Additional responsibilities varied from county to county but usually included:
Case files are normally filed in numerical order according to numbers assigned at the time of the opening of the case.
In some counties a single numerical sequence includes all types of cases. In other counties separately numbered series of files exist for estate cases, insanity cases, guardianship cases, or other special case types.
Registers of Actions:
Each volume usually includes an index to the cases in that volume. The registers usually include the case file number thereby providing an alternative to a separate index to the case files.
Will books are normally arranged chronologically according to the date in which the will was entered into the court record, usually shortly after the death of the individual. Researchers should be aware that the date the will was made might have been many years before the will was entered into the court record. Many will books are indexed in on Family Search.com in the online index to Minnesota Will Books (1849 - 1985).
Final Decrees of Distribution of Estates:
Final decrees are usually arranged within each volume in rough chronological order according to the date that the final decree was issued. Final decrees also may be arranged in several different series depending on the nature of the estate case and the type of decree. Frequently, some final decree records also were included in miscellaneous order books. For certain time periods, final decrees may be separated by testate (decedent died with a valid will) or intestate (decedent died without a valid will) case type.
Insanity Record Books:
Insanity records are mostly dated before 1920. Access to certain information may be restricted.
*This guide, and record finding aids, use the terms “insanity” and “insane” because those were the terms used when the records were created and are the terms that appear on the records.
Additional Record Books:
The first step in using probate court records is to determine in which county a specific action occurred. Usually this would be the county of residence at the time of death. Probate actions, however, could occur in other counties or states where real property was owned.
Search the library catalog by county name for probate records at MNHS.
Example: "Washington County Probate"
Estate case files are normally opened shortly after the death of the decedent. In certain cases, however, files may not be opened for several years or even decades, especially if a spouse survived. In some instances probate case files were never opened because the deceased did not own real estate or did not have sufficient personal property to require court oversight of the estate.
Actions or decisions of the probate court may be appealed, usually to the district court in the respective county. The appeal file, if extant, may contain additional information about the individuals in the case. Such appeals may involve contestation of a will, disputing a financial claim filed against the estate, or a determination of the validity of a purported heir. The probate case file usually will give some evidence that the case resulted in an appeal to a higher court.
Most probate court records at MNHS are open to unrestricted use. Certain case files or record types, especially relating to insanity cases less than 75 years old, have restricted access and special access procedures. The staff of the library can assist researchers with these special conditions.
Case files not available at MNHS should be available in the District Court in the respective county.
District/county court case files--including probate files--can be ordered via the District/County Court Case File Research Request page at our online store. Please include any and all information you have about the record you are looking for.
To order a will book record, please follow these instructions.