For my Tuesday Tips today, I'll cover another indexing scheme for organizing the names you might find in a county record book. These books cover things like wills, deeds and more. As FamilySearch.org puts up more and more image-only historical records, it's important to understand how the indexes work. The records on FamilySearch aren't necessarily searchable via search boxes, but if you know how the indexes work you can find them almost as quickly. as you could with search boxes.
West Virginia Will Index – The example below is from FamilySearch for West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971 Hampshire Index to wills, v. 01 1907-1969
You can see the index above across the top of every page, they list the letters, so even on the A names pages you can see the S index pages. But let’s look at this. There is S on page 125. Sc is 127. Se is 129, etc. But note this is NOT a straight up alphabetical index. Page 125 is not just the names beginning with Sa and Sb. Page 125 displays the S+ the letters that aren’t specified. So things like Sa, Sh, Sp, Sl. Whoever put this index together for the county saw that there were a lot of SC names, a lot of SM, ST, etc. so those letter combinations got their own pages. There aren’t so many SA-, SP- and SH- surnames so those names have been combined on their own page.
The list progresses roughly chronologically by date of probate through the surnames, but notice that it goes up to 1968, but then a 1964 and a 1964 name have been added at the end. Word to the wise - read all the way to the end just to make sure a name hasn't been added out of order
Once you locate the name of the person you're looking for, read to the right of the name where you will find the Will Book and Page Number where their will can be found. Check FamilySearch to see if they have the images for that book digitized. If not, you may be able to borrow a microfilm with the will on it, or you may need to write to the county to get a copy of the will, but now you have the book and page to tell them where to look.
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.