Vermont, Windham County, Westminster District, Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Vermont, Windham County, Westminster District, Probate Records, 1781-1921 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Windham, Vermont, United States
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Flag of Vermont
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Location of Windham County, Vermont
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Location of Vermont
Record Description
Record Type Probate
Collection years 1781-1921
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites



What Is in the Collection?

This Collection will include records from 1781 to 1921.

The following towns are currently within the jurisdiction of Westminster Probate District: Athens, Brookline, Grafton, Jamaica, Londonderry, Putney, Rockingham (including Bellows Falls), Townshend, Westminster, and Windham.

Probate records were kept by the probate courts in probate districts. Probate records were court documents and may have included both loose papers and bound volumes. These records were generally known as an estate file, case file, or probate packet. The boxes are usually numbered and the estate documents filed alphabetically by the name of the deceased. These files normally included wills, letters of administration, settlement papers, guardianships, inventories, receipts, distributions, name changes, adoptions, and other records pertaining to estates. Some probate records were recorded in books that may have been labeled with such titles as accounts, administrations, appraisals, minutes, estates, guardianships, inventories, settlements, and so forth. Wills were normally transcribed into a bound volume.

Vermont was originally part of Massachusetts. In 1749, New Hampshire claimed a large portion of the area. In 1764, New York claimed jurisdiction over a large portion of the land held by New Hampshire. In 1777, Vermont became independent and was made a state in 1791. Probate records for those who died before 1777 may be in the records of the county and state who claimed the area before Vermont was formally created. Probate courts began recording probate records soon after the county was created. There are 14 counties but 18 probate districts. The four southern counties have 2 districts each. Probate records cover approximately 40 percent of adult males who left wills, but this may be less than 25 percent in some areas. Less than 10 percent of women had wills or estate inventories. Wills are more likely to be found in rural communities than in larger cities and industrial areas. A higher percentage of individuals died without a will, but they may have had their estates probated and distributed through the courts. Wills and other estate documents are found in the estate files. 

Probate records have been kept from the time the county was formed to 1921.


Probate records were used to legally dispose of a person’s estate after his or her death. If the deceased had made a will, the probate process transferred the following from the deceased to an executor or executrix: the legal responsibility for payment of taxes, care and custody of dependent family members, liquidation of debts, and transfer of property title to heirs. If there was no will, the transfer went to an administrator or administratrix. A guardian or conservator was appointed if the deceased had heirs younger than 21 or if the heirs were incompetent due to disability or disease.

The death date, residence, and other facts that were current at the time of the probate proceedings are reliable, but realize that there is still a chance of misinformation. The records may omit the names of deceased family members or those who had previously received an inheritance. In some cases, the spouse mentioned in the will was not the parent of the children mentioned. Also, some wills do not name family members.

To Browse This Collection

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Vermont, Windham County, Westminster District, Probate Records, 1781-1921.

Collection Content

Sample Images

What Can This Collection Tell Me?

Information in probate records includes:

  • 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
  • Dates the documents were written and recorded (These are used to approximate event dates, i.e. a will was usually written near the time of death.)
  • Description and value of personal property or land owned by the deceased

How Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search it is helpful to know:

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

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒ Select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒ Select the "Record Type"
⇒ Select the "Year Range, Box, Bundle and File Number Range" which takes you to the images.

Look at each image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names or variations of their name throughout their life.

What Do I Do Next?

When you have located your ancestor’s record, 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. Add this new information to your records of each family.

I Found Who I Was Looking For, What Now?

  • 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 other types of records such as employment or military records.
  • You may be able to use the probate record to learn about:
Adoptions or guardianship of any minor children and dependents.
Land transactions.
  • Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname as the deceased; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
  • Continue to search the records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives who may have died in the same county or nearby. This can help you identify other generations of your family or even the second marriage of a parent. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.

I Can't Find Who I'm Looking For, What Now?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Look for another index. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.

Citing This Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:

"Vermont, Windham County, Westminster District, Probate Records, 1781-1921" Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2017. Citing Probate Court. Supreme Court of Vermont, Administrative Services, Montpelier.


Image citation:

When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Vermont, Windham County, Westminster District, Probate Records, 1781-1921.

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