At the end of the thirty days, the family would appear in court and the estate would be probated. Each biological child had legal right to a share of their deceased parent's belongings and would make sure they were either present or had a representative. Those who needed representation were minors: females of any age (if they were married their husband appeared for them) and males that were unmarried under the age of twenty-five. The guardians who would represent them at the probate was usually a close male relative of the deceased.
As the estate was probated, males would receive twice as much as females, and half of the estate would be left to the surviving spouse. Sometimes the court would put off the division of the estate if the surviving spouse could show that they needed all available resources to support the remaining minors.
The part of the probate that contains the most valuable genealogical information is the preamble. This part of the document will usually contain the name of the surviving spouse, names of the living children (the sons-in-law for married daughters), and names of guardians for all minors. It could also include the names of the men who took the inventory, who were usually not related, so it is necessary to pay attention to what people are being called. You can recognize minors because they are preceded by the word omyndiga.
Before searching for a probate, find the death date first. The court for probates was only held once a quarter so you will need to know which quarter your ancestor died in and then check at least two sessions after the death date. Also be aware that the records are not all in chronological order, so search the full quarter. Because the courts were on the härrad (district) level, you will need to know which härrad your county falls under.
Pretty much anyone who lived to adulthood had property so they will more than likely also have a probate. Chances are good that you can find one for even the poorest of tenant farmers to help piece your family together.
Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
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