ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES
Rock Island Probate Case Files Index (1834–1899)
Compiled by the Illinois Regional Archives Depository System, Western Illinois University
The Rock Island County Probate Case Files Index was compiled by Paul G.C. Smith, David E. Richards, Cindy Sutton and Sharon Soltys, interns for the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) System at Western Illinois University in Macomb. The 7,842 records in the database were extracted from the Rock Island County Probate Case Files (IRAD Accession 2/0112/19).
The Rock Island County Probate Case Files held by the IRAD System are nearly complete for the period between 1834 and 1899. However, this record series includes 1,164 cases filed after 1900. Although cases in this series that were filed after 1899 were entered into this database, researchers should be aware that the files are incomplete for this period. Rock Island County Probate Cases Files that are not in IRAD are still in the circuit clerk's office.
The index provides the name of the estate, the year of filing, the type of case and the name filed under or comments. The content of each field included in the index is described below.
The Name field includes the name of a deceased, a minor heir or legatee, a minor for whom a guardianship was established for reasons other than a death of a parent, an incompetent person, or an alias used by a person appearing elsewhere in this index.
The Name field could also contain surname cross-references, such as "Aldrich-see also Aldridge." Such cross-references are used when the spelling of a name is not consistent within a family group or when alternate spellings of a surname appeared in the case files. in this example, a Mr. Aldrich died leaving heirs with the surname Aldridge. Since Aldrich and Aldridge are probably two spellings of the same surname, this allows researchers to find all persons with the same surname, regardless of the possible variation or error of spelling.
Names of estates were transcribed directly from the case files. Every attempt was made to obtain accurate spellings of names. If the spelling of a name could not be determined from the case jacket, a search of the various case documents was conducted. However, names were often spelled a variety of ways throughout the case documents. It was also sometimes difficult to decipher handwriting in some case files. Therefore, when searching this index, we suggest that researchers check alternative spellings of names if they do not find an entry for the name for which they are searching.
The Year field contains the year that the probate case was filed. When the year of the case is missing, the abbreviation "UNK" appears in the Year column. Handwritting not only made it difficult to determine the spelling of names, it also made it difficult to determine numbers in dates. Even though every effort was made to determine the correct year, researchers should be aware that numbers were often difficult to decipher. For example, the numbers 2 and 3 often looked like the number 5 and the number 2 could look like the number 4.
Name Filed Under and Comments
The Name Filed Under and Comments field may contain a cross-reference to the file where the name will appear or additional information about the case or file. If a single case is in more than one physical file, the number of file folders is indicated in this field.
The Entry Type field shows the kind of information contained in the case file or the type of cross-reference. A detailed explanation of each entry type follows the table of codes used in this field.
- * — Proof of Heirship Only — Information establishing that certain persons are the sole heirs of the deceased. The file is arranged under the name of the deceased, which is shown in the Name field. The date listed is the date of the proceedings to prove heirship or the date of death.
- + — Conservatorship and Probate (I + P) — Persons who were found to be legally incompetent and then died during the period of the conservatorship. Papers related both to the conservatorship and to the probate of the estate upon death are included in the case file. The name appearing in the Name field is that of the deceased. The year listed is that of the commencement of the court action to establish the conservatorship.
- A — An Alternate Spelling, Alternate Name, or other Cross-Reference — entry is a cross reference to a different spelling or to a different name for the same person. The name which appears in the Name field is the alias. The name which appears in the Name Filed Under or Comments field is the name under which the researcher may find information about this person elsewhere in the index. In addition to aliases, maiden names of married women, married names of girls married while a guadianship is in effect, or adoptive names of minors are cross-referenced in this manner. Unless otherwise noted, this cross-reference is to a probate file (represented by P).
- C — Combination of Probate Case File and Heirs' Guardianship (P + H) — file which has combined the probate of the deceased's estate and the papers concerning guardianship of the minor heirs or legatees. The case will be filed under the name of the deceased as well as those of the minor heirs. The letter M will appear in the entry type field for minors and will be cross-referenced to this file. The Year is the date of death.
- D — Dependent Child —a file which is concerned with the care of a minor found to be dependent and accordingly taken as a ward of the state. The case is filed under the name of the minor. The Year is the date of the commencement of court action on the case.
- G — General Guardianship File — a guardianship file for a minor who is not the heir of an estate. Occasionally, this code was used when the estate name is not known. These files are usually concerned with cases of minors who need to have a legal guardian appointed either to give consent for marriage or to settle a law suit to which the minor is a party. The case is filed under the name of the minor. The Year is the date of commencement of court action to establish guardianship. When multiple minors appear in a General Guardianship file, one name has been selected as the primary party. The other minors appear with the letter M in the Entry Type field and are cross referenced to the General Guardianship file.
- H — Heirs' Guardianship — The case contains information on the guardianship of minor heirs of the deceased. The case is filed under the name of the deceased. The names of the minor heirs are indexed with the letter M in the Entry Type field with cross-references to this file. The Year reflects the date of commencement of court action to establish the guardianship of the minor heirs (i.e., the date of the Petition for Letters of Guardianship).
- I — Incompetent Person's File (usually Insane) — A case involving a conservatorship of a person who is alleged to be incompetent (i.e., insane or suffering from a mental or psychological deficiency making that person legally incompetent to administer his own affairs). The Year is the date of commencement of court action to establish the conservatorship (i.e., the date of the Application for the Appointment of a Conservator or the date of the Letters of Conservatorship where the Application is not in the file).
- L — Legatees' Guardianship — a case involving the guardianship of the legatees of an estate (i.e., a recipient of a legacy—somebody who inherits a bequest under the terms of a will) rather than heirs to an estate.
- M — Name of Minor — The name of a minor contained within a case file. The file, however, is not found under the minor's name. Instead, it is found under the name found in the Name Filed Under or Comments field. Unless otherwise noted, this cross-reference will always contain the letter H in the Entry Type field. No date will appear in the Year field.
- P — Probate File for Deceased — A regular probate case file. The papers in this file will concern the disposition of the estate of the deceased. The name of the deceased will appear in the Name field and the date of death will appear in the Year field.
- W — Only Will Contained in File — A case file containing only a will. The name of the deceased will appear in the Name field and the date of will appears in the Year field.
Probate records created prior to 1848 were maintained by the Probate Court in Rock Island County. The Constitution of 1848 moved original jurisdiction in probate cases to the newly created County Court. [Constitution of 1848, Article V, Sections 16-18] Therefore, probate records recorded after 1848 were maintained by the County Court acting in probate. The Constitution of 1870 gave the General Assembly the authority to create probate courts in counties with populations of 50,000 or more. [Constitution of 1870, Article VI, section 20] However, probate jurisdiction remained with the County Court in Rock Island County until January 1, 1964 when the functions of both the probate court and county court were transferred to the circuit court. [Constitution of 1870, 1962 Amendment, Article VI, section 4]
Probate case files show the court term; the names of the estate, minor, heirs or legatees, administrator or executor, judge and court clerk; the petitions, bonds, oaths, and letters of estate administrators, executors, guardians and conservators; the court's approval of estate inventories, appraisement bills, petitions to sell property, reports of sales, accounts, reports of receipts and expenditures, and final reports; and the orders and decrees of the court. The record may also show the proofs of heirship, proofs of death, claims against the estate, and recordation of wills.
The County Court also heard cases involving adoption, commitment of the insane and feeble-minded, guardianship of minor children, and conservatorship of the insane, blind and deaf & dumb. These types of cases were often recorded in the Rock Island County Probate Case Files when the County Court was acting in its probate capacity.
Copies of the files found in this index may be obtained by mail or telephone. Inquiries should be made directly to the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) at Western Illinois University in Macomb. IRAD cannot accept requests by e-mail at this time. Please contact:
Illinois Regional Archives Depository
Western Illinois University
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455-1390