Saturday, April 13, 2013

Surrogate's Court

A couple of months before setting off on our holiday I sent an email to the Surrogate's Court in New York, the body responsible for maintaining probate files, as their website advised that old files may take up to three weeks to provide. We were anxious to follow up on the probate for Mr Geniaus' Great-great-aunt, Anna Regina Gowans (nee Bouton/Bouten) in the hope it would give us clues to find living relatives.

When we didn't hear from the Court after a few weeks we wrote again; this message also went unanswered. Ten days out from our proposed visit we went back to the website and decided to try emailing another address. What a contrast! We received an almost immediate reply from Ms Suzan Tell explaining that, due to time constraints, we would not be able to see the probate file on our visit but that we would be able to consult the Liber (a book used for keeping a record of specific documents or events having legal effect) for the record).

NY Surrogates Court
When we arrived in New York City our first destination was 31 Chambers Street, the site of the Court. We  found our way to the Records Department where Ms Tell was on the desk. She remembered our email, apologised profusely for her colleagues' lack of attention to our query and procured the Liber for us to peruse. She helped us with photocopying and the application to view the probate file. She promised to scan and email the file to us once it was available.  While we were in the building we also took the opportunity to visit the New York Municipal Archives in the same building in the hope to find some clues on our elusive ancestor, Maria Gowans. Unfortunately we had no luck there.

Ms Tell was as good as her word. A couple of days ago the probate file arrived in the form of several attachments to an email. We are so grateful to Ms Tell for her kind, considerate and prompt attention to our issue. 

The Surrogate's Court is housed in a magnificent old building


Sharon said...

What a wonderful building.

So do the documents reveal any useful information?

How do they compare to Australian Probate records?

Anonymous said...

Fabulous!!! and that building is absolutely stunning Jill. Great pics, Thankyou. Catherine


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