Ozaukee County Wills
Carol Boettcher has indexed books of Wills that entered probate from about
1855 up to about 1900. The index is a LIST of names (and does not include DETAILS
of will content).
Each volume is recorded alphabetically and includes the page number which the will is found on - not just a "notice of probate". The books are located at the county archives office in Cedarburg. They were turned over to the archives about 20 years ago.
She has completed indexing 8 volumes of WILLS entered into probate. The two early volumes had to be set up with slightly different information as compared to the six later ones. In the later ones she could include more info including date & place of death.
The bound volumes are located at the Ozaukee County Historical Archives office, Center St. in Cedarburg, WI.
If you find your ancestor/relative is listed in this index it means the person listed had their estate probated. You need to understand several legal terms:
INTESTATE means the person died WITHOUT A WRITTEN WILL. Many people died in this predicament.
TESTATE means the person died WITH A WRITTEN WILL. Many wills were drawn up just days (or several weeks) before the deceased passed away.
EXECUTOR/ADMINISTRATOR was someone who started the probate process and was either a relative OR a trusted family friend. (The use of lawyers in this capacity were more common among city dwellers.)
GUARDIAN AD LITEM - An adult (usually male) who looked after the interests of minor (under legal age) children listed in the will, making sure they received their inheritance.
WITNESSES (to the will): At least TWO legal age adults (female as well as male) were required to sign as witnesses indicating they personally KNEW the person, the will contained the person's wishes and witnessed the person's signature on the document.
The wills listed in this index range from the very simple ("I leave all my property to my spouse") to the complex ("My estate shall be divided into 19 equal shares - my son John shall receive 3 shares, my daughter Susie shall receive 1 share, etc. . . ").
Note: The wills found are *hand-copied* versions by the court clerk of the original which contain the occasional error (usually different name spellings of the same person). Some wills are in GERMAN SCRIPT. These will require you to find someone who can read, as well as translate.
The wills do NOT contain the FINAL DISPOSITION of estate and personal property - only what the deceased intended. If the will was contested you will need to contact the Ozaukee County courthouse for the PROBATE FILE.
WHAT IF I do not find my ancestor/relative in this index? Many early settlers - particularly those who were farmers - generally did not leave wills. Why? Usually because they had already 'sold' or 'gifted' or otherwise deposed of the land and had little personal property left at the time of their death. Many of these same settlers had agreements with their children (usually called a 'Bounden' - a binding legal agreement) stipulating that as long as the parents had a place to live on the homestead, food provided and were treated with dignity, the land/estate was deeded over to the (usually) son, sometimes it was the son-in-law in the case of the oldest daughter. ALSO - wills were not common until after about World War I - and then you will find LAWYERS becoming more involved.