Probate packets: what the files can tell you

Probate packets hold the last will and testament, codicils (additions or revocations to the will) or letters of administration.

A grant of probate is the authority given by the Supreme Court of NSW to the executor(s) to deal with a deceased person's estate. The will in the Probate packet is considered by the Court to be the only legal document.

Other documents may include:

  • inventory of assets of the estate; affidavits of death and copy of the death certificate; oath of office of the executor; affidavits sworn by the executor; executor's petition for probate; affidavits of attesting witnesses; notices of motion for administration; any application or lodgement documents including notice of motion for probate and address for service; orders relating to the filing of accounts; or renunciation of probate by executor.

See our catalogue for more information about Probate packets

These files below were digitised as part of the Archives in Your Town program.

Broken Hill residents

A doctor and a teacher/naturalist/botanist

William MacGillivray was a doctor in Broken Hill. His passion was birds and he travelled extensively in Australia to study birds and nature. In 1920, with Albert Morris, William MacGillivray helped to found the Barrier Field Naturalists' Club. Albert Morris served as its secretary until his death while William MacGillivray was President for 14 years.

William MacGillivray died in 1933 aged 67. His estate was worth over 11,000 pounds. There was a galvanised iron museum and wire netting enclosures and scientific collections (worth 250 pounds) at his home in Chloride Street. The detailed valuations of William MacGillivray’s general practice and the debts owed to the practice provide insight to a country doctor’s life.

Florence May Harding. May Harding died in 1971 in Broken Hill aged 63. May Harding was a teacher, naturalist, botanist, and artist. She also had a long association with the Barrier Field Naturalists' Club including as Secretary. For 40 years May Harding taught art and botany at the Broken Hill Technical College. May Harding was a foundation member, secretary, and treasurer of the Willyama Arts Society.

May Harding’s estate was worth $4,500 including her home at 59 Williams Street, modern appliances (washing machine and refrigerator) and a quantity of art works.

More resources about Broken Hill

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probate file for William David Kerr

William David Kerr

NRS-13660-14-1657-Series 4_192817

Probate file for Florence May Harding

Florence May Harding

NRS-13660-62-223-Series 4_719223

Dubbo residents

A civic minded landowner/magistrate/winemaker and a trade unionist/Aboriginal politician

Jean Emile Serisier established a store on the site of Dubbo in the 1840s. From 1848 to 1866 he was involved in most local activities – agitating for Dubbo to be surveyed; as an electoral returning officer, a magistrate, a justice of the peace, Secretary of the Public School Board, a roads trustee, first President of the Dubbo Free Selectors’ Association and treasurer of the first jockey club. Jean Serisier was also a substantial land owner and winemaker. He died in Paris while visiting his country of birth.

Jean Serisier’s estate was worth 2,370 pounds and administering his will led to an act of Parliament - An Act to authorize the Mortgage and Leasing of certain Lands and Hereditaments devised by the Will of Jean Emile Serisier deceased and for other purposes, 21 October 1884.

William (Bill) Ferguson was 68 when he died in 1950. Bill Ferguson was a trade unionist and Aboriginal politician. He and his family settled in Dubbo in 1933. In Dubbo he launched the Aborigines’ Progressive Association. When the government’s changed the Aborigines Welfare Board so there would be two elected Aboriginal representatives Bill Ferguson was elected and served for a number of years.

Bill Ferguson did not leave a will and his estate was not probated until 1954. His estate was worth over 500 pounds – the family home in Wingewarra Street Dubbo.

More resources about Dubbo

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Probate file for Jean Emile Serisier

Jean Emile Serisier

NRS-13660-3-[17/1916]-Series 3_4859

Probate file for William Ferguson

William (Bill) Ferguson

NRS-13660-34-11701-Series 4_421720

Kiama Residents

A landholder, a journalist and an author

Michael Hindmarsh was a pioneering landholder and Justice of the Peace. In his detailed will of seven pages he divides his property and stock among his family. The Hindmarsh family was significant in the development of Kiama including Michael Hindmarsh’s involvement in establishing agricultural societies.

Joseph Weston, a journalist of Kiama, died in 1913. Joseph Weston was the owner of the newspaper the Kiama Independent. Joseph Weston wrote a will in 1907 and it was used in the distribution of his assets but not probated. His estate was divided among his children as set out in his will.

Charmian Clift was born in Kiama and attended Kiama Public and Wollongong High schools. Charmian Clift was a writer and her output included novels, essays, short stories and scripts. Her reputation has grown over the years. Her will, handwritten on a form in 1967, left her estate to her husband. Her estate included a house in Mosman and two typewriters.

More resources about Kiama

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Probate file for Joseph Weston

Joseph Weston

NRS-13660-6-831-Series 4_60718

Probate file for Michael Hindmarsh

Michael Hindmarsh

NRS-13660-1-[14-3403]-Series 1_7126

Probate file for Charmian Clift

Charmian Clift

NRS-13660-57-170-Series 4_677703

Tamworth residents

A town clerk and an MBE recipient

Vincent Guy Kable (known as Guy Kable) was a long serving and well-regarded Town Clerk. Guy Kable was Town Clerk for 34 years and was described by some as the "ablest town clerk in the State". He also served on the State’s Electricity Advisory Committee and the State Electricity Authority and during the Second World War on the Commonwealth Administrative Planning Committee. Guy Kable was quite young when he died in 1947. He was married with three children. The will that was probated was made in 1946.

Ida Cohen was 102 when she died in 1970. Ida Cohen also lived a life of service, principally with the Red Cross for which she was received a MBE (Member of the British Empire). Ida Cohen was also involved with Australian Jewish Historical Society; Country Women's Association (NSW); Tamworth Hospital (NSW) women's auxiliary; Tamworth Ladies' Benevolent Society (NSW); Tamworth Dominican Old Girls' Union and Tamworth and District Ambulance committee (NSW). Along with bequests to many organisations and her family she included Tamworth –

…to my well beloved public of Tamworth each and every one I leave my abiding and most grateful love for its unfailing courtesy love and generosity to me”

More resources about Tamworth

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probate file for Vincent Guy Kable

Vincent Guy Kable

NRS-13660-28-8338-Series 4_334667

Probate file for Ida Cohen

Ida Cohen

NRS-13660-59-163-Series 4_693017

Tweed Heads residents

A landscape gardener and two boatmen

Michael Guilfoyle came to New South Wales in 1849 and forged a successful career as a landscape gardener. He and his family were also pioneers in the sugar cane industry in the Tweed area at Cudgen.

Michael Guilfoyle died in 1884 aged 74. Michael Guilfoyle owned considerable real estate – six houses in inner Sydney, an allotment at Waverley, over 100 acres at Cordeaux River and nearly 1,000 at Cudgen. His estate was worth 8,587 pounds.

Herbert Shepherdson and Herbert Edward Tottle

These men were boatmen at the Tweed Heads Pilot Station. They are named on the plans for the Boatmen’s cottages. Both men’s estates demonstrate the links between the Tweed Heads area and Queensland.

Herbert Shepherdson died in 1939 at Concord West without having made a will. Herbert Shepherdson was a boatman at the Pilot Station on the Tweed River from 1890 into the 1920s. He is described on his probate packet as a Retired boatman.

Herbert Shepherdson’s estate was worth 178 pounds including land in Terranora Terrace South Cooloon and bonds in Queensland Forests.

Herbert Edward Tottle died in 1943 at Manly. Herbert Edward Tottle was a boatman at the Pilot Station on the Tweed River from 1912 into the 1920s.

Herbert Edward Tottle’s estate was worth 3,170 pounds including land in Alexandria and savings. He wrote his very detailed will in 1933 leaving money to relatives in England.

More resources about Tweed Heads

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probate file for Michael Guilfoyle

Michael Guilfoyle

NRS-13660-3-[17/2053]-Series 3_9790

Probate file for Herbert Shepherdson

Herbert Shepherdson

NRS-13660-18-3973-Series 4_247029

Probate file for Herbert Edward Tottle

Herbert Edward Tottle

NRS-13660-21-5179-Series 4_279054

Wagga Wagga residents

An architect, a writer/feminist and a rugby league star

William John Monks was born in Wagga Wagga and lived in the Pastoral Hotel as a child. William Monks was an architect in Wagga Wagga and over 40 years he and his company designed buildings in practically every district in the southern half of the state. Monks and Hardy were a frequent combination in building Wagga Wagga.

William Monks died in 1943. His estate was worth over 76,000 pounds. The estate included real estate, Government stocks and mortgages. This estate passed to his sister and sister in-law.

Dame Mary Gilmore died in 1962 after a life that spanned several continents and brought her fame. Her Australian Dictionary of Australia entry describes her as poet, writer, patriot, feminist, social crusader and folklorist. As Mary Cameron she first attended school at Brucedale near Wagga Wagga. She both attended and taught at Wagga Wagga Public School. Over 70 years later, Mary Gilmore’s estate worth over 12,000 pounds was divided in detail in her 11 page will including 100 pounds to provide a prize for a pupil at Brucedale School.

Eric Leslie Weissel, a Depot Superintendent, died in Wagga Wagga in 1972 aged 69. Eric Weissel is one of the many sports stars from Wagga Wagga. He played rugby league in the Riverina area and he was good enough to play for New South Wales and Australia without playing for a Sydney club.

Eric Weissel’s estate was worth over $15,000. The bulk of the estate was the family home in Inveraray Street.

More resources about Wagga Wagga

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Probate file for William Monks

William Monks

NRS-13660-25-5834-Series 4_286495

Probate file for Mary Gilmore

Mary Gilmore

NRS-13660-43-17920-Series 4_557534

Probate file for Eric Weissel

Eric Weissel

NRS-13660-65-274-Series 4_743867

Page from the Probate file of George Barr

Probate packets & wills guide

These records include the last will & testament. A grant of probate is the authority given by the Supreme Court of NSW to the executor(s) to deal with a deceased person's estate

A last will and testament from 1863

Probate packets

This webinar focuses on the sources for probate in the State Archives Collection and how to find them

Screenshot from the probate file of Ewen John Powell

Archives behind the scenes - probate packets

These records contain the last will and testament of the deceased as well as administrative documents around the settling of the estate