USING ALLEGHENY COUNTY PROBATE
written by Larry Thompson, February 2013
(posted: Feb. 20, 2013)
To get to Pennsylvania Probate Records click on the below link;
Scroll down to the bottom of the page that opens and click
on United States on the left hand side.
Wait for the next page to fully load then scroll down until
you see Pennsylvania listed in the left hand column (as shown
below) and click on it.
On the page that loads scroll down until you see:
Pennsylvania, Probate Records, 1683-1994
Click on that and when the following page loads click on;
Browse through 3,201,289 images (over time that number may
On the following page click on the link for Allegheny (as shown
Using the Estate Index.
We’ll use one of my ancestors for an example. I’m going to go
through finding what records are available for William H.
Bassett who died about 1902. The first step is to go to the
estate index surname B, and since we want William we’ll
use first names K-Z. Click on that link.
The first page that appears is the film number. Most films have
multiple indexes. The first index is usually on page 4 through 6.
In this case the first index is on page 5. However that index is
for first names K-M. To find the index that includes W will
require a little searching. In this case the index for first
names with W are on page 495 (shown here).
(search reminder--we're looking for
William H. Bassett)
The top row has the first names columns. First name W is included
with X Y and Z. To find what key letter to use you first ignore
the first letter of the surname, than evaluate the rest of the
letters of the surname one at a time and compare it to the Key
Letter in the left hand column. The first letter is A and
there is no key letter a so it is ignored. The next letter
is S, there is no S and no E. The last letter is T, and there is a
Key letter T. Any letters which are repeated, in this example S,
the second occurrence is ignored. If the name had been Thompson
the key letters would have been MN.
(Note To Researchers: Microfilmed Image Numbers DO NOT match Page Numbers
listed at top of each imaged page).
Using Key letter T indicates that the first name W is located on
page 1750 (image 664). Note that on page 1750 at the
top of the page you’ll see the names Beatty – Beattie. Common
names will have their own index section. In this case the index
for those two surnames would be found on page 2041.
Since Bassett is not among the common names you just start
scrolling down the page, advancing pages as necessary until you
find the name you’re looking for. In this case there is an entry
for Bassett W H or Wm H which has a date of Aug 7, 1902. The right
hand columns has 16 284 9. This tells you that you want to
go to Proceedings Index Volume 16 page 284 block 9.
Going back to the search page
above and scrolling down the Proceedings Index 15 and 16 are
combined in one file so the page of interest would be in the
second half of the microfilm roll which turns out is on microfilm
image 753. On page 284 there are 10 blocks, 9 is the block
Scrolling down to the 4th line it has a listing for Will, and
scrolling across it has WB 73 201 which tells you that the will
can be located in Will Book Volume 73, page 201. Moving down 3
lines there is an entry Sale R E OC 147 136. This indicates
there is an additional record in Orphans Court dockets
Volume 147 page 136.
You will find that there are actually two or three entries
for each will book. In this example scrolling down to wills
on the main page it shows;
Wills vol 73-74
Wills vol 72 no 61 –vol 73 no 208
Wills vol 73 no 209 –vol 74 no 225
Wills vol 73-74 is the actual copies of the will books. The will
books are actually transcriptions of the original wills. But, like
all transcriptions there are often errors in the transcriptions.
The will book entry for one of my ancestors left off two of his
descendants that were in the original will. Allegheny County is
unusual in that they also have the original wills on file. In the
other two entries I listed above you can find the actual wills as
well as some other estate papers.
It’s a good idea to go to both entries. Since we are interested
in will book vol 73 no 201 it will be found in the second entry
above. Searching through the second source is really hit and miss
because every estate file will different number of pages. In this
case the first page of the estate file is page 1903 of the
microfilm file. The same method will find the appropriate entry in
the actual will book.
Orphans court records are pretty straight forward. Simply select
the proper volume and go to the indicated page.
My genealogy page
Allegheny County Maps page