Probate and Administration on the American Frontier: A Study of the Probate Records of Wayne County- Northwest Territory 1796-1803; Indiana Territory 1803-1805; Michigan Territory 1805-1816

As late as 1815 there was only one county in Michigan Territory- Wayne County- made up of parts of the territory to which the Indian titles had been extinguished. As other counties were organized beginning in 1817, Wayne County was reduced to its present size. A law adopted July 27, 1818, provided that a probate court should be held in each county. By a proclamation dated October 2, 1818, Acting Governor Woodbridge declared it was “no longer expedient to continue the present subdivisions of this territory into districts” for probate purposes; instead, each county should be “a separate District and County” for the purposes of the law establishing courts of probate. A law adopted August 26, 1819, directed the “now register of wills, administrations, etc., in and for the county of Wayne” to transmit “forthwith” to the respective registers in and for the counties of Monroe, Macomb, and Mackinaw “all wills, inventories of estates, returns of administrators or executors, bonds, decrees, orders, and all other documents, papers, and vouchers whatsoever, remaining on file in his office” relating to the estate of any testator or intestate who at the time of his death resided within the limits of the counties named. That McDougall then Register of Wills (not judge of probate) of Wayne County was slow in complying with the command of the statute is indicated by the fact that a motion was made in the territorial supreme court on November 16, 1819, for a rule requiring him to show cause why a mandamus should not issue to him, commanding him to obey the requisitions of the statute.