive a little more into them. I want to find them all and I'm getting one step closer to doing so!

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