Brazil Probate Records
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Probate records are court records that describe the distribution of a person’s estate after he or she dies. Information in the records may include the deceased’s death date, heirs and guardians, relationships, residences, estate inventory, and witnesses. These records are of great value for genealogical research because they identify family relationships and clues.
The most common wills and probate records kept by the notaries in Brazil are listed under Brazil Notarial Records. Wills made by the ecclesiastical authorities are found in diocese archives, archdiocese archives, or occasionally the parish archives. Often these wills have been deposited in municipal archives. There were also some wills written by the individual without the aid of a notary or clergy. These are found in public registries, private homes, and museums.
Probate Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has limited probate records, many of which have been digitized. These records can be found by doing a Subjects search in the FamilySearch Catalog for BRAZIL PROBATE.
Records not included in FamilySearch's collection will have to be obtained from the archives in Brazil. See Archives & Libraries for contact information.
Probate Records at Brazilian Archives
About 65 percent of the records in the legislative and judicial section of the National Archives, in Rio de Janeiro, are inventories and wills. There is a partial name index to these records that includes about 40,000 individuals’ names.
In the state archives of São Paulo there is a collection of inventories and wills (inventários e testamentos) covering 1578 to about 1800. This collection contains about 2,000 volumes. These records were originally compiled by notaries and orphan-court judges. They often give the deceased persons’ names, places of birth in Portugal, and children’s names and ages. A few of these (from 1633 to 1651) have been published by the archive in:
- Inventários e testamentos (Inventories and Wills). Vol. 41. São Paulo: Departamento do Arquivo do Estado de São Paulo, 1966. FHL 981.61 V4s; film FHL 0962230 item 1.
See Archives & Libraries for contact information for federal and state archives.
An additional resource to help in understanding the law and practices behind probate and other inheritance records for Brazil is Linda Lewin's two volume work:
- Lewins, Linda. Surprise Heirs. Vol 1 and 2. Standford, Calif: Standford University Press, 2003. [Vol. 1 and 2 accessible through the Harold B Lee Library at Brigham Young University.]
Volume 1 covers illegitimacy, patrimonial rights, and legal nationalism in Luso-Brazilian inheritance from 1750-182, and volume 2 covers illegitimacy, inheritance rights, and public power in the formation of Imperial Brazil from 1822-1889.