Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Probate Records - FamilySearch Historical Records

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This article describes a collection of records scheduled to become available at FamilySearch.org.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 
United States
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Flag of Pennsylvania
US Locator Map Pennsylvania Philadelphia.PNG
Location of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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Location of Pennsylvania
Record Description
Record Type Probate
Collection years 1837-1865
FamilySearch Resources
Archive
Register of Wills, Philadelphia


What is in This Collection?[edit | edit source]

This collection includes probate records from Philadelphia for the years 1837 to 1865. Probate records are court documents and may have included both loose papers and bound volumes. These records were generally known as a case file or a probate packet. These files normally included wills, settlement papers, inventories, receipts, and other records pertaining to the estates. Some probate records were recorded in books that may have been labeled with such titles as accounts, administrations, appraisals, minutes, petitions, guardianships, inventories, settlements, and so forth. The wills in this collection are loose documents arranged by box number then file number.

Probates have been recorded on a county basis since the origin of the Commonwealth in 1682. Some major cities such as Philadelphia also kept probate records. Complete records are available in most counties. Probate actions taken in a locality before the present county was formed are found in records of the parent county.

Probate records were used to legally dispose of a person’s estate after his or her death. If the deceased had made a will, the probate process transferred the following from the deceased to an executor or executrix: legal responsibility for payment of taxes, care and custody of dependent family members, liquidation of debts, and transfer of property title to heirs. If there was no will, the transfer went to an administrator or administratrix. A guardian or conservator was appointed if the deceased had heirs younger than 21 or if the heirs were incompetent due to disability or disease.

The death date, residence, and other facts that were current at the time of the probate proceedings are reliable, but realize that there is still a chance of misinformation. The records may omit the names of deceased family members or those who had previously received an inheritance. In some cases, the spouse mentioned in the will was not the parent of the children mentioned. Also, some wills do not name family members.

Image Visibility[edit | edit source]

Whenever possible FamilySearch makes images and indexes available for all users. However, rights to view these data are limited by contract and subject to change. Because of this there may be limitations on where and how images and indexes are available or who can see them. Please be aware some collections consist only of partial information indexed from the records and do not contain any images.

For additional information about image restrictions see Restrictions for Viewing Images in FamilySearch Historical Record Collections.

Collection Content[edit | edit source]

Sample Images[edit | edit source]

Coverage Table[edit | edit source]

This collection is described in the FamilySearch Catalog record Pennsylvania, probate record, 1837-1914. Click on the camera icon to see the images.

What Can These Records Tell Me?[edit | edit source]

Probate records include petitions, inventories, accounts, decrees and other court documents. They may include the following genealogical information:

  • Name of the testator or deceased
  • Names of the heirs, such as spouse, children, other relatives, and friends
  • Name of the executor, administrator, or guardian
  • Names of witnesses
  • Residence of the testator
  • Dates the documents were written and recorded (used to approximate event dates since a will was usually written near the time of death).

How Do I Search the Collection?[edit | edit source]

Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The name of your ancestor
  • The approximate date of death
  • The date of probate
  • The residence of your ancestor
  • The names of other family members and their relationships

How Do I Analyze the Results?[edit | edit source]

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?[edit | edit source]

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Add the new information to your records
  • Use probate records to identify heirs and relatives
  • You may be able to use the probate record to learn about adoptions or guardianship of any minor children and dependents
  • Use the document (such as the will) or the recording dates to approximate a death date
  • Use the information in the probate record to substitute for civil birth and death records since the probates exist for an earlier time period
  • You may be able to use the probate record to learn about land transactions
  • Use the birth date or age along with the residence or place of birth of the deceased to locate census, church, and land records

I Can't Find Who I'm Looking for, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for alias names, nicknames and abbreviated names
  • Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties

Research Helps[edit | edit source]

The following articles will help you in your research for your family in the state of Pennsylvania.

Citing this Collection[edit | edit source]

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?[edit | edit source]

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Historical Records/Guidelines for Articles.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.