Monday, December 31, 2012

Creative ways to use indexes for Familysearch record browsing has put many wills and related records (administration, orphan court, etc.) online, and while some are indexed, many have a link which suggests "Browse through... Images." In the ellipses will be a huge number, usually in the thousands or hundreds of thousands. This seems at first intimidating. and the researcher might be inclined to stop right there. Who could stand to browse through each of the thousands of records in order to find the one that is relevant?

But it is usually a prettier picture than that. First, clicking on that link usually takes you to a county list. Then you can click on the county of interest, which certainly narrows down the number of records. Within the list of records may be a wills index. It is almost always alphabetical.  You can find the name of your ancestor, note the will book and page, and then move on to find the link for that particular will book. The page described in the index is not the same page number used by in its indexing, so you need to make a few guesses, wait until those pages load, and page back and forth a bit until you find the manuscript page in question. The page in the will index listed as 100 might be 80 as indexed by Familysearch, but you will quickly catch on to looking at the numbers in the corners of the scanned manuscript for the original page numbers. It is a very tedious process, but it is very rewarding, as you will see the entire scanned will and all additional paperwork with notes by witnesses as recorded.

And don't forget to scroll down on the counties page. If you assume all the options are on the page in front of you, you may be very wrong.

Now, sometimes, there are even better indexes, and I will tell you about one of them. Pennsylvania Genweb Archives for Bucks County and for a few other counties has lists of will abstracts and indexes of the abstracts. The numbers given to the abstracts in the indexes correspond to the actual will books and pages. So if it says that my ancestor is in will book 4, page 203, for example, I don't need to consult the scanned index on I can go straight to the will book, and find that manuscript page. Again, it won't be the same page as indexed by Familysearch, so I still have to guess and turn the pages online. It still takes a bit of time, but is a much more streamlined process, and the information of who has wills and where is much more accessible, I have found it very worthwhile, and enjoyed reading through several wills which I found relevant to my research.

Yes, there are other indexes, too. For New York wills, try those at Sampubco. The wills are nicely listed by county and will book and page. You can order the will from Sampubco, and for many of the wills you can see a scanned image on

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