Prince Edward Island Ancestors: Looking for Ancestors in Probate Records on Family Search

 Thanks to the pandemic, travelling to Archives has been severely restricted. This makes finding online sources to search all the more important. Some provinces already had a good online presence pre pandemic, while others did not. If the pandemic has been good for one thing, it\’s been making Archives and Museums rethink their strategies.

FamilySearch has always been ahead of the curve in bringing genealogy into people\’s homes digitally. But what a lot of people don\’t realize is that only a fraction of what they have on line is indexed. It\’s always good to check their catalogs for digitized materially that hasn\’t been indexed. Those searching in Prince Edward Island should bookmark the collection Probate records, 1807-1958; indexes, 1786-2000. This collection of 213 microfilm reels covers almost 200 years of wills and estate records in the province. Most but not all the reels are available to be viewed from the comfort of your own home. There are a few that can only be viewed at a Family History center, or one of its affiliate libraries. 

The fact that there are over 200 films can be daunting for an unindexed collection. However, they can be divided into sets. You can narrow your search down just to a comparable few. Just pick a microfilm, then click on the camera to the right. If the camera has a key above it, then it is one of the reels that can only be viewed at a Family History Center.


There are 4 reels of indexes. Two have access restricted to the Family History Centers, but two do not. They are:

  • Index no. 1 (original index) to wills and administrations, 1786-1900 (also includes index to wills not recorded, and some \”exemplifications, partitions and sundry, other documents filed prior to first January A.D. 1901\”) – restricted
  • Indexes no. 1-4 to wills and administrations, 1786-1983 (index no. 1 is a reorganized and partially-typed copy of the original index)

  • Index no. 5 to wills and administrations, 1984-May 2000

  • Index, letters of administration 1897-1901; index, letters of probate 1897-1901 – restricted

Depending on the time period, the pages are set up in different ways. The indexes can give any of the following information
  • name
  • residence
  • whether will or administration
  • will number
  • inventory number
  • Liber
  • Folio
  • Date of Grant
  • Remarks
Some are typed and some are handwritten. Here\’s a page from the l860s and 1870s

Will Books
This set also has some restricted reels. Some of the wills are on the same reels as the indexes, but further along in the images. They are:

  • Will books, v. 1-2, 1807-1833 – restricted
  • Will books, v. 3-5, 1833-1858 – restricted
  • Will books, v. 6-7, 1858-1868 – restricted
  • Will books, v. 8, 1868-1875 – restricted
  • Will books, v. 9, 1875-1880 – restricted
  • Will books, v. 10-11, 1880-1887 – restricted
  • Will books, v. 12, 1888-1891 – restricted
  • Will books, v. 13, 1891-1894 – restricted
  • Will books, v. 14-15, 1894-1900 – restricted
  • Will books, v. 16-17 (to p. 582), 1902-1909
  • Will books, v. 17 (from p. 581)-20 (to p. 360), 1909-1917
  • Will books, v. 20 (from p. 359)-23 (to p. 140), 1917-1923
  • Will books, v. 23 (from p. 140)-25 (to p. 420), 1923-1929
  • Will books, v. 25 (from p. 419)-28 (to p. 134), 1929-1934
  • Will books, v. 28 (from p. 133)-30, 1934-1939
  • Will books, v. 31-33, 1939-1944
  • Will books, v. 34-37 (to p. 881), 1944-1950
  • Will books, v. 37 (from p. 880)-41, 1950-1958

These are copies of the wills. There is not always 1 will to a page. As one ends, the next will continue underneath. Here is an example from 1904

Estate Files

This is by far the biggest section. The reels are listed in the following way, so that it is actually fairly easy to find the ones you want to look at:
  • First letter of surname
  • Year Range
  • File number range
Estate files are the pot of gold for a genealogist/family historian. You can find a huge amount of information in these. Some details are purely for insight into your ancestor. While knowing that your ancestor owned 2 lame cows (yes I did find that in a listing) is amusing, it doesn\’t add a lot to your research. However, other details can help you further your research. Estate files can contain
  • copy of the will/ letter of administration
  • birth details
  • death details
  • coordinates of land owned
  • family members
  • inventories of possessions and cash
Here\’s a great example of grandchildren inheriting in the will of Thurza Ford in 1894. It even shows their ages and residences!

Here\’s an example from 1921. One of the executors for Frederick Anderson has made an affidavit to the court to be sole executor. The other named executor could not perform their duties because they are currently an inmate of the Provincial Asylum

And here is newspaper clipping of a notice paid for by the executor of the estate of James Waite. The notice askes for anyone who has a claim against the estate to appear before the Court on February 23 1911.

Some things to keep in mind with the collection:

  1. You should look at the indexes first. If your ancestor is listed, it will give you the will/estate file number. This can help narrow your search even further.
  2. The Estate Files microfilms have \”testate\” or \”intestate\” labelled on them. However, I found intestate files in among the testate rolls, and vice versa.
  3. The handwriting on some of the documents can be rather cumbersome. Give your self a quick refresher on the \”boiler plate language\” in wills. Look for phrases such as \”by the Grace of God\’, \”being of sound mind\”, and \”I give and bequeath\”. This can give you an insight into how the writer formed letters, which in turn can help you decipher the rest of the handwriting.
  4. Keep the main list in one window, and then right click and open individual rolls in new tabs. It\’s much more efficient.
FamilySearch\’s image viewer allows you to zoom in and out, print and download specific images. I find it\’s much easier on the eyes to download the image and crop it before printing. A printed page that you need a magnifying glass to read doesn\’t help your paper files much. Whether your system is digital or paper, make sure you include not only the reel information but the image number in your source citation. Imagine how frustrated you\’ll be a year from now when you have to wade through hundreds of images on a reel if for some reason you need to find that image again.

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