Get ready to ride the last waves of summer at FamilySearch with their millions of newly published free genealogy records! Major new or updated collections include England and Wales Wills and Probate Calendar; French census and church records; South Africa probate; and in the US, Illinois naturalizations, Michigan vital records, US-Canada border crossings and WWI American Expeditionary Forces deaths.
England and Wales wills and probate index
The always-free Genealogy Giant FamilySearch.org has published England and Wales, National Index of Wills and Administrations, 1858-1957. With just over a million records, it references the National Probate Calendar, an index to wills and administrations recorded in these countries.
According to The National Archives (UK), “As well as the full name, address and occupation of the deceased, the National Probate Calendar may also contain: full names of executors, administrators and relationships to the deceased; the date and place of the death; the date and place of the probate or administration grant; [and] value of the estate.”
France census and church records
A new collection of France, Haute-Garonne, Toulouse, Church Records, 1539-1793 at FamilySearch includes close to half a million records. These are “Church records (registres paroissiaux) of baptisms, marriages, and burials within the custody of the Municipal Archives of Toulouse (Archives municipales de Toulouse). Includes marriage banns (bans de mariages). Most records are for Catholics, although there are a small quantity of available records for Protestants. Availability of records is largely dependent on time period and locality.”
Also for France, more than 160,000 indexed records have been added to France, Saône-et-Loire, Censuses, 1836.
South African probate records
Just shy of 800,000 indexed records have been added to the free FamilySearch database, South Africa, Transvaal, Probate Records from the Master of the Supreme Court, 1869-1958. According to the collection description, “South African probate records often include heirs, locations, property transfers, wills, and other important information. The most useful records in the collection are the death notices which give detailed information. The probate records usually have multiple pages and are included in a probate file, which is identified by a probate number.”
United States genealogy records
Illinois naturalizations. Over 626,000 indexed records have been added to FamilySearch’s Illinois, County Naturalization Records, 1800-1998. The content and county coverage vary by time period; most records date previous to 1945. This index could prove quite helpful to those seeking naturalization papers for immigrant ancestors who lived in Illinois, as there was no single court in which to naturalize before 1906—so immigrants could (and did) go to several different places.
Michigan vital records. Two important new collections are now free at FamilySearch:
- Michigan, County Births, 1867-1917. Nearly ¾ of a million indexed records appear in this new collection, which currently includes records from 53 of Michigan’s 83 county courthouses (time-period coverage varies by county). Delayed birth records are among the records. The collection description has this helpful note about how complete birth records are in the state: “Clerks of each County Court recorded births that were reported by parents, doctors and midwives beginning in 1867. This information was then sent to the secretary of the state. From 1867 to 1879, about 15% to 20% of the births were recorded; from 1880-1902, coverage increased to about 60% to 70%. The state required counties to begin recording births to document the occurrence of a birth and to track public health issues.”
- Michigan Mortality Schedules, 1850-1880. Nearly 40,000 deaths are recorded in this new collection of indexed images taken from the US census special census schedule for deaths recorded in 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. The site explains: “Mortality Schedules…list people who died in the year preceding the census….:Jun 1849 – May 1850, Jun 1859 – May 1860, Jun 1869-May 1870, and Jun 1879 – May 1880.” Here’s what these records look like:
US – Canada border crossings. FamilySearch has expanded its collection of free border-crossing records with a new index: United States, Border Crossings from Canada to United States, 1894-1954. It’s “an index of aliens and citizens crossing into the United States from Canada via various ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada border” (see also an overlapping and much larger FamilySearch collection of Canada-to-US border crossing records here).
US – WWI Expeditionary Forces. A new collection at FamilySearch indexes more than 75,000 deaths in United States, World War I American Expeditionary Forces Deaths, 1917-1919. “This collection contains information regarding soldiers who lost their lives while serving with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) during World War I. Each officer’s entry includes their name, rank and organization that they were assigned to at the time of their death, and the date of death. Each enlisted man’s entry includes the above information as well as their military serial number.”
Another free genealogy resource for you
Ready to learn step-by-step how to trace your family history? Listen to Lisa Louise Cooke’s free podcast series, Family History: Genealogy Made Easy. This series of 45 episodes walks you through the essentials of research, like finding and contacting living relatives, understanding various kinds of genealogical record types and even organizing strategies so you’ll be able to keep track of what you’ve discovered. It’s free and easy to listen–you only have to decide whether to listen to every episode or just pick the ones you need the most!
About the Author: Sunny Morton
Sunny is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Premium Podcasts. She’s known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.