Kentucky Probate Records

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This entry was originally written by Wendy Bebout Elliott, Ph.D., FUGA, for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
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the Kentucky Family History Research series.
History of Kentucky
Kentucky Vital Records
Census Records for Kentucky
Background Sources for Kentucky
Kentucky Maps
Kentucky Land Records
Kentucky Probate Records
Kentucky Court Records
Kentucky Tax Records
Kentucky Cemetery Records
Kentucky Church Records
Kentucky Military Records
Kentucky Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Kentucky Archives, Libraries, and Societies
African Americans of Kentucky
Kentucky County Resources
Map of Kentucky

County probate records are filed at the respective county courthouse usually under the county clerk's jurisdiction. Probate records include wills, estates, administrators, executors, inventories, settlements, sales, accounts, guardianship, orphans, insolvent estates, bastardy, apprentices, and insanity. Documents pertaining to probate are recorded in volumes containing records of administrations, court proceedings, court minutes, estates, executors, guardians, inventories, probates, sales, settlements, and/or wills. Records may be filed under various titles. Loose papers are usually kept in folders or tied together in packets. Early estate records are frequently recorded along with regular proceedings of the county court. Circuit court records include inherited estate disputes. Some counties have transcribed early wills. The Kentucky Historical Society and the Filson Library have collections of these.

Some transcribed or microfilm copies of original probate records are available at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Kentucky Historical Society, University of Kentucky Library, Filson Library, and the FHL. Some wills and inventories are recorded in book J of the books maintained by the Kentucky Court of Appeals (1780'88). These have been abstracted by Michael and Bettie Cook (see Kentucky Land Records).

Some of the 120 Kentucky county courthouses have suffered record loss because of fire or other accidents. Even though fire may have destroyed records pertinent to the county in which research is being conducted, some records were re-recorded and other sources such as newspapers and church records may fill the void. Research must encompass several years beyond the time of the destruction of records.

Two sources are the following:

  • Jackson, Ronald, comp. Index to Kentucky Wills to 1851. Bountiful, Utah: Accelerated Indexing System, 1977.
  • King, Junie Estelle Stewart. Abstracts of Early Kentucky Wills and Inventories. 1933. Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1969. collections available for free online: