Mississippi Probate Records
This entry was originally written by Kathleen Stanton Hutchison for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Although Mississippi Territory had influences from different European countries, it was English law that it looked to for guidance even from the beginning; this law separated courts of law and equity as Mississippi distinguished the chancery court from the circuit court.
Courts of probate were originally created by the state constitution in 1817 as “orphans’ courts,” with responsibilities encompassing probate matters and guardianship. By 1832, the actual name had become “probate court” and was administered by the “chancery clerk.” An amendment passed in 1857 abolished all chancery courts, with probate function then coming under the jurisdiction of the circuit courts. And so it remained until 1869 when the chancery courts were reinstated.
The chancery court in Mississippi encompasses a wide range of duties. One responsibility of the clerk of the chancery court was to act as judge of probate, keeping records of wills and testaments that are probated. Other functions include claims against an estate being administered; taking proof of wills and admitting wills to probate; and appointing guardians for minors, people of unsound minds, and convicts. These records are on file at the county courthouse, and many are also on microfilm at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Record books are only one source of material in Mississippi. Loose papers associated with the estate are also located in some county courthouses, with scattered microfilm copies at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
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