Monday, 9 July 2018
Probate Records Part 7: The Territories and some Final Tips
In this last segment, we're going to take a look at The Canadian Territories.
Probate in the Yukon used to be handled by the Territorial Court. Today it is handled by the Yukon Supreme Court. It sits mainly in Whitehorse, but does travel to other communities if needed. The central registry for Supreme Court proceedings is located in Whitehorse. The contact information is on their website here.
The Yukon Archives has estate files from 1897-1950. They can be be viewed at the Archives. The records held there are mainly from when the Territorial Court handled the records.
The Northwest Territories
Probate is done through the NWT's Supreme Court. Like the Yukon, the Supreme Court sits mainly in Yellowknife, but will travel to other regions as needed. Requests for access to probate files is done through the Court Registry - Office of the Clerk.
The NWT Archives has a collection in their holdings of estate files from 1926 to 1947. However, due to privacy laws, access is restricted. It is part of the RCMP fonds, so I would imagine any permissions for access would have to come through them.
Because the borders of the Northwest Territories changed so drastically through the years, it would be a good idea to check with the Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta Provincial Archives in your search. I know Manitoba especially has records relating to the Northwest Territories.
This territory is unique in that there is one unified Court in the Territory called the Court of Justice. Like the other territories, the court primarily sits in Iqaluit,but routinely travels around the territory to give it's residence a chance to resolve legal matters locally.
Since Nunavut only came into existence in 1999, you will not find "historic" probate cases. For this you will have to refer to the records of the Northwest Territories.
General Sources and Tips
To finish off this series of posts, here are some general sites and tips for finding wills:
1. CanLII- The Canadian Legal Information Institute is a non-profit site that has court decisions from across Canada. I typed in "estate" in the keyword search, and got over 96,000 decisions from across Canada. You can also first narrow down by the province or territory of your particular interest.
2. Check the Canada Gazette to see if there is mention of your ancestor's probate. This is especially true if your ancestor was part of the government, or had significant assets.
3. Always check in land records for your province of interest. Wills were sometimes registered in Land Registry offices to prove an heir has title to land.
4. Though Provincial Archives are your best source for looking for wills and probate, don't overlook local Archives and Societies. They might have an index, or some might have microfilms or transcriptions of the Provincial Records.
5. Whether in Provincial or local Archives, look beyond the obvious Court fonds. If the Archive has a collection such as "McDonald family fonds", be sure to check that collection out as well. I've seen more than one that have wills or estate papers in the collection.