The perfect genealogy search of Will Records at the local county courthouse is thus:  the will books are clearly marked for dates covered, there is an index of every will in the book, and every name is spelled the way that I would spell it.

Yes, this is the perfect search.  However, it rarely turns out this way!

Have you made that trip to the courthouse, only to find out that there is no index in the book?  If so, a decision has to be made.  Do you spend your time going through every page in the book to possibly locate the ancestor’s will?  Or, do you spend your time looking at different records?  If it is an important will to find, than you will probably choose to look at every page in the book.  This will take time, but if you want to find a will (if one was written), than you will do the search.  (By the way – when citing the search of the book, make sure to mention that there was no index so a page-by-page search was conducted.)

What if there is an index?  Do you automatically find the ancestor’s name spelled the way that you would spell it?  Not necessarily!  Names are spelled so many different ways!  And, not just because of the way that the name was “commonly” spelled at the time of the will.  Many people wrote the name the way it was heard.  And, this may bear little resemblance to the correct way to spell the name.  I find it helpful to “say” the names in the index.  I have found ancestors this way more than once!  And, sometimes the name looks nothing like I would spell it!

So, the search has been made in the index, and the ancestor is not listed.  Have you checked the dates on the book binding?  Are you sure that the dates on the binding are the true dates in the book?  And, if a date is “August 1855,” which part of August 1855 is in the book?  It is important to actually check the dates in the book.  I have found wills that are dated differently than the date span listed on the binding!

Happy searching!