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Every-Name Index to Yates County Will Books

In New York State the orderly inheritance of property has been a matter for the courts since the days of the Dutch colony. By the time Yates County was organized in 1823, the procedure was a duty of the Surrogate, an official who "proved" or probated wills and appointed and supervised administrators for intestacies. Nowadays the Surrogate is a judge, and in Yates County the same judge is Surrogate, County judge and judge of the local term of Supreme Court.

The normal procedure in the 19th century was for wills to be brought in to the Surrogate, generally by the person named therein as the executor. People named as legatees would be notified, and a hearing held. This gave those interested a chance to challenge the document. If the proofs that the testator was of age, of sound mind and under no restraint were acceptable to the Surrogate, then the will was recorded. Elsewhere on this site is an every-name index to probate case files, which are unrecorded documents filed by the Surrogate. Also elsewhere is an index to estates proved before Yates County was organized by the Ontario County Surrogate; in this case wills and administrations were recorded in the same book, along with accounts, settlements of dower and other proceedings related to estates and guardianships. Buttons to access these sections of the site are at the top of this page.

The Yates County Historian has begun a project of transcribing and indexing recorded Yates County wills. Of course far more people die without wills than with them, but they are very valuable nonetheless. For one thing, there are a number of early wills recorded for persons with no other papers filed with the Surrogate. In addition, fter 1839 every petition, either for probate or for administration (in the case of intestacies), was required to name all the heirs at law; not just the legatees named in the will. This is so they could all be cited and have the opportunity to contest the will itself, or the activities of the administrator. Quite often the difference between the list of heirs at law and the list of legatees is quite interesting.

At present (June 2004) we have completed indexes for Will Books A through F, plus an additional Book 1 that has only two wills recorded in it. The indexes for individual books are what we have chosen to post first. We have of course merged these into a cumulative index, but since that is changing fairly constantly as the project proceeds, that won't be posted until later. Eventually we hope to post the transcripts themselves as well, and possibly images of the handwritten pages. The books themselves are in the custody of the Surrogate, not the Historian, so we can't easily copy them. We can make copies from the microfilm, and of course we can copy the transcript upon request, at the same rates as other document copies. (See below.)

The table below shows links to the individual indexes of each book. The references in each index are to a will number; the letter T indicates the testator; L a legatee, H an heir at law not shown as a legatee; E an executor; W a witness (contested wills have numerous witnesses besides the official witnesses to the will itself); and O any other person named in the probate proceedings as recorded. This last category can indicate persons named as abuttors or grantors in real estate devises; guardians of minor heirs; and so on, so they might not be particularly significant for genealogical purposes, but then again, they might be. Deceased heirs and spouses of legatees and heirs at law are also coded as H.

 

Book 1 Book A Book B Book C Book D Book E
Book F Book G Book H Book I Book J Book K
Book L Book M Book N Book O Book P Book Q
Book R Book S Book T Book U Book V Book W
Book X Book Y Book Z Book 27 Book 28 Book 29

A compiled index of names gathered from the books done so far has been prepared. At present this index has more than 10,000 names, so it's a big file. It's been divided into several parts for easier downloading. The same codes are used as in the individual indexes.

 


If you find that one of the indexes in the table above contains a name you are interested in, you may request a copy of the transcript, or of the microfilmed original, or of course both. We charge $1 a page for copies that have to be mailed.

If you wish to receive your copies in timely fashion, you must include the following in your request:

  • Your name and postal address;
  • The reference code to the will you want, exactly as it is in the index;
  • The words "Will request" in the subject line of an emailed request.

Send your request via email by clicking on this icon:

We will send your copies as soon as possible, with a bill. Please do not send a check in advance.