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If you’re anything like me – when you’re doing research in Victoria and someone dies, you mentally think … what year?  Oh bum – it’s after 1925.

Why do we say that?  Because Victorian Wills and Probate files are free and online from 1841 to 1925.  Understand?  They’re not online after 1925 – that WAS the limit of the files you could access online.  The indexes continue but not the digitised files.

I checked and I’ve got permission from PROV to post this Blog and information!

If it wasn’t for COVID-19 we would be very close to enjoying the new PROV server and website – that would mean heaps and heaps and heaps of new digitised records online for us to have a total pig-out.  Sadly COVID-19 has delayed that for some time in the future – impossible to give an expected date at this stage.

So why am I saying “More VIC Wills and Probates online”???

Let’s re-write that first paragraph as at today …

If you’re anything like me – when you’re doing research in Victoria and someone dies, you mentally think … what year?  Oh bum – it’s after 1950.

1950?  That’s right – 1950!

How and where?  READ CAREFULLY …

Who filmed the Wills and Probate files for the Public Record Office Victoria?

FamilySearch!

And what can you find on the FamilySearch website?

Wills and Probate files to 1950.  FamilySearch aren’t doing the wrong thing by PROV.  The Indexes aren’t linked to the individual records / digitised films, but by using the PROV Index and a little bit of patience you CAN find the one you’re after and download it from FamilySearch.

The detailed steps below will help you find the right images but for people who know what they’re doing on FamilySearch you may not need this sort of detail.

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Search the Wills and probates index on the PROV website for your person of interest. [Image 1 below]
  2. Make a note of the 2 or 3 VPRS numbers for that person  [Image 2]
  3. Sign In to FamilySearch. If you haven’t registered you must do so – it’s free and doesn’t require a credit card.
  4. Search the Catalog for Place – Victoria, Australia – and check Online records  [Image 3 below]
  5. In the results page for your search [Image 4 below] scroll down to Australia, Victoria – Probate records and click on the line to expand it [Image 5]
  6. The two items of interest are highlighted – Australia, Victoria Probate files, 1925-1950 and Australia, Victoria, Wills, 1853-1951
  7. Click on the Probate files 1925-1950 entry to view the 3,123 digital folders – scroll down to see the Film / Digital Notes and look at the detail of each entry – this is the VPRS number and details – in this example we’re looking for VPRS 28 / P3 unit 3514, item 323/725 that was noted in Step 2 above  [Image 6]
  8. In this case the entry we’re searching for is on page 19 – note how the detailed description matches the VPRS numberclick on the camera icon  [Image 7]
  9. You should then see thumbnails of the images in this folder – in this case there are 1,197 images.  If you see individual images, you can click on the Browse Multiple Images icon on the left below the “+” and “-” symbols  [Image 8]
  10. Double click on the first thumbnail to view the Single Image. This is where you need to get creative – we are looking for the file 323/725 and if you looked closely in Step 8 you would have noticed that this digital folder covers files 323/677 to 323/745 and where looking for file 323/725.  I guessed that I wanted image no. 900 – this takes you to file no. 323727 – close!.   [Image 9]
  11. If I was way off I would keep making guesses until I got close the 323/725 – you can choose to go backwards image by image using the arrow or guess another image number like 850.  When you find the correct file no. 323725 DO NOT STOP THERE.  You MUST keep working backwards to ensure you have all the images for file no. 323725.  [Image 10]
  12. If you were physically looking at the probate files for 323/725 in the PROV Reading Room there would be numerous folded groups of documents.  Generally each would have a ‘Victoria Stamp Duty’ stamp on the coverTIP: you can use the multiple image browse button where you can spot these stamps in the thumbnails and keep jumping backwards to find the first image for 323725.  [Image 11]
  13. NOTE: In the last 24 hours – 20 Sep 2020 – FamilySearch are preventing anyone from printing or downloading the images – you can read them but that’s it – you can do screen captures of part pages but that’s it at the moment.  Keep watching this space!
    Once you are at the first image for the file you want, you can download the images.  The download can only be done one image at a time.  If you have downloaded a number of images and the site stops you downloading any more, don’t panic.  You haven’t done anything wrong – it’s just a trigger point in the system – I have checked with FamilySearch that this is OK.  Take a note of the image number (so you can go straight to this one next time), Sign Out, shut down FamilySearch, make a cuppa, open up FamilySearch again, Sign In, and follow procedures above to get to the Film / Folder you want.  Go straight to your next image number by entering the number you noted earlier, and start Downloading from there.  Depending on the number of images in your Probate files, you may need to repeat this step more than once  [Image 12]

RECOMMENDATION: Have a good look around at the other entries in Step 5 / Image 4 to see just how much is available on FamilySearch for your Victorian research.  You might be surprised.  And keep returning to check as more images / folders may have been added since your last search.  Remember that if you find something with a KEY above the CAMERA icon, that means you can’t view it from home – you need to go to a Family History Centre.

If you want to get really excited about the future of images on PROV when the new server and website becomes available, have a look at the 375 entries that appear when you search with Place – Victoria, Australia, AND Author – Public Record Office, AND Online availability.  Many of these are not yet images on FamilySearch (just a film reference) and others are available only at Family History Centres, but they will all be available on PROV in the not too distant future.  [Image 13]  Congratulations to PROV and FamilySearch for these amazing digitisation projects!

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