Philippines Probate Records
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Probate records are court records that determine, after a person’s death, how an estate is distributed to heirs and creditors and how dependents are cared for. You may find:
- The person’s death date.
- Names of family members.
- Family relationships and residences.
- Information about adoptions or guardianship of minor children and dependents.
Although probate records are one of the most accurate sources of genealogical evidence, use them cautiously. For example, they may omit the names of deceased family members or those who previously received an inheritance, or the spouse mentioned may not be the parent of the children mentioned.
The Bureau of Records Management has some probate records from the Spanish colonization period. Most of these records are personal estates (bienes de difuntos). Some of these records are indexed. They generally give:
- The name of the deceased.
- The date of death.
- A detailed list of heirs.
- Supporting documents about the wealth and property of the deceased.
These records are in the FamilySearch Catalog, Locality section, under “Probate Records”:
PHILIPPINES, METROPOLITAN MANILA PROBATE RECORDS
Inheritance Records and Wills (Declaración de Herederos, Bienes de Difuntos, Testamentos)
Research use: Provides linking information for family relationships.
Record type: Wills, inventories, codicils, distribution of estates.
Time Period: 1800-present.
Content: Names of individuals, their parents, children and grandchildren, dates, relationships, sometimes places of events, race, civil status.
Location: National Bureau of Records Management, National Census and Statistics Office, local courts and civil registry offices. Population coverage: 10%.
Modern (post-1945) probate records are in courts, civil offices, and the National Census and Statistics Office. Because Filipinos are not likely to write wills and testaments, this source tends to be rare. It is also rather difficult to use. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to check local courts, civil archives, and the National Census and Statistics Office for probate records, especially if your ancestor was affluent.
The Family History Library also has some wills and guardianship records. The guardianship records are mostly from Manila (1923–63).
Other types of records that are not mentioned in this outline are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog, Locality section. For example, see the following topics:
- CHURCH DIRECTORIES
- CHURCH HISTORY
- MEDICAL RECORDS
- POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
- PUBLIC RECORDS
- SOCIAL LIFE AND CUSTOMS
- The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Philippines,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1986-1999.