Probate and Genealogy – Inheriting the Details for Your Ancestor Search

RecordClick Genealogists Use Wills for Ancestor Search

Probate records are the documents that keep on giving, and Professional and board credentialed Genealogist Joan Shurtliff
shows you why they are found gold for your ancestor search and family history project. Read on to discover the hidden secrets in old probate records, that can help you solve your genealogy mystery

Probate cases are death records that keep on giving. This RecordClick genealogist has quite a number of probate documents filed away because they provide insight into the life of the deceased and have helped me find living family members. Probate documents may be better than a death certificate. While a death certificate may provide information on a spouse and parents, probate documents list descendants and heirs. Found gold!

Probate cases are typically found in lower courts, such as a county court. If an estate is complicated, or if there is a dispute of some kind, these records may be extensive.

There are four basic steps in a probate case:

  1. Appointment of an administrator. This person will represent the deceased and the decedent’s family in the handling of the estate paperwork.
  2. The listing of the assets of the deceased. Usually there is something of value involved, such as the ownership of property. In my work as a professional genealogist, I have also seen cases where livestock was the item of worth.
  3. The listing of the liabilities of the deceased. Taxes and bills must be paid before an estate is settled. It is likely that the deceased dealt with people that he or she knew, and these listed people may provide additional information for the genealogical researcher during the ancestor search.
  4.  The distribution of remaining property. This will include a list of descendants and/or heirs. This probate list often details the residence of these individuals.

My g-g-uncle Frank Bachenberg had a simple probate case. He was married twice, and each wife died young. He had no offspring and died Intestate in November 1920.

At the time of his death, Frank’s most valuable asset was an 80-acre farm in Pawnee County, Nebraska. His brothers, George and John Bachenberg were appointed administrators in December 1920. At the time of their appointment as administrators, the heirs’ relationship to my g-g-uncle, as well as the heirs’ residences are listed. Handwritten notes from the administrators are included below in italics:

  • Elizabeth Wischmeier, a sister of University Place, Nebraska (Miller, Neb)
  • Philip Bachenberg, a brother, of Bisbee, Arizona (county farm)
  • George Bachenberg, a brother, of Armour, Nebraska
  • Mary Beck, a sister, of Danville, Iowa
  • John Bachenberg, a brother, of Lewiston, Nebraska, and
  • George Bachenberg, Walter Bachenberg, Sylvester Bachenberg and Arthur Bachenberg, nephews, the only children and descendants of William Bachenberg, deceased, who was a brother of the said Frank Bachenberg, deceased, and
  • Eden Peter Bachenberg (Bur), Charlie Bachenberg (Lewiston), Fred L. Bachenberg (Pawnee), Alva Harold Bachenberg (Bur), Omer Glen Bachenberg (Lincoln), and Emma D.O. Bachenberg (Lincoln), nephews and niece, the only children and descendants of Peter Bachenberg, deceased, who was a brother of the said Frank Bachenberg, deceased. . .

After the Assets and Liabilities had been ascertained, there was $4,876.68 to be distributed to the heirs of Frank Bachenberg. The decree of final settlement and distribution was filed in County Court of Pawnee County, Nebraska, in March of 1922.

The list of heirs at law were:

  • Elizabeth Wischmeier, a sister, of Miller, Nebraska
  • Philip Bachenberg, a brother, of Bisbee, Arizona
  • George Bachenberg, a brother, of Armour, Nebraska
  • Mary Beck, a sister, of Danville, Iowa
  • John Bachenberg, a brother, of Lewiston, Nebraska
  • George Bachenberg, Walter Bachenberg, Sylvester Bachenberg, and Arthur Bachenberg, nephews, the only children and descendants of William Bachenberg, deceased, who was a brother of Frank Bachenberg, deceased
  • Eden Peter Bachenberg, Charlie Bachenberg, Fred L. Bachenberg, Alva Harold Bachenberg, Omer Glen Bachenberg, and Emma D.O. Bachenberg, nephews and niece, the only children and descendants of Peter Bachenberg, deceased, who was a brother of Frank Bachenberg, deceased

The probate documents give details of where the siblings of Frank Bachenberg lived in 1920 and 1922 and gives the married names of his sisters. A genealogical researcher can now go to the 1920 U.S. Census and then follow the family forward in the 1930 and 1940 censuses or trace family tree information backward from that year. The probate document indicates to the family history researcher that the Bachenbergs did not move often. All were living in the same location in both 1920 and 1922, except for Elizabeth Wischmeier. Because of a notation on the first list of heirs, the genealogist will see that she likely relocated from University Place, Nebraska, to Miller, Nebraska, shortly after Frank Bachenberg’s death.

Probate documents help a genealogist by providing names, relationships, dates and places. This valuable information may be used to substantiate what is already known or indicate places for the family historian to trace family history.

Death is not an end for a genealogist. It is a beginning. The genealogical researchers at RecordClick are ready to seek information for you that will break through your ancestor search barriers. We develop a family history research strategy to get you the desired family history documents.

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