Probate records are an invaluable but often overlooked resource for family history research. These are the records created upon the death of individuals who have drawn up a valid Last Will and Testament, or in the absence of a Will have left sufficient real and personal property to require settlement of their estate by administrators. The records created during this process are filed with the appropriate Probate Registry, one for each of Nova Scotia's eighteen counties; estate settlement processes are determined and regulated by the provincial Court of Probate.
In the early days, most people did not have sufficient real or personal property to warrant writing a Will. If your ancestor did leave one, however, or if an estate file exists, with documents detailing the settlement of the estate, you will likely find a wealth of previously unknown family information.
Probate records for the province have been microfilmed for the period 1749-ca. 1960 for Wills; ca. 1930 for Estates; and are available for research at the Nova Scotia Archives. Within each county, the records are generally filed in two large groupings: Will Books and Estate Files, although there may be many series of related records as well. The Estate Files are further divided into Testate (being settled by a valid Will) or Intestate (no Will or the Will declared invalid). Item-level indexes are not always available, and the arrangement of the Estate Files, in particular, is frequently haphazard. Detailed finding aids are available to help researchers find their way. See Hours and Location to plan a visit.