The Archives holds many records of New York's higher trial and appeals courts prior to 1847, and of appeals courts from 1847 to the present. Of special interest to genealogists are records of the Court of Chancery (1704-1847) and the Court of Probates (1778-1823) and its colonial predecessor, the Prerogative Court (1686-1783). These records are described in Records Relating to Criminal Trials, Appeals, and Pardons.
The Surrogate's Court, established in each county in 1787, has custody of almost all probate records created since that date. Many Surrogate's Court records have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah. (The microfilm is loaned to Mormon family history centers worldwide.)
The State Archives holds the records and filed documents of the Court of Probates, the predecessor of the Surrogate's Courts. Holdings include Probated Wills (J0038), Inventories and Accounts (J0301), and Administration Papers (J0033). The wills relate to estates in all parts of New York; the inventories and administration papers relate mostly to estates in the Hudson and Mohawk valleys. Most of the documents in these series pre- date 1787; all pre-date 1823. The Archives has microfilmed part of series J0038 and all of J0301 and J0033. The published indexes to these records were not filmed. The Archives also holds recorded wills for New York County (Manhattan) through 1879 (series J0043). Archives staff will search probate records only if name of decedent and date of death are provided.
For further information on probate records, where to find them, and indexes to them, consult our Probate Pathfinder or NYS Archives Information Leaflet #3 Probate Records.
Chancery jurisdiction included guardianship for the property of widows and orphans; mortgage foreclosure; real property partition; and divorce (1787- 1847 only). All surviving Chancery Decrees and Papers Before 1800 (J0065) are available on microfilm. Many pre-1800 Chancery case documents were not preserved; and the existing indexes to pre-1800 cases are incomplete. Various series of Chancery Minutes covering the period 1781-1847(series J0048, J0050, J0059, J0081) are available on microfilm, as are the Enrolled Decrees After 1800 (J0063) and accompanying index to complainants. The files of Chancery cases that did not result in a final decree, and the files of cases handled in the seven upstate Chancery circuits between 1823 and 1847, are not on microfilm. Access to Chancery records can be difficult. Archives staff will search the records only if a specific case citation (names of parties and date of case) is provided. Other Chancery records, mostly relating to downstate New York, are at the New York County Clerk's Office, 31 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007. Data from Chancery records is abstracted in Kenneth Scott, Records of the Chancery Court, Province and State of New York, Guardianships, 1691-1815 (New York: n.d.).