We have had quite a Family History Month! I hope you have enjoyed the daily fix of Detroit genealogy & history. I figured I’d save the best for last.. Finding ancestors in Family Search’s Wayne County Probate Records.
I love the Wayne County probate records (1797-1901) on Family Search. They not only may hold a wealth of information but you actually have to search for them since it is a “browse only” collection. I’m sorta surprised when fellow Detroit researchers tell me they have never checked them out while on Family Search.
Here is a quick crash course in finding your ancestors in this collection.
Michigan, Probate Records, 1797-1973 > Wayne
After clicking the link above, you should see that the first 24 links are labeled “packet index 1797 – 1901…”.
This is where you start looking for your ancestor’s surname.
Let’s say we looking for my 4th great grand uncle, Samuel Gray (1787-1819). He was the first member of my family tree to live and die in Detroit. we would click on “Packet index 1797 – 1901 Frum – Grissel”
This file has 6890 index cards. I usually start at the middle and start narrowing the search. We finally find Samuel after a few searches on page 5790.
Samuel’s Wayne County probate record is #192 and let’s us know that Samuel died 24 Sep 1819 in Detroit and had land in Indiana.
It is always a good idea to look up associated family surnames when you locate an ancestor in this probate record index. Every person mentioned in a probate record will have a index card as well, which may contain more information like death dates of siblings (when nieces/nephews are mentioned in a probate case), current residence (outside Wayne County), and even medical history.
This is another 4th great grand uncle, Elliott Gray, who followed his brother, Samuel, to Fort Detroit around 1812. Elliott was the administrator (executor) of his brother’s estate since Samuel never married or fathered any children.
We found Samuel’s probate case information. Now what?
To celebrate All Saints Day (& Day of the Dead AKA the unofficial holiday for genealogists) tomorrow, we’ll learn how to locate the actual probate record.
A hand full of probate indexes & packets are missing along with any probate packet numbered higher than 16980 (1891).
The probate indexes missing:
Packet index 1797-1901 – Cro – Cru
Packet index 1797-1901 – Lom – Millard, J
Packet index 1797-1901 – Williams, U – Z
The full Wayne County index and probate records up to 1901 are on microfilm at the Archives of Michigan in Lansing, MI.