I recently had the opportunity to check out a fairly new addition to the Ancestry.com database collection: Maryland Wills and Probate, 1604-1998.
What Types of Will and Probate Records are Available?
This collection includes images of probate records from the state of Maryland. Some of the records are comprised of several pages of handwritten documents, others are will or probate indexes. The original data is from Maryland County, District and Probate Courts. Currently, the database contains over 294,000 records.
Searching the Database
In this case, I knew I had a Dimmitt family in Maryland quite early, but didn’t have enough specifics to search for more than the surname. The search returned 15 hits, some of which were names in indexes, others showing a complete handwritten will (see below). Unfortunately, I don’t know which (if any) of the 15 names are in my own family tree, but once I get a foothold, the wills are typically filled with more clues such as names of wife and children.
In the example below is from a 1763 will by Richard Demmett. The first section is about his physical and mental condition and his desire to have a Christian burial in a manner his executrix deems proper. He then goes on to specify how his holdings should be divided.
As you can see, son John will inherit 100 acres that he is now in possession of. Richard also states that John has already received a portion of his estate previously. The will goes on to give land to his grandson, Richard, and his daughter, Elizabeth. His daughter will also receive a bed, furniture, cow and calf. His wife, Rachol, the remainder of his personal estate. Richard goes on to state that his daughter, Patty, and his “other children” have already received their portions of the estate. The will is completed by naming his wife the executrix. Witnesses are also named.
As you can see, there’s much to be learned in wills. Not only are children and spouse named, location of land can also be named as well as specific items of property.
I’m hoping one of these 15 people are in my tree – clearly there’s much to be found.