New York State Court of Probates Record of Wills and Probates

Held by the New York State Archives

Overview of the Records


New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

This series consists of wills, grants of administration, and (prior to ca. 1710) inventories and accounts of decedent estates. These documents were recorded and maintained by New York Colony's Prerogative Court and then by the State Court of Probates. Many of the wills were made by widows; several executors were women; some wills bequeathed slaves; and Dutch wills sometimes had English translations. Volumes before 1700 also include other records such as governor, council, and criminal proceedings; marriage licenses, and coroner's inquests.
18.6 cubic feet (40 volumes)
Inclusive Dates:
Series Number:


Chronological by recording date.

Scope and Content Note

J0043-85: Contains wills registered by the Court of Probates, for which the court had granted letters of administration. Most wills were proved before a county surrogate or other judge.

J0043-92: This accretion is a record of wills, grants of administration, and (prior to ca. 1710) inventories and accounts of decedent estates. These documents were recorded and maintained by the provincial secretary or a deputy, who served as register of the New York Colony Prerogative Court (ending 1783) and by the clerk of the New York State Court of Probates (commencing 1778). (The Prerogative Court continued to function in British-occupied New York until the end of the Revolutionary War.)

J0043-92: Each will provides for the disposition of the testator's real and personal property and designates an executor or executrix. The will is witnessed by two or three persons. Accompanying each recorded will is the probate, or grant of administration. This usually takes the form of a grant of authority by the governor, his delegate, or a local court to the executor, to take an inventory of the decedent's real and personal property and to make an accounting of the assets and present it to the court. Many of the wills were made by widows, and some of the executors were women. Some of the wills bequeath slaves. The record books (particularly before 1700) contain a significant number of Dutch wills, sometimes giving both Dutch and English versions, sometimes only a translation. There are also a few records of nuncupative or oral wills, later reduced to writing by the witnesses; and holograph wills (i.e. a will prepared in the hand of a decedent, without witnesses).

J0043-92: Other probate documents recorded in these volumes include inventories of real and personal property (almost all dating prior to 1710); letters of administration; final discharges (sometimes in the form of a certificate of quietus) issued to executors upon final settlement of an estate; a few scattered orders; and letters testamentary (after 1778 only).

J0043-92: Volumes/libers dating before 1700 contain other records besides probate documents, as follows: Miscellaneous proceedings of the governor and council, ca. 1665-68, including the act for confiscating property of subjects of the Estates of Holland, 1665; admiralty and court-martial proceedings; sentences in criminal proceedings; and a petition for return of slaves belonging to the Dutch West India Company; minutes of court of vice-admiralty, 1683; transcripts of English documents relating to Trinity Church and its rector, William Vesey; Governor's orders and certificates of induction of rectors to several Episcopal parishes in Westchester and Queens Counties; records of marriage licenses, ca. 1694-1702 (found in libers 2 and 5); minutes of court of sessions held in Queens County, 1689/9;

J0043-92: proceedings of New York City mayor's court, ca. 1677-82, mostly records of civil complaints; also a few petitions, orders, letters of attorney, and commercial contracts; reports of coroner's inquests, New York City, 1680-84; miscellaneous orders and proceedings of New York City mayor and aldermen, 1680-82; copy of governor's order fining coopers and shoemakers for engaging in an "illegall combinacion [sic]" (i.e. trade union), 1682 (lists names of persons fined);proceedings in attachment by New York County sheriff of 38 slaves from Angola, taken from ship Providence of London, bound for Nevis, 1683; volumes/libers of the Prerogative Court dating from the period 1776-80 contain (in addition to probate records) scattered records of civil appointments and commissions by Governor William Tryon; and a few records of deeds and mortgages.

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Use of Records

Access Restrictions

Microfilm is not available for inter-library loan or reproduction for any purpose.

Alternate Formats Available

Microfilm is available at the New York State Archives.

Microfilm: 15 reels; 35 mm.

Related Information

Related Materials

Series J0038 Probated Wills, 1658-1823

Series J2043 Index to Records of Wills and Probates and

Series A3296 State Court of Admiralty Minutes and Case Papers, contain related records and

Series A4699 Testator index to wills recorded in New York City, 1665-1875 and

Series A4700 Testator index to probated wills, 1671-1815, index this series.

Other finding aids

J0043-85: Records are indexed in the following: 1) Berthold Fernow, Calendar of Wills on File and Recorded in the Offices of the Clerk of the Court of Appeals (New York: 1896; repr. Baltimore: 1967, 1991) (cited as "Vol. I" and "II"); 2) index to testators in front of each volume; 3) William A. D. Eardeley, "Index to Wills of New York State from 1653 to 1815" (typescript, 1941, available at New York Genealogical and Biographical Society library), pp. 72-83.

J0043-92: All but two volumes contain contemporary and/or later indexes to testators. (Some of the contemporary indexes also list executors, who are termed "administrators.")In addition, the records are indexed in the following: 1) series J2043-92 Index to Record of Wills and Probates; 2) Ray C. Sawyer, "Index of New York State Wills, 1662-1850, on File at the Office of the Surrogate for New York County," 2 vols. (typescript, 1931-32); 3) William H. Pelletreau, comp., "Abstracts of Wills on File in the Surrogate's Office, City [i.e. County] of New York, 1665-1800," Collections of The New-York Historical Society, 25-34 (1892-1901), 36 (1903), 40-41 (1907-08) (includes abstracts and indexes of both probate and non-probate documents);

J0043-92(con.):4) marriage licenses are abstracted and indexed by Kenneth Scott in New York Marriages Previous to 1784; A Reprint of the Original Edition of 1860 with Additions and Corrections (Baltimore: 1984), pp. 573-618; 5) estate inventories are indexed by name of decedent in Kenneth Scott, "Early New York Inventories of Estates," National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 53 (1965), 133-38.

Accretion J0043-92 is indexed by Series A4699, Testator index to wills recorded in New York City, 1665-1875.

Series A4700, Testator index to probated wills, 1671-1815, indexes this series.

Custodial History

J0043-92: Records were transferred from the New York County Surrogate Court to the Historical Documents Collection, Queens College, City University of New York, in the 1960s. Records were transferred to Queens Borough Public Library in the late 1980s.

Other Descriptive Data

Henry B. Hoff, "New York Probates Recorded in Massachusetts, 1688-1689, during the Dominion of New England," New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, 139 (2008), 266-68, discusses wills and other documents relating to fifteen New York estates that were recorded in Suffolk County, Massachusetts (Boston), during the years 1688-89, when New York was part of the short-lived Dominion of New England.

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