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Research Guide to Probate Records at the Connecticut State Library

Early Connecticut Probate Records
Probate Courts
Types of Probate Records
Other Sources of Probate Information
Probate Abstracts
Other Helpful Sources
For Further Reading

Probate records contain information about family relationships, property holdings and values, and land and building locations and descriptions. As a result, they are of substantial value for economic and social history and for genealogical research. Documents found in probate records include wills; petitions for probate or administration; bonds; inventories and accounts; receipts from heirs and/or creditors; and petitions for dower, support, distribution, or division. In addition to handling estates of deceased persons, Connecticut probate courts have also handled guardianships, adoptions, and conservatorships of "incompetent" persons.

Early Connecticut Probate Records
Prior to the creation of Connecticut's probate courts in 1698, wills were proved and recorded in other colonial jurisdictions.

In New Haven Colony, which existed from 1638 to 1665 (and which included New Haven, Milford, Guilford, Branford, and Stamford), wills were proved and estates administered in the town ("plantation") where the deceased resided. The law provided that wills and inventories be entered in the plantation records (and wills and inventories have been located in Stamford town records ca. 1646-1695 and in Guilford's early town records), after which the originals were to be filed with the Secretary of the Colony. The wills, inventories, and related papers so deposited are published in the Records of the Colony and Plantation of New Haven, C. J. Hoadly, ed. (Hartford, 1857-58) [CSL call number HistRef ConnDoc G25n]. Check the index to Volume 1 under the heading "Wills and inventories, abstracts of" and under the names of specific individuals. In Volume 2, check the headings "Estates, distribution of" and names of specific individuals. The Records of the Colony and Plantation of New Haven, from 1638 to 1649 are online through the Making of America book collection, digitized by the University of Michigan Library, Ann Arbor.

In the Connecticut Colony, beginning in 1639, estates were administered by the Particular Court (also sometimes referred to as "Quarter Court" when it met quarterly), which also dealt with most other judicial actions. Its early records, kept in the same book with those of the General Court until 1649, are in the Records of the Colony of Connecticut, Volume 1, 1636-1649, and were published in The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, J. Hammond Trumbull, ed. (Hartford: Brown and Parsons, 1850), Vol. 1 [CSL call number HistRef ConnDoc G25 1636/65]. Check the General Index of this published volume, page 604, under the heading "Wills and Inventories" for references to specific testate estates and page 598 under the heading "Estates" for references to specific intestate estates. The Public Records are also available online as part of Colonial Connecticut Records. From the main CCR screen, click on "Browse A-Z" Index, then on "Volume 1: April 1636-April 1665", then on either "E" (and scroll down to "Estates") or "W" (and scroll down to "Wills") and then click on the name of the person, e.g., Tho. Hooker. Another transcription of the Particular Court records, Volume 1, may be found in the Records of the Particular Court of Connecticut, 1639-1663, Connecticut Historical Society Collections, Volume 22 (Hartford, 1928) [CSL call number HistRef F 91 .C7 vol. 22]. Check the index at the back of the published volume for the name you are seeking; most references to probates include annotations such as "estate of" following the name. The probates from Volume 1 were also abstracted by Charles Manwaring in his Digest.

Particular Court records from 1649 to 1663, including those dealing with probate matters, were given the binder's title "Connecticut Colonial Probate Records -- County Court", Volume 2 (1649-1663) but are also referenced as Early General Records volume 55 in State Archives Record Group 1. The volume has an index to the names found within, and a separate manuscript index to volume 55 is available in the cataloged manuscripts collection [Main Vault 974.6 qC71p Index]. Particular Court records from 1649 to 1663 ("Volume 2") were published in Records of the Particular Court of Connecticut, 1639-1663, Connecticut Historical Society Collections, Volume 22 (Hartford, 1928) [CSL call number HistRef F 91 .C7 vol. 22]. The probate information in "Volume 2" was also abstracted by Charles Manwaring in his Digest.

Following the receipt of Connecticut's new Charter in 1662, the Particular Court was abolished and replaced by the Court of Assistants (1665). In May 1666, the General Assembly established the four counties of Hartford, New London, New Haven, and Fairfield, created County Courts or "Court of Sessions" and ordered that henceforth probate matters would be handled by the County Courts. The records of the Particular Court/County Court from 1663-1677 are inscribed, "This is the Third Book of [ ] the Acts of the County Courts" but were given the binder's title "Connecticut Colonial Probate Records -- County Court", Volume 3 (1663-1677). They are also referenced as Early General Records Volume 56 in State Archives Record Group 1. The volume has an index to the names found in that volume. Unlike Volumes 1 and 2 of the Particular Court records, the records in "Volume 3" have not yet been published. However, probate information was abstracted in Manwaring's Digest.

The original Volumes 2 and 3 each have an index to the names found in the volume, and a separate manuscript index to Volume 2 is in the cataloged manuscripts collection in the State Archives [Main Vault 974.6 qC71p Index]. Volumes 2 and 3 were microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah [LDS #0004572] and are available at the State Library or through LDS Family History Centers.

During the period 1649-1666, there were Special Particular Courts in Fairfield and New London, which supplemented the Particular Court in Hartford, and those courts often handled estates in those areas. The State Archives holds Fairfield probate books for this period, and similar information was recorded in the early volumes of the New London County Court "Records of Trials".

The Court of Sessions for the Royal Governor Andros period, 1687-1688, dealt with several probate cases. An original manuscript covering this period was given the binders' title Records of the Court of Sessions and Inferior Court of Pleas for Hartford County, 1687-1688 [Main Vault 974.61 H25cs]. It was transcribed and published by the Acorn Club of Hartford in 1935 as Records of the Particular Court of the Colony of Connecticut, Administration of Sir Edmond Andros, Royal Governor, 1687-1688, A.E.T. (Annie Eliot Trumbull), ed. Hartford: Case, Lockwood and Brainard, 1935 [CSL call number KFC 4116 .H3 A2 1935].

Probate Courts
Today, Connecticut probate jurisdictions are districts, not counties or towns. The original four districts were formed in 1698, when the General Assembly created separate probate districts for each existing county (Hartford, New London, New Haven, and Fairfield) to handle such matters as wills and estates. Through the realignment of probate district boundaries and the creation of new probate districts, a process begun in 1719, 130 current districts have evolved from the original four. Because several different districts may have covered a certain town over the course of time, the correct district for the time period in question must be determined in order to locate information on a probate matter. This information may be found on the index cards in the Probate Estate Papers Index or by consulting our Research Guide to Connecticut Probate Districts. The guide identifies the proper probate court for a given Connecticut city or town and indicates what probate materials (and whether original or on microfilm) are available. It shows the probate district(s) to which each Connecticut town has been assigned; the locations of original estate papers and record books, and whether the items have been microfilmed. Once you determine that materials for the probate district in question have been filmed, you may use them at the State Library or at a LDS Family History Center. Check the LDS Family History Catalog to determine the correct film number(s) for the item(s) you need.

Types of Probate Records
Connecticut has two sets of probate records: estate papers (original documents generated or received by the courts in connection with a probate case) and probate court record books (court clerks' transcriptions of major probate documents). Because a document will sometimes appear in one set of records but not in the other, it may be useful to consult both.

Estate Papers
The State Library holds most of the original estate papers prior to 1900 and some of later date. Most, but not all, are included in our Probate Estate Papers Index. Others, such as those in the Stamford Probate District, may have separate indexes. Still others are not indexed at all but are filed alphabetically by surname within the files of the particular probate district. If you do not find an index entry for an individual within the Probate Estate Papers Index, it may be helpful to consult with a librarian to determine whether another type of access is available. The Genealogical Society of Utah has microfilmed many original probate estate papers, and the films are available for use at the State Library or through LDS Family History Centers.

Probate Court Record Books
The original court record books are usually at the various probate courts. Most up to about 1915 have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and are available for use at the State Library or through LDS Family History Centers.

Other Sources of Probate Information
Contested wills and other probate matters could be appealed to higher courts. If no estate papers packet is located for an individual, or if information in the probate court record books suggests an appeal, check the records of the County Court and Superior Court of the county in which the individual resided.

 

Some probate matters were even brought before the General Court. Check these index volumes to the Connecticut Archives:

Connecticut Archives: Estates of Deceased Persons, 1640-1820.

Connecticut Archives: Estates of Incompetent Persons, 1711-1820.

Connecticut Archives: Estates of Minors, 1715-1820.

For more information about these indexes, see the main Connecticut Archives page. 

Also check the Manuscripts and Archives Catalog in the History and Genealogy Reading Room under the headings "Probate Records" and "Wills", and the finding aid to State Archives Record Group 62, Records of the Towns and Boroughs.

State Archives Record Group 76, Records of the Tax Department, includes 40 drawers of cards, arranged alphabetically by surname, from the Inheritance Tax Division, 1915-1926. These cards generally contain name of estate, residence, date of death, probate district, and information about the receipt of reports and data, dates of hearings, and taxes assessed and received. These records have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and are available in the History and Genealogy Reading Room or through LDS Family History Centers.

Probate Abstracts
These are summaries of information found in probate papers. The accuracy of the information depends on the accuracy of the author in deciding which parts of the probate record were important and in copying items correctly. A probate abstract is a good source for a quick general summary, but should not take the place of actual probate papers or record books. For full information, consult the original sources.

Manwaring's Digest
Manwaring, Charles William. A Digest of the Early Connecticut Probate Records. Reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1995 [CSL call number HistRef F 93 .M29 1995].

In this digest of early Connecticut Colony and early Hartford Probate District probate records, the volumes cited by Manwaring as Volumes I, II, and III are technically not Hartford Probate Court Records, Volumes I, II, III. No such volumes exist. After the Particular Court was abolished and probate matters transferred to the County Court and later the Probate Court, volumes containing probate information under Hartford's jurisdiction were numbered as a continuation of the former series of Connecticut Colonial Probate Records. The volume that Manwaring cites as Volume I is actually the manuscript Records of the Colony of Connecticut, Volume 1 (see Early Probate Records, above). The page numbers of this manuscript volume are given in brackets at the top left of Manwaring's entry. Page numbers given without brackets, at the top center and elsewhere in the entry, refer to the published Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, Volume I. The volumes that Manwaring cites as Volume II and Volume III are Volumes 2 and 3 of the "Colonial Probate Records -- County Court", also referred to as Volumes 55 and 56 of the manuscript Early General Records (see Early Probate Records, above). The pagination is accurate. Generally, transcripts of the documents appear in the front half, and records of court action in the reversed half. The latter are usually referred to by Manwaring as "court record".

There are errors in Manwaring's Digest. Some corrections are included at the front of volumes two and three. In addition, researchers utilizing actual or microfilmed copies of the probate estate papers have sometimes found names, dates, and other important genealogical information that was not included in the record books or missed by Manwaring.

Other Probate Digests:

Those items below that are listed as part of State Archives Record Groups (RG) or whose location is given as a vault are available for use at the State Library. See the Rules and Procedures for Researchers Using Archival Record and Secured Collections.

Alcorn, Winifred S. "Abstracts of the Early Probate Records of New Haven, Book I, Part I, 1647-1687." New England Historical and Genealogical Register 81 (1927):121-135. [CSL call number F 1 .N56]

Barbour, Lucius Barnes. Abstract of Brooklyn Probate Records, 1786-1900 [RG 74:36, no. 73].

_______________. Abstract of Probate Records, 1740-1800 [RG 74:36, no. 72].

_______________. Genealogical Notes Compiled from East Hartford and Glastonbury Probate Records, 1800-1830 [RG 74:36, no. 75].

_______________. Abstracts of Probate Records from East Windsor, Conn., 1782-1800 [RG 74:36, no. 76].

_______________. Genealogical Notes Compiled from Hartford, Connecticut District Probate Records, 1751-1800 [RG 74:36, no. 77].

_______________. Genealogical Notes Compiled From Hartford, Connecticut Probate Records [RG 74:36, no. 78].

_______________. Index of Volume I, Manwaring Digest, 1653-1698 [RG 74:36, no. 161].

_______________. Index to Hartford Probate Records, 1751-1800 [RG 74:36, no. 80].

_______________. Index to Hartford Probate Records, Volumes 16-25 and East Windsor Probate Records, Volumes 1-2 [RG 74:36, no. 79].

_______________. Notes from Probate Records, Hartford District, 1635-1750 [RG 74:36, no. 81].

_______________. Abstract of Probate Records, Pomfret District, 1752-1906 [RG 74:36, no. 82].

_______________. Abstracts of Probate Records, Pomfret and Woodstock Districts, 1752-1902 [RG 74:36, no. 86].

_______________. Genealogical Notes Compiled from Probate Records, Suffield and Windsor, After 1800 [RG 74:36, no. 83].

_______________. Genealogical Notes Compiled from Probate Records from Wethersfield, Conn. after 1800 [RG 74:36, no. 84].

_______________. Genealogical Notes Compiled from Probate Records, Windham District, 719-1737 [RG 74:36, no. 85].

Burr, Sarah A. W. "Sharon (Conn.) Probate Records." The American Genealogist, 10:170-174 [CSL call number F 104 .N6 A64]. Abstracts the first 27 pages of Sharon Probate Court Record Book Vol. 2.

Card, Lester. Probate Records of Norwalk, 1802-1808. South Norwalk, CT: The Author, n.d.

Gallup, Jennie Tefft. Abstracts of the First Probate Records of Norwich. [Main 974.62 fN84pr] Two volumes bound as one. Volume 1 covers 1748-1763; Volume 2 covers 1749-1764. Each volume includes an every-name index.

Hayward, Kendall P. "Windham (Conn.) Probate Records." The American Genealogist, 23:228-229. Abstracts selected estates from volumes 1-3 of the Windham Probate Court record books.

Jacobus, Donald L. "New London (Conn.) Probate Records: Abstract of Records Before 1710". The American Genealogist, 9:230-233; 10:35-40, 101-104,166-170, 215-217; 11:30-31,103-105, 153-157; 12:33-34,115-116;151-154; 13:106-110, 164-166, 246-247; 14:16-18,103-104,184-186, 246-248; 15:104-106; 17:118-120; 18:121; 19:218; 20:190. The abstracts are based on probate estate papers files.

_______________. "Sharon (Conn.) Probate Records," The American Genealogist, 22:192-193. Abstracts of eight selected estates from volumes 2-4 of the Sharon Probate Court record books.

Mead, Spencer Percival. Abstracts of Probate Records for the District of Fairfield [Main Vault 974.62 F15M].

_______________. Abstracts of Probate Records for the District of Stamford, County of Fairfield and State of Connecticut, 1729-1802. Greenwich, CT: The Author, 1919 [Main Vault 974.62 St2m]. Covers probate court record books Volumes 1-9. Includes an estate index as well as a separate every-name index. Note also the heading "Confiscated Estates" within the Index to Estates.

_______________. Abstracts of Probate Records for the District of Stamford, County of Fairfield, and State of Connecticut, 1803-1848. Greenwich, CT: The Author, 1924 [Main Vault 974.62 St2m]. Includes index to estates and an every-name index.

Russell, Donna Valley. Sharon, Conn., Probate Records, 1757-1783, Towns of Sharon, Kent, Canaan, and Salisbury [CSL call number 974.62 Sh2rs]. Covers record book volumes B2, C3, D4, and E5. Includes an every-name index.

Stark, S. Judson. The Wyoming Valley: Probate Records, Liber A. from January 6, 1777 to June 16, 1783. Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, 1923 [CSL call number F 157 .W9 S72]. Covers "Westmoreland in the County of Litchfield in the Colony of Connecticut."

Other Helpful Sources
Inventory control books containing lists of estate files for many Connecticut probate districts were compiled at the State Library under the direction of George Goddard and are known as "Goddard Digests". They have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and are available for use in the History and Genealogy Reading Room at the State Library or through LDS Family History Centers.

For Further Reading

Greenleaf, William Prescott. "Report of the Librarian," The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 79:196-200 [CSL call number F 1 .N56]. Describes the gift of temporary jackets used while processing Connecticut probate estate papers packets to the New England Historic Genealogical Society and includes a table of towns and probate districts as of 1925.

Jacobus, Donald L. "Probate Digests, Their Value and Dangers." The American Genealogist 22:151-153 [CSL call number F 104 .N6 A64].

Nelson, Carl V. "Probate Records of New Canaan." New Canaan Historical Society Annual, 1957.

Prepared by the History and Genealogy Unit, Connecticut State Library. Revised: 10-96, 12-03, 2-10.