4 December 2013

Getting cheaper copies of wills and certificates

I frequently find information about a direct ancestor in records of his/her siblings or other relatives. Genealogists always strive to use original records, but if I cannot afford to buy certificates and wills for all family members, I look for ways to obtain cheaper copies. For specific examples, plus links to articles about 'Free Certificates', 'Postems' and '10 tips', read on!

Record offices often hold copies of wills for people who died in other States or other countries.

Example 1:  Julia WEBSTER died in 1900 at Orange NSW, and her original will went through the Supreme Court in New South Wales - but a copy of her will can be downloaded (free) from the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV). Why is there a copy in Victoria? The explanation is in Julia's will, where she mentions (quote) 'my interest in the estate of my late brother Malcolm John CAMPBELL, late of Newry, Gippsland, in the Colony of Victoria.'

A transcription of Julia's will is also in the New South Wales will books 1800-1952.

Julia WEBSTER, incidentally, was my great-great-grandmother. Because I wanted to see her signature, I made a point of inspecting her original will in New South Wales, not just the transcriptions available in NSW and Victoria; but thanks to the PROV's free downloads, it cost me nothing to get wills and other probate documents for Julia's sister and brothers and many people from other branches of my family tree.

PROV entry re the will of Julia Webster, Beecroft, died 1900
PROV entry re the will of Julia WEBSTER who died in NSW

Example 2: Queensland State Archives have a probate file for Ellis READ, who spent a lot of time in England but died in Mexico in 1890. Ten years later his widow applied for administration of his estate. He owned land at Burketown in Queensland, and when it was sold, a grant of probate was required so that a certificate of title could be issued. The file includes details from Ellis's death certificate from Mexico (his age, native place, occupation, wife's maiden name, father's name, mother's maiden name, and his cause of death and burial place).

Some early probate files for Queensland are available on microfilm through Church of Latter-Day Saints Family History centres - but a word of warning...

The old 'card index' listed in FamilySearch had a huge number of mistakes, so you should use the new (corrected) index to Supreme Court wills on the Queensland State Archives Web site. Note that it only covers the 'ecclesiastical files' series. Many other wills are in the 'Intestacies' series (Supreme Court Public Curator orders and elections). There is an explanation of this in Tips for Queensland Research.

See also:

Have you succeeded in getting cheaper copies of wills or certificates by these or other methods?
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