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Probate records have been kept at the district or county level in Ontario by Surrogate Courts since 1793. Between 1793 and 1858, a central Probate Court of the province dealt with estates valued above a certain amount of money. When the Probate Court was abolished in 1858, the Surrogate Courts took over its functions.
Registers are court order books recording petitions and grants of probate and administrators' bonds. In estate files you may find wills, inventories, and letters of administration. Wills involving land transactions were often not recorded with the court; but they were copied into deed books or general register books filed with registrars of deeds at land offices. See Ontario Land and Property.
The original probate records are at the Archives of Ontario and at district land registry offices. The Family History Library and the Archives of Ontario have microfilm copies of many probate records for most Ontario counties. These include wills and indexes to 1930. For example, from Wellington County the library has registers 1840-1931, estate files 1841-1930, and general register books 1862-1886.
An index to the original Probate Court records is:
Zuefelt, Bill, ed. Court of Probate: Registers and Estate Files at the Archives of Ontario, 1793-1859: An Index of Genealogical Research. Toronto, Ontario: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1986. (Family History Library book 971.3 P2z.)
Surrogate Court records from the original districts were taken over by one of the successor counties. See Ontario Historical Geography. For example, pre-1858 records of the Western District covering Kent, Essex, and parts of other counties went to Essex County. They were cataloged under ONTARIO, ESSEX - PROBATE RECORDS.
The Archives of Ontario has a surname index to all existing Surrogate Court records before 1859:
Surrogate Court Records Index, 1793-1858. Toronto, Ontario: Ontario Genealogical Society, [198-?]. (Family History Library fiche 6334160 numbers 1-8.)
Indexes to the later 19th-century Surrogate Court records are being published county by county as a series:
Gibson, June. Surrogate Court Index of Ontario, Canada, 1859-1900. Agincourt, Ontario: Generation Press, 1988-. (Family History Library book 971.3 P22g.)
A helpful inventory of some probate records is:
Shepard, Catherine. Surrogate Court Records at the Archives of Ontario: A Genealogical Research Guide. Toronto, Ontario: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1984. (Family History Librry pamphlet 971.3 A1 no. 206.)