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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Irish Ancestor by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Probate records are court records that deal with the distribution of a deceased’s person’s estate. Obviously only those with something to leave behind have probate actions but it is worth looking for probates for family, friends, local tradesmen and employers as well. Simple folk may well be mentioned as receiving a bequest, owing a debt, being a tenant and so forth.
Types of probate materials in Ireland include:
- Wills and their codicils (addenda) which deal mainly with land and buildings.
- Testaments dealing with movable goods.
- Letters of administration (admons) where there was no will but sufficient property to necessitate the court appointing an administrator for the estate. Sometimes there is both an admon and a will where the named executor is either unable or unwilling to act.
- Inventories list the deceased’s property, sometimes in minute detail.
- Grant or Act Books which are the daily records of all actions in probate courts.
Survival of probate materials
Although most of the indexes survived the 1922 fire at the Public Record Office in Dublin, most of the actual pre-1858 probates (wills and grants) were destroyed.
- Most of the indexes.
- A few original records
- Probates for all counties except Dublin & Kildare
The FamilySearch Wiki’s Ireland article treats this subject in more detail. In addition, there are many indexes and abstracts held elsewhere which did survive, and efforts have been made to publish these in print and electronically. These may be filmed and can thus be located in the FHLC – PLACE SEARCH under IRELAND - PROBATE RECORDS and PROBATE RECORDS – INDEXES and under the individual county listings for these topics. Others are available through Ancestry.com and other websites.
The procedure is to first search the index (or calendar) for the details which allow you to then obtain a copy of the actualwill, grant of probate of will, or grant of administration (popularly referred to as the admon) where these still exist.
Irish Wills And Administrations 1536-1857
Probate was administered by ecclesiastical courts prior to 14 January 1858. The highest court was the Prerogative Court of Armagh and there were 28 consistory (diocesan) courts which were subsidiary to it.
Probably the easiest method to find a will in this period is to first try theIndex of Irish Wills 1484-1858 produced by Eneclann on CD in 2000. This claims to be a comprehensive index to the Testamentary Records in the National Archives of Ireland (formerly the Public Record Office). These sources have never been digitally indexed or published before. They include records identified in all the National Archives card catalogues as well as the Inland Revenue Will Registers and Administration Registers 1828-1839. It covers all 32 counties and contains 70,000 records. There is a link to the National Archives whereby the researcher may order of a copy of the original document with a credit card.
Irish Origins has an Irish wills index covering 1016-1917, although the majority are within the range 1484-1858. Although you have to pay to use the index, there is very useful background information at their site.
Another way of access is to use the films from the Family History Library but this is obviously a more time-consuming route although less-expensive than buying the CD or using it at a library or FHS. Indexes of most courts are in microform, for example: Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland. 1536 - 1810 edited by Sir Arthur Vicars is on film 0990303 or fiche 6026394 (6).
Then you would need to identify the correct film for a copy of the will or order a copy from the National Archives of Ireland (Republic) or PRONI (Northern Ireland).
Irish Wills And Administrations 1858-1920
From 1858 the government took over the handling of probate matters, just as in England. There were 12 courts, the Principal Probate Registry in Dublin and 11 district will registries.
The indexes are available on 46 microfilms numbers starting at film 0100965 asCalendar of the grants of probate and letters of administration made in the principal registry and in the several district registries, 1858-1920. Ireland. Please see the full discussion of this in the FamilySearch Wiki. Films of some of the actual wills and grants are also available through the FHLC - PLACE SEARCH - IRELAND - PROBATE RECORDS.
Irish Wills And Administrations From 1920
PRONI holds all original wills and letters of administration granted in the six counties that make up Northern Ireland from 1900 onwards. For more information regarding access to indexes and getting copies of the documents see the PRONI website.
For similar information on wills proved in the Republic of Ireland see the National Archives of Irelandwebsite.
Irish Deeds And Settlements For Land 1708-1929
Genealogical data varies but can be extensive but was mainly used by Church of Ireland members not Presbyterians. The index can be found on film 0599270 item 3 as Ireland: registry of deeds, surname and county index 1708-1904, register of contents. There are 2580 microfilms entitledIreland. Registry of Deeds. Transcripts of Memorials of Conveyances and wills. 1708 – 1929 which used be located in FHLC – PLACE SEARCH - IRELAND - PROBATE RECORDS but seem to have been withdrawn from circulation forcing the researcher to now locate them in Ireland.
Wills of Irish in England 1858-date
You will find some Irish, those who owned property in England or Wales, with wills or admons listed in the Principal Registry listing for England.
Until such time the GSU films of the indexes 1858-1957 should be used. The list is repeated in its entirety under FHLC - PLACE SEARCH - IRELAND - PROBATE RECORDS – INDEXES as Calendar of the grants of probate and letters of administration made in the Principal Registry: and in the several district registries of Her Majesty's Court of Probate. Great Britain and comprises 542 microfilms starting at film 0215221. Your FSC may have some or all of these indexes on indefinite loan.
Be aware that from 1858 to 1876 those wills of Irish who had property in England may be under the 'Reseals' after the letter Z, rather than in their proper alphabetical order. The indexes (calendars) themselves contain a considerable amount of information including name, address, occupation, death date and place of the testator, the name(s) of the executor(s), and the court of probate.
Copies of the grants of probate or administration and of the actualwills may be obtained in three ways:
- For any date 1858 to date for a fee by mail with credit card, stating name of testator, identifying details from the index, and year of probate from:
The Probate Office, Duncombe Place,
York, Yorkshire YO1 2EA
- For any date 1858 to this year at the following London office for a fee per will plus any charges for your searcher's time waiting in line!
The Record Keeper
Principal Registry of the Family Division
First Avenue House, 42 - 49 High Holborn,
London WC1V 6NP
- For 1858 to 1925 the copy wills have been microfilmed and are available through the FHLC. Costs would be for loan of the film plus a photocopy.
What if the Will Does Not Survive?
Indexes give at least the name, address, year of probate and occupation, a good example being Vicar’s Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland 1536-1810 which is on fiche 6026394 (6).
Abstracts give a paragraph of essential facts from the will and grant, including name, address, date of probate, occupation, and names and relationships to the deceased of everyone mentioned in the will. On example is P. Beryl Eustace’s Abstracts of Wills from the Registry of Deeds indexed on film 0990430 item 4 and containing 7,500 abstracts.
See the excellent discussions of Irish probates in the FamilySearch Wiki and inProbate Jurisdictions: Where to look for wills by Jeremy Gibson. 1994. Federation of Family History Societies as well as to the sections in Ryan and Grenham.
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Irish Ancestor offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at email@example.com
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.
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