Minnesota Will Records - FamilySearch Historical Records

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Minnesota Will Records 1849-1985
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Minnesota, 
United States
Minnesota flag.png
Flag of Minnesota
US Locator Minnesota.png
Location of Minnesota
Record Description
Record Type Wills
Collection years 1849-1985
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Archive
Probate Court. Historical Society, St. Paul



What is in This Collection?[edit | edit source]

The collection consists of indexes of the probate court will books for the counties of the state and territory of Minnesota for the years 1849 to 1985. Some testators who resided outside of Minnesota recorded their wills in these probate courts. Three Minnesota counties are not in this collection: Hennepin, Marshall, and St. Louis.

This project was indexed in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society. For copies of the records rather than the index contact the Minnesota Historical Society, Book or Record Request. There is a fee for this service. If you have trouble contacting them, please try their main page at Minnesota Historical Society.

Image Visibility[edit | edit source]

Whenever possible FamilySearch makes images and indexes available for all users. However, rights to view these data are limited by contract and subject to change. Because of this there may be limitations on where and how images and indexes are available or who can see them. Please be aware some collections consist only of partial information indexed from the records and do not contain any images.

For additional information about image restrictions see Restrictions for Viewing Images in FamilySearch Historical Record Collections.

What Can These Records Tell Me?[edit | edit source]

The following information may be found in these records:

Probate records include petitions, inventories, accounts, decrees and other court documents.

  • Name of testator or deceased
  • Names of heirs such as spouse, children, and other relatives or friends
  • Name of executor, administrator, or guardian
  • Names of witnesses
  • Residence of testator
  • Document and recording dates. (There are used to approximate event dates, i.e. a will was usually written near time of death.)

Collection Content[edit | edit source]

Probate records were court documents and may have involved loose papers and/or bound Volumes. These records were generally known as a case file or probate packet. These files normally included wills, settlement papers, inventories, receipts, and other records pertaining to the estates. Some probate records were recorded in books which may have carried many titles such as accounts, administrations, appraisals, minutes, petitions, guardianships, inventories, settlements, and so forth. Wills are normally transcribed into a bound volume.

Territorial courts were created in 1849. They handled court matters including probates. From 1858 to the present state courts replaced the territorial courts. The Probate Court has handled probates of estates, incompetency cases, guardianship, wills, and other probate matters. It also acts as the juvenile court for cases in counties with a population under 40,000. Probates are generally recorded in the county were the person resided. Estates were probated for approximately 25 percent of the heads of households in the United States before 1900, whether or not the individual left a will. Wills are more likely to be found in rural communities than in larger cities and industrial areas.

Probate records are used to legally dispose of a person’s estate after his or her death. The probate process transfers the legal responsibility for payment of taxes, care and custody of dependent family members, liquidation of debts, and transfer of property title. The transfer is to an executor or executrix if the deceased had made a will, to an administrator or administratrix if the deceased had not made a will, or to a guardian or conservator if the deceased had heirs under the age of twenty-one or if heirs were incompetent due to disease or disability.

The death date, residence, and other facts that were current at the time of the probate proceeding are quite reliable, though there is still a chance of misinformation. The records may omit the names of deceased family members, those who have previously received an inheritance, or the spouse mentioned in a will may not be the parent of the children mentioned. Some wills do not name family members.

How Do I Search This Collection?[edit | edit source]

Before searching the collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The name of the deceased
  • The approximate death or probate date
  • The place of residence

Search the Index[edit | edit source]

Search by name by visiting the Collection Details Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes in the Search Collection section with the information you know
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

How Do I Analyze the Results?[edit | edit source]

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?[edit | edit source]

When you have located your ancestor’s will, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors.

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Use probate records to identify heirs and relatives
  • Use the document (such as the will) or the recording dates to approximate a death date
  • Use the information in the probate record to substitute for civil birth and death records since the probates exist for an earlier time period
  • Use the birth date or age along with the residence or place of birth of the deceased to locate census, church, and land records
  • Use the occupations listed to find employment records or other types of records such as military records
  • Probate records may contain information about land transactions, adoptions or guardianships of any minor children and dependents

I Can't Find the Person I'm Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Check for variant spellings of the surnames
  • Check for an index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties
  • Consult the Minnesota Record Finder to find other records

Research Helps[edit | edit source]

The following articles will help you in your research for your family in the state of Minnesota.

Citing This Collection[edit | edit source]

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation:
The citation for this collection can be found on the Collection Details Page in the section Citing this Collection.
Record Citation:
When looking at a record, the citation can be viewed by clicking the drop-down arrow next to Document Information.

How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?[edit | edit source]

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Historical Records/Guidelines for Articles.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.