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This pathfinder explains how to find wills (usually within estate files) that were filed with the Court of Probate and Surrogate Courts between the years 1793 and 1970.
The indexes and estate files themselves are not available on this website but it provides directions on how to determine which microfilm reels you need to use in order to find the estate files that you are seeking. These reels can then be consulted either in our reading room on the ground floor, 134 Ian Macdonald Blvd., Toronto, or borrowed through interlibrary loan.
Finding an estate file is usually a two stage process:
Follow the steps below:
Begin your search for an estate file in the year the person died and move forward in time. In some cases a will was probated or an estate was administered years after the death.
Before 1859, wills were probated either by the province-wide Court of Probate or the local Surrogate Courts . The Court of Probate (Series RG22-155) handled estates with property valued over £5 or that extended over two or more Districts. The Surrogate Courts handled smaller estates with property within one District. With the abolition of the Court of Probate in 1858 the Surrogate Courts assumed complete responsibility for estate actions.
Using the Indexes to Find an Estate Before 1859
The Archives has created two surname Indexes
of Estate Files before 1859. Look up the
deceased's name in both Indexes. Check every possible
spelling or typographic error.
If the deceased's name is in Inventory 22, Appendix A1 (Court of Probate), the microfilm reel number will be listed in the "Microfilm Reference" column of the table. Order the appropriate reel number of MS 638 microfilm.
If the deceased's name is in Inventory 22, Appendix A25 (Surrogate Courts), record the County and year in which the court action took place.
If the "No." column is blank (e.g. Philip Wolf, Wellington Co., ____, 1843), the Estate Files for that County are arranged by surname or by the year and surname. Copy down the information given and go to Ordering Estate Files at the Archives of Ontario below.
If the "No." is given (e.g. Abner DeCow, Haldimand Co., #74, 1855), the Estate Files for that County are arranged by the Estate File number. Copy down the information given and go to Ordering Estate Files at the Archives of Ontario below.
Using the Indexes to Find an Estate After 1858
If you know the county or district in which the estate was handled, use the Location Table below to link to the appropriate jurisdiction. There you will find a listing of the indexes available on microfilm and an explanation of how to use them to obtain a file number. Follow the instructions carefully, as each county indexed their files differently.
If you find the deceased's name in the Index, record their Estate File number and, if given, the year of the court action then proceed to Ordering Estate Files from the Archives of Ontario.
|Rainy River Dist.
|Thunder Bay Dist.
|Parry Sound Dist.
|Prince Edward Co.
If you are unsure which Courthouse handled the deceased's estate, use the Application to Probate Books (Series RG 22-514) which list every 1859-1982 Estate File and the Courthouse that handled it.
Order the Indexes for the year(s) when the deceased's estate was dispersed. Use our microfilm listing of the Indexes to find the microfilm reel that you require.
NOTE: the deceased's application number has no relation to the Estate File number. The Office of the Surrogate Clerk of Ontario assigned application numbers; Estate File numbers were assigned by the local Surrogate Courts.
Start with the Application to Probate Books. These Application Books have been microfilmed on MS 404, Reels 79 to 85. Within each year the applications are alphabetically arranged by the deceased's name and will list the Courthouse where the application was made.
The Estate File will be at the Courthouse that handled the action (except York County which the Archives has on microfilm up to 1967). Use our microfilm listing of the Indexes to see if the Archives has a microfilm copy of their Surrogate Court Indexes or click here for a list of Courthouse addresses and telephone numbers.
If you find the deceased's name listed between 1968-1982, the Estate file will be at the Courthouse that handled the action. Click here for a list of Courthouse addresses and telephone numbers.
If you do not find the deceased's name, that means their estate was never handled by the courts.
Once you have determined the correct Estate File Number you need to consult the correct Estate File microfilm that contains the will and other documentation that you are seeking. To do that, follow the steps below.
Does the Estate Date From......
These records have been microfilmed. Using the Location Table above, click on the County or District that handled the deceased's estate. The Estate File microfilm listing gives the year(s) covered and the number of the first and last Estate File on each reel. Record which reel you need to view. You can then:
These Estate Files are held by the Archives but have not been microfilmed. You must provide an Estate File number to retrieve a file. In most cases you may borrow the index that you need to find the estate file number on microfilm. Send the file number along with the year, name of county, name of the deceased, your name, address and telephone number, as well as a brief description of what documents you would like copied to:
Customer Service Unit
Archives of Ontario
134 Ian Macdonald Blvd.
Canada, M7A 2C5
Please see our Reproduction Services and Fees for details on photocopy charges.
The Archives of Ontario does not hold these estate files. They are available only through the courthouse in the County or District where the will was probated or the estate administered. Please see our list of Ontario Courthouse addresses and telephone numbers for contact information.