I found the probate record of my dreams several years ago when I was researching my husband’s Branch family. Four generations back I ran into a brick wall. I knew Washington Branch, born about 1778 in Virginia, was his great-great grandfather, but I couldn’t figure out who Washington’s parents were. There seemed to be hundreds of Branch men in Virginia at the right time. As I browsed through the names, I didn’t know where to start.
Then a name caught my eye: Olive Branch. Yes, that was a man’s name. (What was his mother thinking?) His will had been recorded in 1782. That meant he was might be too old to be Washington’s father, but I read it anyway, hoping for a clue. I was disappointed to find he mentioned only one child in the will: all his property, including a 1500 acre plantation, went to a son named James Branch. Another dead end, I thought, but I kept digging and found a probate file for James.
James Branch had no children and did not write a will. The Court divided his estate equally between his siblings and the children of his siblings. The probate records listed each name and relationship and helped me fill out dozens of family group sheets.
This sentence in file pulled it all together for me.
In Chancery, Washington Branch, administrator of James Branch deceased (the said Washington being one of the children and heirs at law of the aforesaid Daniel Branch deceased, who was a brother of the above mentioned James Branch deceased).
That probate file was the breakthrough that ultimately took my Branch research back to John Branch, of Abingdon, England, who was born about 1440, and led to my book Branch Family History: England, Virginia, Missouri
Family Search has an excellent guide to probate records. Scroll down the page for a list of clickable links to records in each state.
P is for Probate – following along on the A-Z Blogging Challenge.