New Brunswick Probate Records
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Probate records include wills, petitions, letters of administration and testamentary, and inventories. Most wills were created by individuals with substantial property. Most poor people, such as farmers and workers, arranged their affairs without legal action. Wills can give relationships, names, and dates.
Probate Records (RG7)
Probate is a county matter, and at one time probate records were held in each of the fifteen counties. Most surviving early records have been transferred to the provincial archives and microfilmed copies returned to the county.
Probate records exist as both probate files and probate books, the former containing all the assorted documents, the books contain an abstract of the probate proceedings. Indexed files and registers are available for most counties. A summary of what exists and what is microfilmed is found in the New Brunswick section of Handbook for Atlantic Canada Research, pages 15-16.
R. Wallace Hale, Early New Brunswick Probate Records 1785-1835 (Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books Inc., 1989), has abstracted the essential names, dates and data from early probate documents at the PANB, arranged them alphabetically by name of deceased and indexed all names.
This is a most useful research tool for early years, since it covers the whole province. Remember that until around 1827 York County encompassed the whole northwest quarter while Northumberland took in the whole northeast.
After 1835 it depends on the county and you should consult the individual Guide. Alas, the early wooden court houses burnt well and the probate court records for Kent County, most of those for Madawaska and some records for Northumberland County were destroyed by fire.
Wills and Administrations
Wills are nice to find, sometimes they mention every member of a family, but if the older children have already been given land or funding for some enterprise, they may not be included, or will be left some nominal sum or token.
Administration papers can be far more informative. Even an estate of a few hundred dollars must be divided among all the legal heirs. Hope to find an elderly spinster or widow, most of whose siblings have predeceased her, and whose children share and share alike in their parent’s portion of the estate.
My grandmother inherited $12.44 from her aunt, Mary Jane Cochran, spinster, deceased. The administration papers give the names, married names, and addresses of all 23 co-heirs, and they were living all across the continent as well as in England. The administratrix was Hannah Cochran (Mrs. James H. Moran) so of course all the required legal steps were taken and sworn to; her father-in-law was the stipendiary magistrate of the parish.
Until recently, most probate records were held in the county courthouses of New Brunswick. These records have been moved to the Provincial Archives. Most of the probate files are arranged chronologically and then alphabetically. Indexes exist for most probate files. Record Group 7 at the Provincial Archives contains probates for the following years:
- Albert Co.1845–1855 (misc.)
- Carleton Co.1833–1964
- Charlotte Co.1785–1965
- Gloucester Co.1836–1964
- Kent Co.destroyed by fire
- Kings Co.1786–1964
- Madawaska Co.1894–1966
- Northumberland Co.1860–1966
- Queens Co.1785–1976
- Restigouche Co.1839–1968
- St. John Co.1785–1904
- incomplete to 1963
- Sunbury Co.1786–1976
- Victoria Co.1845–1960
- Westmorland Co.1787–1885 (misc.)
- York Co.1786–1976
- Douglas, Althea. "New Brunswick Legal Records (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/New_Brunswick_Legal_Records_%28National_Institute%29.