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
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.
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.
you wish to receive your copies in timely fashion, you must
include the following in your request:
name and postal address;
reference code to the will you want, exactly as it is in the index;
words "Will request" in the subject line of an emailed request.
your request via email by clicking on this icon:
will send your copies as soon as possible, with a bill. Please do not
send a check in advance.