Research Tools: Finding the Dead in Probate Records

FamilySearch came to the rescue yet again. For over a year I hunted for a particular death record. I needed a woman’s death date in order to finish a story I was writing about her. I knew a great deal about her life, and that in 1965 she was living in Concord, New Hampshire, as the city directory clearly showed that.

Then my access to the directories, at least online, stopped at that year. She had died after 1961 when the death records stop being in the public domain. Not being a relative, I would have no right to request a copy.  I mused over my options. I called several places, making a list of the libraries who had later copies of the city directories. But even if I managed to find the year she died, it might not state exactly when.

I have subscriptions to four online search engines for newspapers, and I included the google news archives in that hunt, turning up nothing. I knew where the local newspapers were archived, but neither of the two are indexed and searchable. So basically it all brought me back to needing to know the date in order to find it.

Then recently browsing FamilySearch’s list of online records, I noticed “Merrimack County probate records, 1773-1899.” How awesome is that? Although you need to browse through these probate ‘index cards,’ you do have the option to ‘jump’ by the number of the card, which is exactly what I did.

I found the probate note-card of my long-searched woman, and the information provided not only the probate docket number, but her actual death date, and her administrator (who was a great-nephew).

The mystery of her death date was solved.




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