Those of Irish ancestry are well aware of Ireland’s turbulent, troubled history and costly fight for independence. Adding to Ireland’s painful saga was the bloody Irish Civil War fought between 1922-1923. One of the tragic results of that civil war was the 1922 burning of the Dublin Public Record Office and destruction of priceless, irreplaceable documents including almost all wills and probate records so helpful in doing genealogical research.
However, all is not lost! There are probate indexes available on microfilm and online, as well as copies and abstracts of wills and probate papers. The only way to find out if you’ve won the Irish genealogical lottery is to do some searching. The Irish Times states: “There are many other collections of will abstracts and transcripts in such public repositories as The National Library, The Representative Church Body Library, The Royal Irish Academy, The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and Trinity College Library.”1
Not as well known to many researchers is a nice collection of wills of members of the Society of Friends that may be found at the Friends’ Meeting House located at 6 Eustace Street, Dublin. People with Irish Quaker ancestors may also be genealogical lottery winners.
The National Archives of Ireland also has a collection of approximately 9,000 wills of Irish soldiers who fought in the First World War. Each solider was supposed to prepare and sign a will before leaving to fight. The collection is presently being conserved and digitized and will be available to the public in early 2012.
Thus, in spite of the devastating 1922 fire that turned genealogically valuable documents to ashes, there is still hope for people researching their Irish heritage. Between the many probate indexes, as well as copies and abstracts of wills and the fabulous soldiers’ wills, many researchers have been able to piece together genealogically valuable information.
To learn more about Irish probate records, see the Ireland Probate Records article in the FamilySearch Research Wiki.
1. “Irish Ancestors: Wills,” IrishTimes.com, http://www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/browse/records/wills/info.htm (accessed 28 March 2011).