Saturday, January 19, 2008

Locating Chester County, PA will indexes

See also: Chester County PA revisited

From: Karen P
Why is it that there are only a handful of general-purpose genealogy books for sale at our local bookstore, even though it is part of a national chain? I've heard about a book that has abstracts of Chester County, Pennsylvania wills for the early to mid-1700s. Can you help me identify the book? Just where do you get the books you are always telling us about? I am at a loss.

Genealogy books are typically sold online through genealogy publishers' websites and at major genealogy conferences and seminars by publishers and genealogy book vendors. Ol' Myrt will answer your question in 4 parts:
  • Titles from Heritage Books
  • How OCLC & ILL can help
  • Family History Library's Microform
  • Family History Library's Request for Photocopies Form

Titles from Heritage Books
I recently visited with the owner of Willow Bend Books & Heritage Books the largest genealogy book publisher with about 3,000 titles in print. Craig Scott, MA, CG explained that new titles are published at a rate of 20-30 or so a month. I never realized this amount of work was being accomplished. Many of his books are reprints of old county histories, others are items enhanced by new indices to make them easier to use.

Being a Chester County researcher, (with all my Welsh Quaker ancestors) Ol' Myrt here recalls a will book was re-released in December 2007 by Heritage Books. I searched the website and discovered the following offerings. If your research goes like mine, you will quickly learn that you have other family lines in the area. Having the book on your shelf, or gifiting the local library with your copy, assures access for future research. We might even prove to be cousins, if you have Malin, Valentine, Worral, Hoopes, Yearsley, and Dutton.

  • Wills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, 1713-1748 - Based on the Work of Jacob Martin. Names of testator, heirs, trustees, guardians, executors, and other persons named in the will; dates will was written and proved. (1993), 2007, 5½x8½ paper, index, 192 pp. $17.50 + shipping. M0261 ISBN: 1585492612

  • Wills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, 1766-1778 - Jacob Martin. Basic information on the records of administration was included in Martin's work along with data gathered by him from deeds and other court records, all of which has been included here. Abstracts give names of testator, heirs, trustees, guardians, executors, and other persons named in the will; dates proved, etc. (1995), 2007, 5½x8½, paper, index, 166 pp. $18.00 + shipping M0309 ISBN: 1585493090

  • The Wills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, 1778-1800 - Jacob Martin. Names of testator, heirs, trustees, guardians, executors, and other persons named in the will; dates will was written and proved. (1998), 2007, 5½x8½, paper, index, 358 pp. $30.50 + shipping ISBN: 1585490016

  • Wills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, 1801-1825 - Jacob Martin. Names of testator, heirs, trustees, guardians, executors, and other persons named in the will; dates will was written and proved. (1998), 2000, 5½x8½, paper, index, 524 pp. $42.00 + shipping M0465 ISBN: 1585494658

How OCLC's WorldCat & ILL can help
Obviously, the Family History Library does not have a copy of every genealogy book ever written. Neither does the Library of Congress, for that matter. But OCLC's WorldCat can help you find a title quickly. Wikipedia explains "More than 60,000 libraries in 112 countries and territories around the world use OCLC services to locate, acquire, catalog, lend and preserve library materials." That is a lot of libraries!

Follow Ol' Myrt steps using OCLC's WorldCat to locate other indices of Chester County, PA wills:

1. Go to:

2. Type "Chester County Wills" in the search box (without quotes) and press the search button.

3. Browse through the hit list (notice there are some for Chester County, South Carolina.)

4. Click a title that appears interesting. For instance, I found the other will index book that I used with on site research. I noticed that between the Lapp collection (listed below), and the Martin series (listed above) there were differences. Neither listed exactly what the other had included. Some names were missing from each that were found in one or two of the others.

I felt that a complete study of Chester County, PA wills wasn't complete without consulting all three indices, and then looking at the original wills in question.

Once you've clicked on a title in WorldCat, you can:

  • Cite the item
  • Export it to EndNote or RefWorks
  • Purchase it
  • Save the page
  • Share the page
  • Add it to your list at Facebook, Google, Digg, Reddit, YahooMyWeb, StumbleUpon, Furl, Ask, Favorites,, Technorati and more.
  • Read details about the book
  • Read reviews
  • Create a review
  • Find the book at a library near you

That is where ILL may come in to play. ILL means "inter-library loan, which is described at Wikipedia as a process where "sometimes for a small fee, or possibly for no cost, a library that has the item will loan or copy it, and the item is transported to the requestor's library to be checked out or used only within the library."

Family History Library's Microforms
You may find the book you need is not available through ILL. This happens all too frequently since genealogy books are usually part of the reference section of a library. If the Family History Library (FHL) has the book in question, they won't loan it to you, but the title may be available on microfilm or microfiche, particularly if it is out of copyright.

Here's the process for finding the records you seek through the FHL:

1. Go to the Family History Library Catalog at

2. Click for a "place" search.

3. Type "Chester" as part of "Pennsylvania" (no quotes and no abbreviations).

4. Of the list of Pennsylvania places with Chester in the name, choose: "Pennsylvania, Chester"

5. Scroll down and click on "Probate records - Indexes" to find the following entries. The smaller text is from the detailed entries for each item.

Family History Library's "Requests for Photocopies" form
For the sake of argument, let's pretend the last entry is only available in book format, which the FHL will not lend. A FHL volunteer can copy a few pages from the index (with your family's surname) and the second a second request for the pages cited in the index. Since you've already found the item in the FHLCatalog (listed above) its only a matter of:

  • Go to the Request for Photocopies form. There is an interactive online form, that you can complete, then print out and send to the Photoduplication Unit, whose address appears at the top of the form.
  • Indicate method of payment - VISA/MC, check, money order
  • Scroll down to the "Books" portion of the multiple-use form and type the:
    -- FHL Book Number: 974.813 P22
    -- Title: Index to Chester County, Pennsylvania, wills and intestate records, 1713-1850
    -- Author: Anderson, Bart.
    -- Name of individual: Malin
    -- Page numbers: index & title page

    (I copied and pasted the info from the FHLCatalog entry to the form. Click the graphic to view a larger version.)

  • Review photocopies once received, then complete a second form indicating desired pages of text from the body of the book.

You'll have to be desperate for a look at the book, since each photocopy is $4. So if there are 4 pages, it is $16. But if this is the only way you can access the book, then it is cheaper than plane fare to Salt Lake and room and board once you get there. But then I cannot meet you in person if we were to meet at the Family History Library.

So, DearKAREN, with a little effort, you can discover many resources about early-to-mid 18th century Chester County, Pennsylvania wills, and use this format for other searches in your research plan.

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

© 2008 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

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