This post is the first in a 3-part series on the Salt Lake County Probate Case Files.
The probate case files in Salt Lake County are some of the oldest records at the Utah State Archives. Since the initial pioneer settlement was concentrated within the boundaries of Salt Lake County, prominent names are easy to find within these estates, such as Daniel Spencer, a member of the Utah Territorial Legislature and LDS Church Stake President (case number 137)1. Or William Clayton, the author and composer of hymns including “Come, Come, Ye Saints” (case number 678)2.
Probate of estates is the process by which a deceased person’s property is identified and managed, his or her debts and taxes paid, and then remaining property distributed to beneficiaries as specified in a will, or to heirs as required by law. Typically a probate case begins when the court receives a petition to open the probate of an estate or admit a will. Thereafter the administrator notifies creditors of the estate to submit any outstanding bills, and the court obtains a full inventory of the estate. When all property in the estate has been properly accounted for and all outstanding debts paid, the court orders distribution of remaining property among the heirs and releases the administrator from responsibility for the estate.3
If you’re researching your family history, you do not need to have such well-known names in your family tree to find them in the Salt Lake County Probate Case Files. A case file may have been created for any estate, or property, in which there was not a clear inheritance in a will. If one exists for your ancestor, it could provide information on family members, relationships, descriptions and locations properties, and more. To find a possible case, you can use the name index to find a case number for the entire territorial period, or try searching the digital archives for what is online thus far. Be sure to check for spelling and other name variants.
The Archives also has probate records for other counties in Utah. For more information on probate records and where to locate them for research, please consult the Probate Research Guide
Right now, cases 1-1396 (minus any gaps) are online. Later this year, the remaining case files will be added to the collection with one notable exception: Brigham Young’s probate case file (case number 553), will be delayed due to its size. If you find a case file of interest in the name index but not yet online, you may contact the Research Center for a copy.
1 “Daniel Spencer,” FindAGrave, https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=34460909 (accessed November 3, 2017).
2 “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Come,_Come,_Ye_Saints&oldid=805184714 (accessed November 3, 2017).
3 “Probate Records,” Utah State Archives and Records Service, https://archives.utah.gov/research/guides/probate.htm (accessed November 3, 2017).