Posted by Ancestry Team on September 9, 2015 in Website
Watch Navigating Wills and Probates on Ancestry for Free!
Watch Navigating Wills and Probates on Ancestry for Free!


Hopefully, you’ve had some time to start looking through the new U.S. Wills and Probate Records collection on Ancestry. And I hope you’ve found something good that maybe smashed a brick wall or made you gasp with delight or dismay. I know I have!

When I first started looking through these collections, I noticed that there were lots of images in my counties of interest, but I wasn’t always finding everything I was looking for. So I started browsing, and then I located my family.

So I chatted with our content people to get the scoop on what was indexed and what wasn’t. Many wills are indexed but just for the person who wrote the will. Which means there are also names and records in the Wills and Probate collection that aren’t currently indexed. That’s no surprise, considering it takes a while to index these records―they are mostly hand written and some, quite frankly, are hard to decipher.

So what is a searcher to do? How do you find what you are looking for?

I’ve put together a FREE Ancestry Academy class to help you out: Navigating Wills and Probates on Ancestry.

I walk your through searching and browsing and give you a couple of examples to demonstrate each. Check it out and then go apply what you’ve learned. There are more than 170 million images in this new collection, so who knows who’s waiting for you?

Search the entire  Wills and Probate Records collection or find your state in this handy list in the Card Catalog.

And be search to check out Juliana Szucs’ research guide: 5 Things to Help You Get the Most from U.S. Probates on Ancestry as well as Judy Russell’s Ancestry Academy class: The Records of Death: Using Probates in Family History

Happy searching!


  1. Been looking through this database, it still lacks many, many of the records I’ve already found in the courthouses.

    This new database is not a cure all for research in stone and brick buildings.

  2. BTW, why do not the simple terms like will and probate not show in the life story. I thought this database was supposed to add color, but it doesn’t show up there

  3. in the Lifestory, please move Date/Location to the top of each entry, next to Event Title. currently Date/Location is at the bottom of the entry, and instances when there is media makes it appear Date/Location is the media caption. Also, wherever media appears, please display its associated Title/Description in the lifestory entry. if i could upload a picture i would attach it here. thank you for your time.

    @Glen yes i agree with you. apparently the programmers didn’t accommodate all the Facts we have created and currently require us to enter Title/Narrative in order for it to show in lifestory which i believe is a deficiency. i will not be entering Title/Narrative when my Facts already have the associated data they could utilize.

  4. toni

    If only this would have been written BEFORE the free weekend. But then there would be no reason to subscribe, I suppose. This carrot on a stick approach probably sucked in a few people.

  5. Barjbara

    So far I find the wills to be quite helpful when it comes to records on people who were born & died prior to the 1850 Census. Today I read a will on a Benjamin Fox. Prior to that it seemed that he just “disappeared” or perhaps didn’t marry or even exist. I learned the maiden name of his late wife, who died when the children were still young. His 4 children were still under 16 years of age when he passed and his brothers were also named. While one person says that there is nothing like “brick & mortar” research, I can’t get to the many cities in Virginia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Louisiana and ever other state in the deep south–that represent my mothers roots. I appreciate that this information is here. Keep it coming; I’m sure it’s still a work in progress.

  6. Jeff Jahn

    The database is nice but needs some help in searches, for one we need to be able to filter by county currently their isn’t a way it appears. Also when you save a probate record to a tree, ancestry sneaks in a probate fact that doesn’t show in the window when your adding. The problem with this is a lot of the prodate dates are way off in the index, sometimes its the will date not probate date.

  7. Robyn

    I have a technical question. So far I have found a couple of great records. One great find is the 128 page probate record of my 2nd great-grandmother. I would like to copy the full record to my computer. It there a way to save them as ONE document (i.e. PDF)? Or do I have so somehow save each page individually to my computer? I want to attach the doc to my home computer program and print out a copy to review in paper form…

  8. Jade

    One cannot “search the entire . . . collection” because most of the files and court and tax records are not indexed.

    There was no cause to make “New Ancestry” the sole home for this wonderful collection. Gack.

    Also, since instituting New Ancestry I note that a lot of other/unrelated search results, such as in specific US Census years, are now omitting County names. What do your programmers have against specific location IDs (noting that a lot of stuff in trees in New Ancestry mode still omit such niceties as County names and other place-name parts supplied by tree owners).

  9. Susan Shirey

    Is it possible to do some kind of tips sheet in addition to the video on Navigating Wills and Probate. I personally find information that I can print out and refer to in the future, although I know many like videos. Thank you!

  10. Susan Shirey

    Just noticed the link to Juliana Szucs’ research guide: 5 Things to Help You Get the Most from U.S. Probates on Ancestry, Very helpful – just what I was looking for. Thank you, Juliana!

  11. Jade

    Why have so many New Jersey Wills been deleted from the site, and what else in the probate databases has been deleted?

  12. CJ

    @Jade, yea I noticed that with Virginia too just a few moments ago. When it was first introduced I saw wills I already had and today was about to look at other wills with a specific surname, but lo and behold, they’re not there. Was quite surprised.

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