Beginning genealogists often stop searching for their ancestors’ estate records when they find a will or assume their are no records if there is no will. But estates left far more records than just wills.
Four types of records are typically found for probate records in Indiana: will books, probate order books, probate complete record books, and probate packets.
Will Books contain transcribed wills.
Probate Order Books contain the daily actions of the Probate Court. Actions include letters of administration (no will) or testamentary (will found), administrator and executor’s bonds, guardianships for minor heirs, partitions of land, estate sales, widow’s dowers, disputes between heirs, lawsuits brought by creditors, and more.
Complete Record Books compile every action made by the court pertaining to a certain estate. Since the estates were recorded only after the estate was closed, each book cover a variety of years. Not every estate is included.
Probate Packets contain the loose papers pertaining to the estate. Packets may include original wills, estate inventories, sales, petitions, bonds, receipts and more. They are rarely microfilmed or digitized and are usually at the county courthouse.
You may even find more details about your ancestor’s estate by searching the court records and land records. Estates would appear in the court records when the deceased owned someone money, someone refused to pay their debt to the estate, or when the heirs couldn’t come to an agreement. Land records hold the deeds for real estate sales after our ancestor died and partitions of their land as it was divided between the heirs.
Probate Order Books in Indiana also hold some of the county’s naturalization records and information about heirs seeking military pensions.
Many Indiana probate records are now online at Ancestry.com in their collection “Indiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1798-1999.” The records are minimally indexed and their descriptions can be difficult sometimes to browse. I have created finding aids for the probate records on Ancestry for the following counties:
You never know what you will learn about your ancestors until you search for all of their probate records.