Ancestry Publishes HUGE Collection of U.S. Wills and Probate Records

US Wills and Probate AncestryMore than 100 million people are mentioned in Ancestry’s newest database of U.S. wills and probate records, an exclusive collection spanning over 300 years. To celebrate, Ancestry is offering free access through September 7.

This morning, Ancestry launched an enormous–and enormously significant–new online records collection. According to its press release, “More than 170 million pages from the largest collection of wills and probate records in the United States is now available online exclusively on Ancestry. With searchable records included from all 50 states spread over 337 years (1668-2005), this unprecedented collection launches a new category of records for family history research never before available online at this scale the United States.”

Wills and estate records are one of those record types that have been less-accessible online. First, the records themselves are not easy to digitize or even index. They are often thick files, packed with various kinds of documents that may be fragile and of varying sizes. Several people may be mentioned throughout the file, but finding and picking out their names to put in an index is time-consuming.

Furthermore, the U.S. has no central will or probate registry. This happens on a county level, generally. Compiling a centralized database from all those county offices or archives is a huge undertaking.

According to the Ancestry release, “Ancestry spent more than two years bringing this collection online, working with hundreds of different archives from individual state and local courts across the country and making a $10M investment to license and digitize the records.”

Better yet, “the documents cover well over 100 million people, including the deceased as well as their family, friends and others involved in the probate process. Ancestry expects to continue to grow the collection, with additional records available over the next several years.”

Todd Godfrey, VP of Global Content at Ancestry, loves the fact that wills and probate records can reveal not just names, dates and family relationships, but stories. “Wills can offer an incredible view into the lives of your ancestors…providing insight into their personality, character, achievements, relationships, and more,” said Godfrey. “Reading these records you will find a deeper level of understanding about who your ancestors were, who they cared about, what they treasured, and how they lived.”

Learn more about this collection in Finding Your Family in Wills and Probate Records (Ancestry’s new in-depth guide) or click here to search the collection. Great news for those without Ancestry subscriptions: The U.S. Wills and Probates collection is free to access on Ancestry, along with all U.S. birth, marriage and death records, through September 7 (10pm MT).

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Resources: More Great U.S. Records Online!

U.S. State Census Records: Capture Your Family History Between Federal Censuses

NEW! U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

4 Fabulous Ways to Use the Library of Congress for Genealogy 

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

new genealogy records online

Here’s this week’s roundup of new genealogy records online: California, England, Australia, and Italy.

UNITED STATES – CALIFORNIA. Ancestry.com has added a new index titled California, Chinese Arrival Case Files Index, 1884-1940. This index includes passenger and crew lists of ships and airplanes arriving in California. Information you may find in these records are: name of passenger, ship name, port of arrival and in some cases, age, gender, birth date, birth place, and port of departure.

UNITED STATES – MILITARY. United States WWII Prisoner of War records for 1942-1947 have just been added to TheGenealogist.com in time for the anniversary of D-Day. These records inlcude U.S. military and Allies who were prisoners of war and internees. Some prisoners of both Germany and Japan are found in this collection. Records include the prisoners name, status, rank, service number, POW camp, and more valuable data.

ENGLAND – DEVON – PRISON RECORDS. Plymouth Prison Records for 1832-1919 at Findmypast include male and female prisoner records and prison officer records for Plymouth Prison in Devon. Recorded information includes name, birth date, offense, sentencing, last residence, residence of relative, physical description, and much more valuable data.

AUSTRALIA – QUEENSLAND – DEATH RECORDS. Findmypast subscribers can now conveniently search Queensland, Australia Death Records for 1829-1964 on Findmypast. These indexed records include: name, registration year, death date, father’s first and last name, mother’s first name, and sometimes her maiden name. (Birth, marriage and death indexes for Queensland are online for free at the State Library of Queensland website. Their death index goes from 1829-1986.)

ITALY – ROMA – CIVIL REGISTRATION. The Italian Civil Registration between the years of 1863-1930 has been newly added to FamilySearch.org. It is not yet indexed, but able to be browsed. Don’t be intimidated by its more than 4 million digitized images! They have broken down the database to be easily browsed by location and year. Marriage banns and residency records are just a two of things covered in this database.

GGP 192Don’t miss our newest free Genealogy Gems Podcast #192 for more tips and strategies to help you in your genealogy journey. Pop on over and listen now – we’d love to have you!

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