Yarmouth County Probate Records begin with the arrival of the first permanent English settlers, in 1761. In that year several families settled at Chebogue and Milton, in Yarmouth Township, and at Argyle and Pubnico, in Argyle Township. During the early years of settlement, all of what now forms the Counties of Yarmouth, Shelburne, and Queens was one large county called Queens County. After the arrival of 10,000 Loyalists at Shelburne in 1783, the government at Halifax decided to sub-divide this area into two counties. In 1784 the County of Shelburne was formed, consisting of present day Shelburne and Yarmouth Counties. Finally, in 1836 Yarmouth County was formed.
Various townships existed within the above listed counties. The boundaries of these townships did not necessarily change when new counties were formed. Yarmouth and Argyle Townships existed first in Queens County, then in Shelburne (1784-1835), and finally in Yarmouth County. Because of the location of the "county seat," some of the earliest Yarmouth County Probate Records will be found at the Registry of Probate in Liverpool, Queens Co., NS. For the period 1784-1835 a number of early Yarmouth County Probate Records are found at the Shelburne County Registry of Probate, Shelburne, NS.
Although a Registry of Probate had been established at Yarmouth, NS as early as 1794, a number of estates continued to be probated at either Liverpool or Shelburne after this date. ATCHA holds a brief description of most Yarmouth County Probate Records held in both Liverpool and Shelburne.
For a variety of reasons, from 1761-1841 a number of Yarmouth Co. estates were probated at Probate Court in Halifax, NS, where the records remain. ATCHA has a list, alphabetized by name, of the probate records held there.
Estates are probated, or settled, whether there is a will (called "testate") or not (called "intestate"). During the probate process various documents generated and/or examined get recorded in specific books kept in the probate office. For example, wills are recorded in a Will Book; Letters of Administration and Letters of Guardianship are recorded in a separate book so-named; and other documents are recorded in an Acts Book. It must also be noted that with the settlement of any estate, there can be a wide range of documents created or consulted during the procedure that do not get recorded in any particular book. Regardless of which documents are recorded in which book, all of the documents (including those already recorded) pertaining to the settlement of each estate are put together in a packet and filed in the Registry of Probate.
ATCHA has 73 reels of Yarmouth County Probate Records microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1970. It should be noted that the Mormons returned to Yarmouth in 1992 to put additional Yarmouth county probate records on microfilm, but our holdings do not include these later copies.
We have six reels of wills, four reels of the Acts Book, three reels of Letters of Administration and Guardianship, and one reel of Letters of Petition. The remaining 59 reels contain copies of all the original estate papers pertaining to the settlement of each estate up to 1900.
6 REELS OF WILL BOOKS:
4 REELS OF ACTS BOOKS:
3 REELS OF LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION & GUARDIANSHIP:
1 REEL, Letters of Petition:
59 REELS OF ORIGINAL ESTATE PAPERS (1 packet per estate):
The six reels of wills, four reels of the Acts Book, three reels of Letters of Administration and Guardianship, and one reel of Letters of Petition all have a handwritten surname index on the microfilm. If a reel of microfilm contains more than one volume of any given document, the indexes are located at the beginning of each volume on the reel. Note that the two separate indexes in the reel containing copies of Wills, Volumes 1-2, are both buried within the information on the reel and have questionable page references. The pagination itself, of these two volumes, is not uniformly consecutive.
All indexes on all 14 reels of microfilm order people according to the first letter of their surname, in the order in which they appear in the Will Book. So, all the A's are lumped together, not sorted alphabetically, each name followed by a page reference. For instance, an index entry for Samuel Smith, whose will, Letter of Petition, etc. had been recorded on page one of the relevant book will show up in the index for that book before Arthur Smith who has a later entry in the same book. This is the order in which these records were catalogued at the Probate Office in Yarmouth, NS, before they were copied onto microfilm in 1970. That cataloguing system has since been replaced by a rolodex and numbering system which bears no relationship to the earlier surname system.
The remaining 59 reels of original estate papers pertaining to the settlement of each estate up to 1900 are not indexed on microfilm; however, ATCHA has created a name index for all these reels as well as an every name index for the 10 volumes of Will Books mentioned above.
There are six ATCHA indexes for the Will books, one per reel. They give,
in alphabetical order: a surname, first name(s), type of document (will, inventory,
codicil, and so on), date of the document, date of probate, vol. number, part number (this
item for Volumes 1 & 2 only because the pagination in them is so odd), and page
The documents in the 59 reels of original estate papers are not numbered; consequently, the ATCHA indexes for these documents are organized according to the order in which the information shows up on each reel. All those whose names begin with the same letter (for e.g., "A") are lumped together, but not arranged alphabetically. Each entry in the index includes: a surname, first name(s), notes (such as "guardianship of"), year estate probated, and reel number.