Thursday, July 26, 2007

Getting to the original will

When another researcher cites an index, what is your next step?

See also: Getting to the original will - Part II

From: Patsy
It has been a while since I’ve done research, and I have forgotten how to access FamilySearch, find a county, and go through the process to get a copy of will, etc.

I know that Chambers County, Alabama has been microfilmed, according to their site. I have a reference that states in Will Book 3 (1855-1872) there is a will for Henrietta Nichols. I’ve never looked at it and don't know how I missed this one. Can you give me the steps for checking FamilySearch? Once I find the fiche/film number, what will be the best way to get a copy?

Thank-you for writing for help with a specific research challenge. I wish Ol' Myrt here lived in Salt Lake so I could simply run to the Family History Library and obtain a copy for you directly.

Since the majority of genealogists in the world do not have private jets to do research in person, this case study will serve to show folks how to use the FHL Catalog, identify & order microfilm or microfiche and view the item through their local Family History Centers. Since there is a network of over 4,000 such local branches of the Family History Library it is likely most researchers will find one close enough to visit on a regular basis.

Locate & obtain copy of page(s) from Chambers County, Alabama Will Book 3 (1855-1872) where you have been told there is a will for Henrietta Nichols.

Also, obtain copies of the probate packet that may provide more clues about family relationships in the list of heirs and other next of kin perhaps not named in the will itself.

1. Go to

2. CLICK on Family History Library Catalog.

3. CLICK the “Place Search” button.

4. Type CHAMBERS as part of ALABAMA and click the “Search” button.

5. CLICK to select “Alabama, Chambers”. Localities are listed by largest to smallest jurisdiction.

6. NOTE categories of records for the place. The FHL Catalog explains “Chambers County was created by act of the state general assembly on 18 December 1832 from lands ceded to the state by the Creek Indians. County seat: Chambers Court House (April-October 1833) and LaFayette (1833-present).”

7. SCROLL DOWN to note two related categories:

8. CLICK “Alabama, Chambers - Probate records” and NOTE the list does not include your cited source “Will book 3, 1856-1872, Chambers County, Alabama”:

Before you close the FHL Catalog, let’s think this through. Since the Will Book 3 in question is not on film at the Family History Library, you will need to write to the courthouse.

Yes, it is possible that the microfilms of Chambers County administrator, inventory, settlement and miscellaneous probate records listed above may include info about your ancestress. However, we need more info from the index your source cited to proceed.

Ol' Myrt recalls your experience with another courthouse, where you provided the exact page number of a will, and the reply was that “We did not locate a will.” The will was found when you visited the courthouse and made the same request in person. This is why we need to collect as much specific information as possible, including exact date of death, probate dates, case or page numbers, etc. to assist the already over-worked county clerk of the court in locating the will and probate packet for your ancestress Henrietta Nichols.

It is possible that the next FHL Catalog category “Probate Records – Indexes” will have the information you seek.

9. CLICK the back button on your web browser.

10. CLICK “Alabama, Chambers - Probate records - Indexeswhere we succeed in finding a FHL catalog entry for Index to will book 3, 1856-1872, Chambers County, Alabama compiled by MariLee Beatty Hagness. This entry explains this index is on “14 leaves” published in a series called Alabama Genealogical Sources: V AL 13-5, published by MLH Research circa 1997 in Anniston, Alabama.

If you were planning to visit the FHL in person, the book is available on the US & Canada floor under call number 976.156 P22h. Fortunately the “VIEW FILM NOTES” button is available to click in the upper right hand of the catalog entry, which means the index also available on microfilm or microfiche.


12. NOTE the FHL Catalog detail “Index to will book 3, 1856-1872, Chambers County, Alabama […] Also on microfiche. Salt Lake City: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1999. 1 fiche. FHL US/CAN Fiche 6002452.” US/CAN means that the single microfiche #6002452 is filed in the Family History Library on the US & Canada Floor.

13. PRINT the entry in the FHL Catalog for this microfiche (item 10 above) so you may order the microfiche through your local FHC. This saves you time at the FHC because it handwritten microfilm/fiche numbers must always verified to avoid ordering the incorrect item.

14. Click Find a Family History Center Near You if you are unfamiliar with using FHCs and do not know where to go. Hours of operation vary from center to center, so it is best to call in advance for specifics.

15. Place the order for your microfilm/fiche. There is a small fee for this service.

A FHC volunteer will call when the fiche order arrives. Microfilm initially stays in the center only a few weeks, but microfiche orders involve a new copy of the original being created and sent to complete your order. This means the fiche you order will stay in the center as part of the permanent collection.

Most FHCs have microfilm/fiche reader printers so you can make a paper copy of the page mentioning your ancestress. Be sure to also make a photocopy of the title and copyright pages of the book on fiche. Some busier FHCs are equipped with reader printers that scan the images and place them on CD for you to take home and print out on your home computer system. I like this option, so that you can attach a copy of the scanned image to your ancestress in your genealogy management software.

16. Make note of the date and other identifying remarks about your ancestor provided in the index book on microfiche, so that this information can be included in your letter of request to the Chambers Probate Office.

Now that you have some specific notes including the date and location of Henrietta Nichol's will, you probably have enough to submit your written request.

17. The Handybook for Genealogists 11th Edition on CD explains:

  • “CHAMBERS County was created 18 Dec 1832 from the Creek Cession of 1832.
  • The researchers' website at RootsWeb is: .
  • The Probate Office has marriage records from 1833, probate and land records from 1843; Clerk of the Circuit Court has divorce & court records. 18 Alabama Avenue, Lafayette, AL 36862. Phone 334.864.7181.”

Ol' Myrt does not advise telephone calls to request a file from a courthouse. Your letter of request should look like this:

Probate Office
18 Alabama Avenue
Lafayette, AL 36862

Date: ____________________

Dear sirs,
Please provide a copy of the
will, and all items from the probate packet of my ancestor Henrietta Nichols who

· Index to will book 3, 1856-1872, Chambers County, Alabama compiled by MariLee Beatty Hagness states _________________________.
· (list other reference)
· (list other reference)

I have enclosed a check for $25 toward the cost of photocopies, and can be reached by telephone at: (000) 000-0000.

Your name
Your street address
State Zip

It is not necessary to send a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) to a US state or federal agency.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment