Where’s The Will? A Probate Records Search


I have decided that Adam Stahler is probably NOT an ancestor of mine (explanation elsewhere), so I am no longer trying to find his will.  I have left this post here because a) it has links to wills of some of my actual ancestors and b) the path I took searching for answers might be of interest to other researchers.


This week’s challenge for the 52 Ancestors project, “Where There’s a Will“, sounds familiar–drawing us into the fascinating world of probate records. However, at the moment I have to turn that around to “Where’s The Will?” because I am stymied in finding the will of Adam Stahler.

I have enjoyed getting acquainted with ancestors and their families through their probate records in the past. My great-great-grandmother’s first husband died young without a will, but the inventory of goods plainly told me that he was a merchant.   In researching my husband’s ancestors, I found wills for three successive generations in the Manbeck family. From those, and their attached inventories, I learned names of children, what a great-great-great-great grandmother had in her kitchen, what you need to grow flax, and how long it took for German immigrants to switch to the English langauge.

Abraham Brink Will

Abraham Brink the elder Will.

You can read about those ancestors and what I learned from probate records here:

But those were easy.  All those wills and associated papers from probate records were found on line. Hard to read the hand writing sometimes–but at any rate there they were.  And the recorder had kindly written an English transcription of the wills in German, so I didn’t even need a translator.

Asahel Platt Inventory

One of several pages of inventory of belongings of Asahel Platt.

And then there was Adam Stahler.  Ancestry.com coughs up an index entry from the probate records of Northampton County, Pennsylvania (his residence), for Stahler, Adam with John Stahler as administrator, filed in 1804. The index even presents a file number #2284.

Usually, when Ancestry does not give me anything but the index information, I can find the actual document at Family Search.org. Not this time.  I will spare you the gory details, but after two days of eye strain, I still did not have Adam Stahler’s will.

Next step, ask on Facebook at “Genealogy? Just Ask”.

Next step, check Family Search. Someone on the FB group had directed me on how to search more effectively on Family Search.  I  also read a very comprehensive guide to Family Search searching written by Cathy Meder-Dempsey.  Maybe I’m just a bad student, but that didn’t get me what I was looking for either.

Two possibilities, the will never was photographed by Family Search AND/OR it has not been digitized OR the second possibility–it no longer exists. That is just too sad to contemplate, so I am delaying accepting defeat.

Next step, contact the Probate office in Northampton County, Pennsylvania.

So today I sent off an e-mail.  Fingers crossed. And of course I will keep you posted.

Meanwhile,  you can keep yourself amused by looking at the variety of wills I DID find.

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3 thoughts on “Where’s The Will? A Probate Records Search

  1. Cathy Meder-Dempsey

    Thank you, Vera, for the mention.
    The question may not be “Where’s the will?” but “Was there a will?”
    I went to the catalog of FamilySearch and looked up United States, Pennsylvania, Northampton.
    Under Probate Records I found: Will books, 1752-1907; with Register’s index, 1752-1966.
    Scrolled down to: Register’s index, 1752-1966, surnames S and followed the link.
    The index is by given name. Adam Stahler is on page 15-1 (image 62). It lists 1804 as the year of filing the Admr Bond and Inv & Appr.
    These two records may be in the collection (no promise):
    Correspondence, minutes, wills and administrations 1743-1804 vol 59-61.
    There does not appear to be any kind of logic in how these loose papers were filed. Hopefully, the file #2284 (which is also seen on the Register’s index) will be helpful to the person you emailed and they will be able to pull these records. Good luck!

  2. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

    Thanks, Kathy. I really appreciate your taking extra time to follow the bread crumbs. I think I followed that same path. The index entry popped up right away in Ancestry without a search, but I did find it again at Family Search. I should have made it clear that the index did not list a will, so it actually was probate papers that I was looking for rather than a will. I did learn along the way that “Orphan’s Court” does not necessarily mean just cases dealing with orphans! So I searched those, too. And I tried to look at the “undated” files, also. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who was defeated by their “system” of filing “leftovers.”


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