Probate is the process of proving that a will left by a deceased person is genuine. Probate files are created by the NSW Supreme Court (or equivalent in other States) and transferred gradually to State Records NSW. They are more commonly called ‘probate packets’, since all the documents are folded in three into an envelope.
Probate packets can contain all sorts of goodies, including a copy of the will, an inventory of assets, affidavits from family members, and sometimes a copy of the death certificate and newspaper notices. Intestate Estate files can also be found, where the deceased did not leave a will.
State Records NSW holds probate packets up to the 1980s, but to find the reference involves searching the index on microfiche created by the NSW Supreme Court. State Records NSW has been gradually adding each packet to it online catalogue, Archives Investigator, so that we can search from home.
Now and Then, the State Records NSW newsletter, describes the packets that have been listed so far and how to find them, and I can do no better than to quote the article here (updated September 2014).
• Series 1: April 1817 to c. May 1873
• Series 2: 1873 to 1876
• Series 3: 1876 to c.1890
• The years 1928-1976 from Series 4 – Series 4-152150 to Series 4-828673. Part of 1989 has also been listed.
To check if the details of your ancestor’s Probate Packet is now available online just go to Archives Investigator – Simple Search, key in the name of your ancestor followed by the word ‘death’ and click on the ‘Search’ button. If you locate a relevant result you then have the option to order a photocopy of the probate or preorder the probate packet to view in person at the Western Sydney Records Centre (WSRC). A more comprehensive explanation can be found here.
Search for your elusive ancestor today http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/
Do a search for all your New South Wales ancestors, male and female, and plan a trip out to the Western Sydney Records Centre (WSRC) at Kingswood. Take your digital camera, or use the camera setup they have. Be prepared to pay for photocopies if you can’t deal with the folded up pages. You won’t regret it!
Retrieval orders for probate packets are only sent at certain times of the day, so you can save time by pre-ordering up to four packets a day or two before your visit, to be waiting for you when you arrive.