Last week Ancestry.com announced a new, significant, collection of databases: U.S. Wills and Probates. The collection contains more than 170 million images covering all 50 states, and spanning years from 1668 to 2005. The documents mention more than 100 million people, including the deceased and others mentioned in the records. This is the first time there has been a will and probate collection of this scale for the United States online.
Ancestry has invested several years and $10 million to license and digitize these records! The effort will continue for several years to come. While Ancestry has been accused of pandering their new website design for beginners, in my opinion the choice to publish probate records demonstrates a dedication to experienced users as well. If you learn the handwriting, wills aren’t too bad for less experienced genealogists.
“Wills can offer an incredible view into the lives of your ancestors, going beyond names and dates, and providing insight into their personality, character, achievements, relationships, and more,” said Todd Godfrey, vice president of global content.
According to Ancestry’s Matt Deighton, this is the collection that Ancestry announced at RootsTech. In 2013 Ancestry’s Tim Sullivan said, “It’s exciting for me to stand on this stage at this conference and announce our largest and most ambitious collaboration with FamilySearch ever. Over the next three years FamilySearch and Ancestry are going to work together to digitize and index over 140 million pages of U.S. probate records spanning from 1800 to 1930.” Interestingly, Ancestry’s press release contains no mention that the collection was a collaborative effort. FamilySearch made no corresponding announcement so there is no information as to when or even if FamilySearch will publish the same collection.
This collection utilizes new features of the New Ancestry website, which I believe to be support for packets of records. It includes a table of contents for the packet. This great new feature identifies the document types in the packet and gives the ability to jump directly to a particular document. Because it requires these new features, these databases can not be viewed with the old website.
For more information see
- Ancestry Blog article
- Research Guide (4 p. PDF)
- Fancy search page for the entire probate collection
- Group search page for both old and new U.S. wills and probates and a list of all the databases in the collection
- Press release