Posted by Juliana Szucs on September 4, 2015 in Collections



With the launch earlier this week of our U.S. Probates and Wills collection, we have been fielding many questions about how best to navigate the more than 30 million records and 170 million images.

Because there is such a wide variety of documents included in an estate file, sometimes it’s tough to know exactly what you’re looking at. Understanding the probate process can help. We’ve put together some tips to help guide you through the maze of probate research. In it you’ll learn a little about the process and why certain records were created, the importance of getting familiar with the places your ancestor lived and its part in the probate process, how laws can impact the records that were created, and how to learn about the arrangement of the records so that you can find your ancestor in unindexed portions of the collection (plus some search tips!).

For those researching African Americans during the slavery era, these records can be very helpful, especially when used in conjunction with other records.

Download the free guide, 5 Things You Should Know to Get the Most from the Probate Collection on Ancestry

Juliana Szucs

Juliana Szucs has been working for for more than 20 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program.


  1. Oddrún

    Hi I need help to find my great-grandparent´s and they 2 son´s. Surname is Borgforth and lived in Canada may be in USA also. best Regards. Oddrún

  2. In answer to Rhoda Turner’s question. At top of search page for Wills, etc. you only have to enter person’s name and it will take you to that person’s page concerning document. I found my grandfather’s will in minutes. Did not know it would be that easy!

  3. Stephanie Johnson

    Are there any records from Pointe Coupee Parish in Louisiana? I can’t seem to find any records for that parish. Thanks.

  4. Cyrone

    Rhoda, after searching for my ancestor in the Georgia wills I found that it took me to sort of an index or title page that gave me a page number to my ancestor’s name. This page number did not match up to Ancestry’s numbering. I had to look at the actual page number on the document and add from there. For example, the index page may have been page 5 on Ancesty’s numbering but indicated that my Ancestor was on page 100, I would have to go to page 105 to find my Ancestor. I hope that helps you.

  5. Oma

    I have spent a little time looking at the Texas Wills and Probate Records, and was excited to find information about some ancestors. However, in just that little time, it became clear that lots of the indexing is not accurate! There are some major errors! If you do a search for a specific person, and the results say ‘not found’, don’t give up. Try to browse the records instead. I am not sure how best to report the details to Ancestry, but I will try to find out.

  6. Mary

    The wills are wonderful and I found many of my ancestors. I spent hours saving them to my computer (right clicked on each page of a will from the film strip and saved to a documents folder). When I went to that folder to view the page it was small and unreadable and zooming in took it out of focus. I have never had any trouble saving and viewing anything on Ancestry or any other web site before. Anyone have any suggestions.

  7. Crystals48

    Mary —- You might want to try saving the document from the view screen instead of the smaller images on the film strips. I save my documents using the “Save” button at the upper right of the page (the same one you use to save the record to a person in your tree). One of the options is “Save to my computer.” Click on that option and, depending on your browser, you’ll see a question that asks if you want to open or save the document. I use “Save As” and save it to a file. If there are multiple pages, as with the wills , I usually create a separate folder for that person’s documents so they’re all together and easy to find. Hope this helps!

  8. Terri

    I was browsing through the new Wills and Probates online at Ancestry, found one for one of my 5x great-grandpa’s. I was disappointed to see that it was a transcription (recent), and not the actual will. Also had wrong date of death, transcriber presumed death yr was same as yr will was drawn up, off by 7 yrs. This kind of inaccuracy can confuse other researchers. Thankfully, I have a copy of the actual will, but was hoping Ancestry would have a sharper, clearer copy of it. Oh well…………

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