With the release of the sixth edition of The Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research, the town chart of Connecticut added two important columns when it comes to finding the correct probate district for a Connecticut town based on the year of an estate’s probate.
First, in 2011, Connecticut consolidated its probate districts. The fifth edition of The Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research identified districts using a number that referred to the narrative section of the Connecticut chapter and identified these probate districts moving forward, so from 2011 on.
Connecticut’s unique probate districts have grown and split off, much as counties do. As populations grow it becomes necessary to create a new county, or in this case a new district. With close to 400 years of probate, there have been quite a few probate districts created and then in 2011 a few of them were eliminated under the consolidation. However, most genealogists are concentrating on probate records for deaths that took place in the 1800s and before, making the historic districts much more important.
As such, in the Connecticut town chart in the new edition, under the name of the town is a number that refers the reader to the current post-2011 probate district. Information on those districts is found in the narrative beginning on page 18, with the multi-colored map identifying the current probate districts and then arranged numerically by probate district number supplying historical information along with contact information for the current probate office. For those probate districts that have encapsulated previously existing probate districts, that information is also included in this section. For instance, on page 25, under Probate District 28, Windham-Colchester Probate District, established in 2011, there are five probate districts listed under the heading of “Consolidated Districts,” with each identified by name, date of creation, and parent probate district.
Now perhaps you have ancestors who have been in the town of Colchester since the 1700s and you are eager to look for their probate. In the town chart, we find that the town of Colchester was incorporated in 1698. In looking at the pre-2011 Probate District column, we see that Colchester’s probate records are found in the Colchester Probate District. However, this column also tells us that the Colchester Probate District was created in 1832 out of East Haddam.
This means we must look at East Haddam in the town chart, which is lower on this same page of the town chart. It indicates under the pre-2011 probate district column that the East Haddam Probate District was created in 1741.
If you are searching for probate on an ancestor who died after 1741 but before 1832 in Colchester, then the probate records would be found in the East Haddam Probate District. These records have been deposited at the Connecticut State Library, but are also available digitally through FamilySearch.org, though you must access them either through a local Family History Center or a FamilySearch auxiliary library. Unfortunately, they are not viewable from home.
If your ancestor died before 1741, then the East Haddam entry shows that the parent probate district was Hartford. And if you view the information for the town of Hartford you would see that the Hartford Probate District was established in 1666—one of the original probate districts.
Just as we identify the parents of our ancestors, it becomes necessary to identify the parent district when it comes to Connecticut Probate Districts.