Probate records encompass the administration of an estate, whether that estate is “testate” (through a will) or “intestate” (without a will). Whether the decedent left a large estate or just some personal property, there’s a good chance that a probate file exists in court records.
In colonial New York, a series of laws beginning in 1665 dictated the way probates were appraised and inventoried. Wills were initially filed in a local court, then, beginning in 1686, in the Prerogative Court, which fell under the jurisdiction of the royal governor. With the American Revolution, the Court of Probates was established and assumed control of the probate process.
This collection includes inventories and appraisals for the colony and, later, the state of New York. Most of the accounts and inventories are for counties north of Westchester County and date after 1787.
An inventory of the estate assets can reveal personal details about the deceased’s occupation and lifestyle. The decedent’s name, occupation, and residence are often noted, as well as a listing of the estate’s assets with appraisals so that an accurate accounting could be made and probate fees could be accurately levied. The names of whoever was tasked with compiling and appraising the estate will be listed, along with that of the court official filing the probate and the date it was filed. Estate accounts can include references to debts, deeds, and other documents related to the settling of the estate.