Connecticut probate records

lazarus-hollister-cover-pageIn my youth I used to make trips to the Connecticut State Archives in Hartford, Connecticut, to access their great collection, particularly the microfilmed probates and deeds. More recently, I have had to settle for Charles William Manwaring’s book, A Digest of the Early Connecticut Probate Records, so I am delighted that the Connecticut probate files are now available on “Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609–1999.” (Don’t ask me what the 1609 refers to!) Since Manwaring’s book only contains brief abstracts from the records, it is good to be able to compare them to the original files – particularly since Manwaring’s abstracts seem to have been made from the copy book versions, rather than the original files, which in some cases contain more than the books.

So although I thought that I had completed my Early New England Families sketch on John Hollister of Wethersfield, now with direct access to the probate files, I knew I needed to compare the abstracts to the files. In John’s case, I already knew there was a defect in Manwaring’s abstract, which omits his son Lazarus, and I was using a full transcription of the will and the inventory from another source,[1] but I still wanted to compare that to the original.

Ancestry’s collection includes images of both the copy book versions and the original files, so I now have both for my comparison, but I should warn readers about a little fooler in Ancestry’s indexes. If you search in the probate collection for “John Hollister 1665” you will receive a list indicating there are 71 images in his file! Thankfully, not so. Ancestry’s table of contents has strung together all of the files for the name John Hollister, regardless of date, from his own son in 1711 to John Henry Hollister in 1879! Fortunately, the beginning of each new set of records is indicated by “Cover Page” in the inventory. With this adjustment our John’s images shrink to eight, including some duplicates.

Manwaring’s abstract of the records for John’s son Lazarus Hollister, who had a checkered career, takes up about two pages in his work. The original file contains 29 images; in this case there is only one Lazarus. I am still downloading these and the ones for John’s other sons and sons-in-law, so I will probably have more to report soon.


[1] Lafayette Wallace Case in The Hollister Family of America: Lieut. John Hollister of Wethersfield, Conn., and his Descendants (Chicago, 1886), 25–27.

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

7 thoughts on “Connecticut probate records

  1. I love having this online access as well. I had also been curious about the 1609 and 1999 dates as indicated. The “1609” date is actually a misreading for the will of William Chatterton of New Haven, in 1699/1700. Likewise the “1999” is due to the 1899 will of Eliza Sheldon of New Haven (although in at least one point on this page, the clerk did write in 1999, but it’s clearly an 1899 record). The earliest record appears to be Gyles Gibbs of Windsor in 1641 (printed). The bulk of the collection appears to end by 1930, with a few unprocessed records and other earlier probates that continued for several decades into the 1940s. The the latest record appears to be Sarah J. Price of Hartford in 1956 (but began in 1901), so the collection really goes from 1641-1956.

  2. Great post. I’ve used these files a lot, and they’re certainly easier to use than the ones at CtSL on film……but do you have any sense of (a) whether they have put online everything that the Library has in its film and (b) whether there’s anything else in CT probate for that period outside of this collection?

    1. Michael, I have not researched that, but I believe it is all of the microfilm collection we are used to using. You can check the archives website

  3. I am always pleased to be ale
    Rted to the “new” old records avaiable digitally.
    I noted that the comment about Lazarus Hollister and his absence in the previously printed sources.
    I have found that many of compiliers of families and towns records in the 1850-1930 era, often,seemed to skip the rogues and scoundrels and unfortunate marriages or births – possibly as an 19th century show of manners as not to dismay neighbors with unplesant memories or relatives.

    1. In this case it just seems to be an omission in the transcription, since Lazarus’ name is embedded in text, rather than separated and easily recognized. But who knows!

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