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Given the need to leave a will stemmed from holding assets, it stands to reason that not every person who died left probate records. Most wills were left by males with property. However, wills often list the names of the deceased's family and friends, so that many more people are listed in probate records than actually left them.
Types of Probate Documents
Some types of Irish probate documents are:
- Grants, a grant is a document stating that the court has 'granted' permission for the deceased's estate to be dealt with by a named person or persons. If a will exists then the grant is a 'grant of probate' issued to the executors named in the will. If no will exists then the grant is a 'grant of administration' issued to an applicant (usually a relative of the deceased) to administer and distribute the deceased's assets according to the prescribed formula as set down by law.
- Grant Books, were the records of grants of probate and included administrations, marriage licenses, faculty of notary public, letters of tutelage and acquittance, commissions and some decrees. The grant books for Ireland dated from 1593 to 1858, but were mostly destroyed by the fire in the Public Record Office in 1922. The surviving Grant Books are for the years 1684-1688, 1748-1751 and 1839.
- Wills, a dated, signed and witnessed document setting out the deceased's bequests. These were the most informative of the probate documents since they were likely to name heirs, give relationships, occupations, places of residence, ownership of property and various details relating to the disposition of a personal estate. There were several types of wills, holograph, nuncupative etc., a good description of these is found in Wills and Their Whereabouts by Anthony J. Camp, 1974 (Family History Library British Ref. 942 S2wa 1974). The Prerogative wills were transcribed into bound Will Books after they were deposited in the Public Record Office.
- Codicils, a dated and signed addenda to a will.
- Day Books, were the daily registers of fees received for the documents issued, and allocated between offices of the judge, registrar, and marshal plus a record of the stamp duties collected. Approximate death dates and other important event dates may often be derived from the Day Books. Prior to their destruction, the Day Books dated from 1775-1858. The surviving Day Books are for the years 1784-1788.
- Letters of administration (or admons), which indicate that a person died without leaving a will so the court appointed an administrator to oversee estate distribution. These often mention only the names of persons administering the estate and some reference to the approximate date of death may be derived. While these persons are often related, the relationship may not always be easy to recognize.
- Admons with will attached, which are produced when the executor named in the will is unable or unwilling to act or if the will was flawed.
- Inventories, were the records of detailed listings of the property of the estate of the deceased. The inventories would list a record of all of the belongings and personal items. Sometimes records of sale or auction are included. The inventories were extant for the years 1688-1858 and a separate list of the inventories existed for the time period 1590-1619.
- Grant or act books, which provide a day by day account of all grants issued in a probate court including the records of grants of probate and included administrations, marriage licenses, faculty of notary public, letters of tutelage and acquittance, commissions and some decrees. The grant books for Ireland dated from 1593 1858, but were mostly destroyed by the fire in the Public Record Office in 1922. The surviving Grant Books are for the years 1684-1688, 1748-1751 and 1839.
For a discussion of probate documents and their availability, see Rosemary Ffolliott and Eileen O'Byrne, "Wills and Administrations" in Irish Genealogy: A Record Finder, edited by Donal F. Begley. (Family History Library book 941.5 D27i.)
Post-1857 Probate Jurisdictions
|County||District in which contained|
|Kerry||Cork and Limerick|
|Leitrim||Ballina and Cavan|
|Offaly (King's)||Mullingar & Principal Registry|
|Tipperary||Waterford & Limerick|
|Tyrone||Armagh & Londonderry|
Post-1857 Probate Courts
In 1858, civil, government, courts took on the work of proving wills and administrations. Eleven district will registries and a Principal Probate Registry in Dublin replaced the church probate courts.
Each registry made copies of wills and administrations that it proved in 'will and admon books' and after 20 years sent the originals to the Public Record Office in Dublin. The originals and copies, of almost all records of the Principal Probate Registry (which also had jurisdiction as a district court over the counties of Dublin and Kildare) were destroyed in the fire that consumed the Public Record Office in 1922.
Copies of wills and administrations kept by other district registries have been gathered into the National Archives and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, where they remain grouped by district. To determine the district registry that served your county of interest, see the Irish Probates Register or Anthony Camp, Wills and Their Whereabouts.
From 1858 there is a calendar or index of the grants of probate and letters of administration for the Principal Probate Registry and in the several district registries. Produced by the Principal Probate Registry, Dublin, this calendar is arranged alphabetically by the name of the testator. The Family History Library has a copy on 46 rolls of film. For each entry the calendar tells the testator's name; the executor's name; the court where the will was registered; and the deceased person's name, occupation, date & place of death. The calendars held at the National Archives, Dublin, only include the district registries of Armagh, Belfast & Londonderry to 1918.
For the years 1858-1877 there is a consolidated index to the calendars. Arranged by surname, the index gives the name of the deceased, the district registry where the probate was proved, and whether the probate involved a will or an admon. To find the film numbers for the Irish calendar and master index, select the calendar by Ireland, Principal Probate Registry (Dublin) in the Place Search of the catalog under IRELAND - PROBATE RECORDS - INDEXES. There existed a further consolidated index to the calendars for the period 1878 to 1900, but this was destroyed in 1922.
If you are searching for a will proved between 1858 and 1877, look first at the consolidated index. If you are looking for a will proved after 1877, go directly to the calendar(s). These sources will tell you the district registry where the will was proved. Once you identify the district registry, you can easily establish if a relavant will or admon books survives. District records, including indexes, that are available at the Family History Library are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under IRELAND - PROBATE RECORDS.
Pre-1858 Probate Jurisdictions
|County||Diocese(es) in which contained|
|Antrim||Connor, Derry, Down, Dromore|
|Cavan||Kilmore, Meath, Ardagh|
|Clare||Killaloe & Kilfenora, Limerick|
|Cork||Cork & Ross, Cloyne, Ardfert & Aghadoe|
|Donegal||Raphoe, Derry, Clogher|
|Down||Down, Dromore, Connor, Newry & Mourne|
|Galway||Tuam, Clonfert, Kilmacduagh, Elphin, Killaloe & Kilfenora|
|Kerry||Ardfert & Aghadoe|
|Leix (Queen's/Laois)||Leighlin, Ossory, Kildare, Dublin|
|Limerick||Limerick, Cashel & Emly, Killaloe & Kilfenora|
|Londonderry (Derry)||Derry, Connor, Armagh|
|Louth||Drogheda, Armagh, Clogher|
|Mayo||Killala & Achonry, Tuam|
|Meath||Meath, Kilmore, Armagh, Kildare|
|Offaly (King's)||Kildare, Meath, Killaloe & Kilfenora, Ossory, Clonfert|
|Roscommon||Elphin, Tuam, Clonfert, Ardagh|
|Sligo||Killala & Achonry, Elphin, Ardagh|
|Tipperary||Cashel & Emly, Killaloe & Kilfenora, Waterford & Lismore|
|Tyrone||Armagh, Derry, Clogher|
|Waterford||Waterford & Lismore|
|Wicklow||Dublin, Leighlin, Ferns|
Pre-1858 Probate Courts in Ireland
Irish probates were handled by ecclesiastical courts up to 1858. Twenty-eight diocesan courts, known as consistory courts, existed. The highest court, with authority over all the ecclesiastical courts, was the Prerogative Court of Armagh (which operated from Dublin). If a person had an estate that included property in more than one diocese and was worth more than £5, that person's will would have been proved in the Prerogative Court. And in addition, the wills of wealthy people were usually proved in the Prerogative Court.
For a list of the diocesan courts and the counties over which each had jurisdiction, see:
Camp, Anthony J. Wills and Their Whereabouts. 4th ed. London: Anthony J. Camp, 1974. (Family History Library book Ref 942 S2wa.)
Irish Probates Register. Typescript. Salt Lake City, Utah: Family History Library, 1979. (Family History Library book Reg. 941.5 P2gs.)
Most pre-1858 probate records were destroyed when the Public Record Office in Dublin burned in 1922. Fortunately, prior to the fire, the original wills and admons had been indexed. Most of the indexes survived the disaster. Microfilm copies of the indexes are available at the Family History Library. They are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:
Darwin, Kenneth. Administrations From The Peculiar of Newry and Mourne. The Irish Ancestor Vol.1, No. 1, 1969 941.5 B2i Page 41 and 42, Family History Library Salt Lake City. Small alphabetical list of Administrations found for Newry and Mourne, Years 1811-1857.
Punch, Terrence M. Wills of Irish Interest in the Probate Registry at Halifax, Nova Scotia.
A selection of Wills of Irish interest from the first five Will books - in alphabetical order of testators. Article in The Irish Ancestor Vo. 1 No. 2, 1969 Family History Library Ref 941.5 B2i
Abstract of Wills. Heirs of Wills of the following people, Lydia Carroll 1779. Margaret Dobbs 1754. John Kellett 1806. Andrew Ram 1697. Sarah Wills 1792, all of Dublin. Article in The Irish Ancestor, vol.V no. 1. 1973. pages 53-61, Family History Ref. 941.5 B2i v.5-6, also Wills of persons with surnames of Chambers, Cook, Croker, Going, Minitt, Muneere, Purecell, Purcel, Toter and Vickers covering years 1642-1818. The Irish Ancestor. vol. XIV. no. 2. 1982 pages 121-125, FHL Ref. 941.5 B2i vol. 14.
IRELAND - PROBATE RECORDS - INDEXES
Some of the indexes have also been printed in:
Phillimore, W. P. W., and Gertrude Thrift, eds. Indexes to Irish Wills. 1909-20. Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1970. (Family History Library book 941.5 P22i 1970; fiche 6036097 nos. 1-10.)
Prerogative wills of Ireland (wills tried in the Prerogative Court) have been indexed in:
Vicars, Sir Arthur, ed. Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland, 1536-1810. 1897. Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1967. (Family History Library book 941.5 P22v 1967; fiche 6026394.) His book is also available online.
Most probate index entries give the name and residence of the deceased and the year of the probate. If you find a desired index entry, the following published sources may help in establishing if a copy of the probate record exists:
Sources, a database catalogue containing references to many copy wills found in various archives and libraries. Contains the entirety of Hayes, Richard J. Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilization. (Family History Library book 941.5 A5h.).
Donation of material by the public. Abstract of Wills. Alphabetical listing of Abstract of Wills proved in the Consistorial Courts in various Counties covering years 1688-1835. Article in Irish Ancestor, Vol III.no.2.1971 pages 92-101. Family History Library Book Ref. 941.5 B2i also 18 Abstract of Wills mainly of Dublin, Co. Cork, Co. Limerick, and Co. Tipperary. covering years 1616-1832, The Irish Ancestor, Vol. IV. no. 1. 1972, pages 45-51, Family History Ref. 941.5 B2i
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Card Index to Wills in the Several Collections Held at the Public Record Office, Belfast 1536-1920. (Family History Library film 1565572-75 and 1565578.) This index was filmed by the Family History Library in 1990. The index lists many copy wills and other probate records found at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. The index is listed in the Place Search of the catalog under IRELAND - PROBATE RECORDS - INDEXES. Copies of the wills listed in the index can be obtained from the Public Record Office or can be viewed on microfilm at the Family History Library. The library's copies of the wills are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:
IRELAND - PROBATE RECORDS.
Ireland, Public Record Office. Testamentary Documents Card Index, Seventeenth to Twentieth Centuries. This card index lists surviving original wills and copy wills that were collected after the destruction of the Public Record Office in 1922. These wills and copies of wills are now on file at the National Archives. The 1928 version of the index is published in Public Record Office, Dublin, The Fifty-Sixth Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records and Keeper of the State Papers in Ireland (Dublin, ireland: Stationery Office, 1931; Family History Library book 941.5 A5r; film 0990493 item 8 and 0100239 item 4; fiche 6023597-602). In 1990, the Family History Library filmed the index. The index is listed in the Place Search of the catalog under IRELAND - PROBATE RECORDS - INDEXES. Some copies of wills referenced in the index are also on film at the library. These are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under IRELAND - PROBATE RECORDS.
Eustace, P. Beryl, ed. vol. 1, 1708-45 and vol. 2, 1746-85; and Eilish Ellis, ed. vol. 3, 1785-1832. Registry of Deeds, Dublin: Abstracts of Wills. Dublin, Ireland: Stationery Office, 1954-. (Family History Library book 941.5 P22e; vols. 1 and 2 only are on film 896,887.) These volumes contain abstracts of copies of wills registered after probate in the Registry of Deeds.
Index to many abstracts and copies of wills in the Genealogical Office of Ireland. A copy of this index can be found in P. Beryl Eustace, comp., Index of Will Abstracts in the Genealogical Office, Dublin (Dublin, Ireland: Stationery Office, 1948; Family History Library book 941.5 S2eu; film 990430 item 4.)
Indexes and registers held by the Inland Revenue office, London of Irish wills and administrations proved between 1828 and 1879. Commissioners of Inland Revenue, Irish Will Indexes, 1838-79 (Family History Library film 597268-72; indexes for 1862-63 are missing) and in any case the indexes from 1858 onwards add nothing to what can already be found in the printed calendars which were published from that year on, see further. These indexes record the name of the testator, the name and residence of the executor, the court in which the will was proved, and the folio number of the original will. Commissioners of Inland Revenue, Irish Administration Indexes, 1828-79 (Family History Library film 597278-81; indexes for 1830-31 and 1851 are missing) gives the name and sometimes residence of the deceased, the name and residence of the administrator, the name of the court where the administration was granted, and the folio number of the original administration. The will and admon registers - on which the indexes are based - survive for the years 1828 to 1839 and are summaries of the originals wills and admons. The registers from 1840 to 1879 are missing, now presumed lost. The existing registers contain names and relationships of heirs and often the death date of the deceased. The registers and indexes are on film at the Family History Library. They are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under IRELAND - PROBATE RECORDS.
Irish estate duty wills. Irish wills proved in English courts between 1812 and 1857 were subject to an estate duty tax. Abstracts of these wills were kept at the Estate Duty Office in London but have since been transferred to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Abstracts for the years 1812-1820 and part of the list for 1821 no longer exist. Surviving copies begin in 1821 and are alphabetized beginning with the letter k. Filmed copies of the surviving abstracts are available at the Family History Library. They are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:
IRELAND - PROBATE RECORDS.
Commissioners for Charitable Donations.From 1800 this body compiled abstracts of all wills in which bequests of a charitable nature were made. These records can often provide detailed information about a deceased where the original will no longer survives. The records are held at the National Archives, Dublin.
There are several other collections of will and administration abstracts compiled by various genealogists and organisations. These collections include:
Betham, Sir William.Genealogical Abstracts [of Prerogative Wills of Ireland]. Dublin, Ireland: Public Record Office. (Family History Library film 595939-45; 596139-40.) This source is arranged alphabetically. An invaluable source for abstracts of all preogative wills up to approximately 1810.
Betham, Sir William. Volume of Abstracts of Grants of Administration, Prerogative, 1595-1802. This set of notebooks is at the National Archives. It is not arranged alphabetically. The Genealogical Office has a version that is arranged alphabetically. The Family History Library has a microfilm copy of this alphabetical version, Prerogative Court Records, Dublin, Ireland (Family History Library film 100114 item 2). See above for comment on usefulness.
Burke, Sir John Bernard. Sir Bernard Burke's Collection of Wills for Forming Irish Pedigrees. 42 vols. Belfast, Ireland: Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. (Family History Library film 227866-900.) This collection is indexed (Family History Library film 227866-69).
Clare, Wallace. Abstracts from Some Irish Wills. (Family History Library film 477000 item 2.) This book provides abstracts of some wills held in the Public Record Office, Kew. It is indexed.
Other collections of will abstracts are described in Wills and Their Whereabouts.
Many Irish wills were probated in English courts, especially the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and the Prerogative Court of York. See the England Research Outlinefor more information on English courts and their records.
Leeson, Francis. Irish Nominees in the State Tontines of 1773, 1775 & 1777. Article contains alphabetical listing of Irish Nominees in The State Tontines including descendants in various counties. Article found in The Irish Ancestor vol.2 no. 1, 1970 page 47-62, Family Hisotry Library Ref. 941.5 B2i
Prerogative Court of Armagh
Commissioners were appointed in Ireland by Act of 28 Hen. VIII (1536), with power to issue probates, faculties, and dispensations. These had previously been under the direction of the Church of Rome, but after cessation with the Church of Rome, these could be granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in England. Since the Prerogative Court of Armagh was subordinate to the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, testators with property elsewhere in the British Isles and in Ireland would likely have their will proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury or have a registered copy there.
"In 1579 (25 May, 21 Eliz.), a commission was granted to Adam, Archbishop of Dublin, and Robert Garvey, M.A., empowering them 'to prove, approve and insinuate the testaments, codicils and last wills and to grant letters of administration, etc., of all and singular persons of the realm of Ireland . . . which have goods and chattels . . . in divers provinces, jurisdictions or dioceses . . . according to the course and order of the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the realm of England.' The Prerogative Court for Ireland was apparently created by Letters Patent of 1 Mar., 23 Eliz." and exercised authority from that date (1581) until the Probate Act of 1857 established the Principal and District probate registries. However, wills and administrations for the Prerogative Court of Armagh date from the appointment of the commissioners in 1536 to 1857.
The minimum criteria to have a will proved or an estate administered in the Prerogative Court of Armagh was to possess property valued at more than £5 in more than one of the approximately twenty five ecclesiastical dioceses. Wills of the wealthy are often to be found in this court since they were likely to have property in more than one diocese.
The diocesan courts regulated property within the jurisdiction of the Bishop of each diocese. Fees paid to the Bishop covered the cost of executing the will or administration. The establishment of the Prerogative courts resolved potential disputes between the Bishops of individual dioceses.
Collections of Transcripts and Abstracts of Destroyed Records
With the destruction of the original Prerogative Wills and most of the Will Books into which they were transcribed, the importance of transcripts made by various researchers cannot be over emphasized. By nature, interest in the wealthier classes and their lineages led to numerous will abstracts and transcripts. The more notable collections are here described, certainly there are many others.
William Betham (1779-1853)
The most extensive collection of surviving Prerogative Will abstracts was compiled by Sir William Betham. Amounting to over 37,000 abstracts, they contain brief genealogical details from which extensive pedigrees were later compiled. The time period covered by these abstracts is 1536 1809. However, many of the early volumes are missing and most do not go beyond 1799. The Family History Library has microfilmed both the will abstracts and the pedigrees. These may be viewed in Salt Lake City or ordered through the numerous Family History Centers throughout the world. Unfortunately, the cataloging of the collection in the Family History Library catalog makes the microfilm collection useless since there is no indication of what surname is on what reel of microfilm. See Table 3 for a complete list of the microfilm numbers.
Pedigrees were compiled from the wills and are extremely valuable. Two sets of the pedigrees exist. One made by Sir William Betham in his own hand and another copy made for Sir Bernard Burke transcribed in a very fine hand. These are indexed by both the name of the deceased for whom the will was probated and the names of spouses (alliances) listed on the pedigrees. For a list of the Family History Library microfilm numbers, see Table 4.
Sir William Betham also made the most complete abstracts of the Prerogative Administrations. These are deposited in the Genealogical Office (G.O. Mss. 257 260) with the heading "All the Administrations in the Prerogative Office in Dublin from the earliest time to the year 1802." They have been microfilmed by the Family History Library and are available on FHL microfilm 100,114. They are alphabetically arranged and usually contain the name of the testator, residence, occupation, date of probate, and names of the administrators. Estimates have been made that there are approximately 5,000 abstracts in this collection.
William Carrigan (1860-1924)
Manuscript volumes compiled by the Very Rev. William Cannon Carrigan contain an extensive collection of will abstracts. These are deposited in the Archives of St. Kieran's College, Kilkenny. Many of the wills in this collection relate to Catholic families and approximately 380 are from the Prerogative Court for the time period 1546 1857. For a printed index to the wills in this collection see The Irish Genealogist Volume 4, No. 3 (1970), pp.221 242. A manuscript copy of the index is in the Public Record Office, Dublin (Ref. M.4879) and a microfilm copy of the Carrigan collection is in the National Library of Ireland, Dublin (Ref N.480 P.902).
"The Episcopal wills from the transcripts were published in full by Canon Carrigan in Archivium Hibernicum, vols. I to IV. Further wills and abstracts from the same source appear in “History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory,” in Borris in Ossory An Irish Parish and Its People, by Hilary D. Walsh, F.S.C., and in various diocesan histories."
W. O. Cavenagh
Lt. Col. W. O. Cavenagh made numerous transcripts of many Cavengah and related families wills. These are typescript and contained in the Genealogical Office Mss. 471. This was microfilmed by the Family History Library on Family History Library microfilm 100178.
Commissioners for Inland Revenue
In 1796, the Legacy Duty Act (36 Geo. III c.52) was passed allowing for a tax payable on legacies and residues of personal estates. In 1815, the Stamp Act (55 Geo. III c.184) extended this to include money legacies and residues bequeathed in wills that would subsequently be raised from the sale of estates. While in England genealogists generally use the registers created during this period to ascertain which court a particular will was proved in, the Irish genealogist uses them to find often the only surviving information from the probate.
The Inland Revenue Office in London received copies of Irish wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Armagh and all Irish diocesan courts for the time period 1828 1879. From these, there were abstract books and indexes for both the wills and administrations created. The will indexes survive for the time period 1828 1879. The administration index for the years 1828 1829; 1832 1850; 1852 1879. The will abstracts survive for the time period 1828 1839 and the administration abstracts for the time period 1828 1839. The abstracts for the time period 1840 1879 are missing. For a list of the microfilm numbers of this collection in the Family History Library, see Table 4. The copies of the documents the abstracts were compiled from are unaccounted for. This collection supplements many of the wills which were destroyed during this time period and provides at least some information for virtually every record of probate. Remember that references to wills and administrations for which the indexes in a particular diocesan court may have been destroyed would be found in these registers.
Philip Crosslé (1875-1953)
The Crossle Genealogical Abstracts were compiled by Philip Crossle. Many of the will abstracts relate to the Prerogative Court for the time period 1620 1804. These are handwritten abstracts and are somewhat difficult to read. In addition, they are mixed in with numerous abstracts of other material such as chancery bills and linear pedigrees. There are several Crossle collections deposited in various repositories and they are not all copies of the same material.
The wills in the Crossle Collection deposited in the Genealogical Office, Dublin (G.O. Mss. 416 418) are indexed in Analecta Hibernica Vol. 17 published by the Stationery Office, Dublin. This collection is on two reels of microfilm at the Family History Library film 100176 item 1 (G.O. Mss. 417 418) for the "Drought" family and Family History Library microfilm 100175 item 2 (G.O. Mss. 416) for families of various other surnames.
The Crossle Collection deposited in the Public Record Office, Dublin is often referred to as the "Smith Books" since many of the extracts relate to the Smith family. These wills and extracts from the Prerogative Grant Books are not indexed in the volume 17 of Analecta Hibernica previously mentioned. This collection was microfilmed by the Family History Library in 1969 Family History Library film 597127 – 597131.
A third collection is deposited in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (Ref. T748 and T283). This collection is mostly will extracts for the time period 1671 1857. This material is indexed in the Report of the Deputy Keeper of Northern Ireland, 1925 Appendix F; 1933 Appendix B; and 1938 45 page 15. (See Wills and Their Whereabouts by Anthony J. Camp, London 1974). This collection was also microfilmed by the Family History Library in 1960, Family History Library film 258581 and Family History Library film 247318).
Much of the material in the Crossle collection appears to be of families in the North of Ireland except for the "Smith Books" which appear to have Smith families from the whole of Ireland.
J. N. C. Atkins Davis
Abstracts of wills made by J. N. C. Atkins Davis are indexed in Analecta Hibernica Vol. 17. Several of these wills are for the Prerogative Court. As with many of the collections, these relate to specific families with which the researcher was directly interested. The Davis collection is deposited in the Genealogical Office (G.O. Mss. 380 400) and is contained on two reels of microfilm Family History Library film 100143 and Family History Library film100144. Much of the material is mixed with pedigrees and miscellaneous notes.
Estate Duty Office
A collection of wills proved in English Courts listing executors with Irish residences was compiled from wills deposited in the Estate Duty Office in London. This collection has since been transferred to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast. Most of these wills are for the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and are copies of English wills sent to the Stamp Office. The collection of wills with Irish residences listed for the executors includes an index for the years 1812 1857 and copies of the actual wills for the time period 1821 1857. The will copies for the time period 1812 1821 were previously destroyed. However, the original will may still be found in the court in which the will was proved. The Estate Duty Office collection has been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah.
Abstracts similar to the collection compiled for the Commission of Inland Revenue (IR) are found in the English Death Duty Registers Ref. IR 26 (documents) and IR 27 (index). Currently, these are being microfilmed at the Public Record Office, Chancery Lane, London. These microfilms have been purchased by the Genealogical Society of Utah.
D. O’Callaghan Fisher
This collection contains over 2,000 abstracts compiled by D. O'Callaghan Fisher circa 1859, many relating to the Prerogative Court. Information in the index is supplemented by information from the 26th Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records and Keeper of the State Papers in Ireland (1895). The collection is deposited in the Genealogical Office (G.O. Mss. 139 144, 281) and was microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah Family History Library 100172 index and Family History Library microfilms 100173 – 100174).
John Joseph Greene
The Greene manuscripts contain prerogative wills for the family of Greene and were compiled by John Joseph Greene from 1891 1898. There are five volumes of abstracts that were deposited at the National Library of Ireland (Mss. 142 143; 149 151; 153 154; 156; 160; 170 172). A copy is also available at the Public Record Office of Ireland, Dublin.
A cover letter to the collection gives details relating to the contents as follows:
"The Green collection in the National Library consists of 31 Ms. volumes for the most part fairly written. It was made by Surgeon Major afterwards Surgeon Colonel J. J. Greene, who investigated the history of a great number of Greene or Green and collateral families in the Public Record Office during the years 1891 98. The volumes may be roughly divided into two classes, the one containing information derived from Public Records which in the main no longer exist, and the other containing information derived from sources outside the Record Office.
...Original Certified Copies issued from the Public Record Office: A volume entitled 'Wills & Admons 1632 1825' and another 'Wills & Admons 1819 1894.' These volumes mainly contain original certified copies of wills and Grants of Probate and Administration and a few Probate Office copies of Wills with some extracts of Wills and Letters of Administration.
...Though the volumes mainly relate to various Greene or Green families, they are not confined to families of that surname and contain a great deal of information concerning various other families, the collection is particularly full of information concerning Waterford, Kilkenny, Limerick and Tipperary families."
The collection was microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1950. The material relating to the Prerogative Court is mostly contained in Manuscripts 142 143; Family History Library microfilm 100235 items 1 2).
The "Hawkins Collection" consists only of an index to a collection of Prerogative Wills for the time period 1771 1852 that were discovered in the office of Mr. Hawkins after he retired as the Deputy Registrar of the Prerogative Court. Unfortunately, the "collection" was destroyed in the Public Record Office in 1922. The index to the collection is printed in the Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland 1536 1810, by Sir Arthur Vicars, Ulster King of Arms, pp. 510 511. The value of the collection is a list of wills which supplement the proved wills in the Prerogative Court.
Irish Memorials of the Dead
The journal for the "Association for the Preservation of the Memorials of the Dead" listed a few miscellaneous wills for Ireland. Some of these were prerogative wills. The majority of these transcripts were published in the
journal from 1888 1934. These are available at the Family History Library as well as other major record repositories. This publication was mainly centered on collecting tombstone inscriptions, so the probates and other miscellaneous material is scattered throughout the volumes.
This collection of Prerogative Wills was compiled by Sir Alfred Irwin and indexed in Analecta Hibernica Vol. 17. However, since the will abstracts themselves did not always identify the abstract as taken from the Prerogative Court, this defect is carried over into the index. The collection is mixed in with pedigrees and miscellaneous notes and is handwritten for the most part. The Irwin collection was deposited in the Genealogical Office (G.O. Mss. 432 435 and 438) and was microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1949. It is on Family History Library microfilms 100145 (G.O. Mss. 432 435) and microfilm 100146 (G.O. Mss. 438).
Edmund Walsh Kelly (1857-1940)
Abstracts of wills made by Edmund Kelly are indexed in Analecta Hibernica Vol. 17. Several appear to be from the Prerogative Court and many of the wills are for the surname "Kelly." This collection is also deposited in the Genealogical Office (G.O. Mss. 415) and is available on Family History Library microfilm 100175.
James B. Leslie (1865-1952)
The Leslie manuscripts were compiled by Canon James B. Leslie and there are several collections of his work deposited in the various record repositories of Ireland. Extracts of about 700 wills and genealogical notes on numerous families for the 17th 19th centuries are deposited in the Public Record Office Northern Ireland, Belfast (Ref. T1075). This collection is on microfilm at the Family History Library (microfilm 258,614–258,616). Details of this collection are given in the PRONI special list, no. 150. An additional collection of Canon Leslie's is deposited at PRONI (Ref. T305 and T305A). This collection is also on microfilm at the Family History Library microfilm 247319.
A typescript list with manuscript annotations of 981 wills of the 17th 19th centuries is deposited at the National Library of Ireland (Ms. 1774). These are arranged alphabetically under the testators surname and summarize the dispositions of each will. A collection of abstracts of wills, exchequer bills, and some pedigrees mostly relating to families in counties Louth, Cavan, and Dublin is on microfilm at the National Library of Ireland (Ref. N526 P.799). This collection covers 17th 19th century material, but deals primarily with the 18th century.
In his History of Kilsaran (county Louth), Rev. James B. Leslie listed many wills of residents in Appendix VI, pp.323 339. These will abstracts are mainly taken from the Prerogative, Drogheda, and Armagh courts.
Hodson See Sadlier
The Matthews collection contains over 300 abstracts of Prerogative wills and administrations relating to the Matthews family. It covers the time period 1597 1857 and is deposited at the Public Record Office Northern Ireland, Belfast (Ref. T681).
The Alfred Molony collection mainly relates to wills for the surname "Molony" and the abstracts were taken from the Prerogative Court and the diocesan courts of Limerick and Killaloe. Entries from this collection are indexed in Analecta Hibernica Vol. 17 (Family History Library book # 941.5 B2ah). This collection is in the Genealogical Office (G.O. Mss. 456 466) and is on Family History Library microfilm 100149 (G.O. Mss. 456 457) and Family History Library microfilm 100150 (G.O. Mss. 460 466).
The Phillips collection is deposited at the Public Record Office, Dublin and was microfilmed in January, 1951 by the Family History Library (microfilm 101018). The collection consists of testamentary documents, original wills and administrations. It is alphabetically arranged by box and there are several boxes to each roll of microfilm. A collection of "Large wills in the Prerogative Office" was also microfilmed (Family History Library microfilm 101027) and has an index at the beginning. These are contained in the Phillips Mss. Vol. 214.
Prerogative Court of Canterbury
The Prerogative Court of Armagh was subordinate to the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in London, England. Since many of the wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Armagh were for the upper class, these individuals often had property in other parts of the United Kingdom. When this was the case, either a copy of the will was deposited in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, or the will was proved in the Canterbury Court and a copy was deposited in Ireland. Therefore, many wills have complete copies existing in the extant wills of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. This collection is also available on microfilm through the Family History Library. For microfilm numbers, see the Family History Library Locality Catalog under the heading "ENGLAND PROBATE RECORDS".
An index to the Irish Wills in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury for the time period 1832 1901 was made by the staff of W.P.W. Phillimore and were later edited and typed by Cecil Humphery Smith, Duncan Harrington and the staff of the Institute of Heraldic & Genealogical Studies. The indexes were made from abstracts made by Culleton's Heraldic Office. The collection contains abstracts of 559 wills. A surname index to the collection is printed in the Federation of Family History Societies publication The Journal of the Institute of Heraldic & Genealogical Studies Vol. 11 Nos. 73/74, new series 49/50 (Jan 1980).
Registry of Deeds
Many wills are registered in the Registry of Deeds, Henrietta Street, Dublin. Often, these were copies of wills proved in other courts. Since the wealthier classes were the ones most likely to dispose of property, a number of the wills are copies of wills proved in the Prerogative Court. In some instances, only the portion of the will relating to the disposition of property was filed in the Registry of Deeds.
Since the Registry of Deeds was not affected by the destruction of the Four Courts, this massive collection remains intact and serves as a valuable source for the Irish genealogist. The work entitled Registry of Deeds Abstracts of Wills indexes the wills contained in the Registry of Deeds for the time period 1708 1832.
These were abstracted and indexed by P. Beryl Eustace (vol. 1, 2 and 3) and Eilish Ellis (vol. 3). They were published by the Irish Manuscripts
Commission, Dublin volume 1: 1956, volume 2: 1954, and volume 3: 1984. Index volumes 1 and 2 of the Registry of Deeds Abstracts of Wills are also on Family History Library book 941.5 P22e.
The entire collection of wills (and deeds) is available on microfilm at the Family History Library. For the microfilm numbers, look in the Family History Library Locality Catalog under the heading "IRELAND LAND AND PROPERTY."
H. A. Richey
This collection comprises research into a number of Irish families and contains abstracts of Prerogative Wills made by H. A. Richey circa 1900. The collection is deposited in the National Library of Ireland (Ref. Mss. 8315 16). This collection is not available on microfilm through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
Thomas U. Sadlier (1882-1957)
Abstracts of wills compiled by Thomas Ulick Sadlier, Registrar and Deputy Ulster King of Arms contains a number of Prerogative Wills. Sadlier was assisted by Major V.C.T. Hodson. This collection is deposited at the Genealogical Office (Mss. 424 427) and was microfilmed by the Family History Library on Family History Library microfilm 100177. Most of the volumes contain indexes at the end of each volume. There are also a few miscellaneous prerogative wills in G.O. Mss. 700 on Family History Library microfilm 100178.
The Stewart collection consists of copies of extracts of Prerogative wills for the time period 1655 1812 and principally for families in the Diocese of Down and/or families who were living in the counties of Antrim (Belfast), Down, and Dublin. The Prerogative wills are not always noted as taken from that court. A copy of the collection is deposited at the Public Record Office, Northern Ireland, Belfast (Ref. T403). A typescript copy obtained by the Family History Library was microfilmed and is available on Family History Library microfilm 1183517 item 2.
This typescript copy was presented to the Rev. David Stewart and was acquired by the Family History Library in August, 1956. The forward written in Stewart's own hand reads:
"These extracts were made by me in the period between the years 1897 and 1916. In March of the former year I became minister of the congregation in Tralee, and, on visits to the North, it was customary for me to spend a little time in Dublin. On such accessions (sic) I usually spent some time in the Public Record Office and made notes of matters which were of interest to me.
I lent my manuscript book of extracts of wills to the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records, Belfast, to copy and received this duplicate copy of the same in recognition of my assistance."
Henry B. Swanzy (1873-1932)
Dean Rev. H. B. Swanzy compiled an extensive collection of will abstracts, many of which are deposited at the Public Record Office Northern Ireland (Ref. T282 and T1746). The dates of the Prerogative material in this collection span the time period 1681 1846. This material supplements Betham's abstracts due to the extended time period beyond 1800. Much of the material also pertains to the diocesan courts of Clogher and Kilmore and it is probable the Prerogative material relates to individuals in these dioceses as well.
The Swanzy Collection of wills deposited in the Genealogical Office, Dublin (G.O. Mss. 420) was microfilmed by the Family History Library Family History Library microfilm 100176 item 2. These typewritten Prerogative will abstracts are mixed in with abstracts from the diocesan courts and are roughly in alphabetical order. They are noted with the term "P. Will" or "Prerog. will" following the name of the testator. These wills are indexed in Analecta Hibernica Vol. 17.
Gertrude Thrift (1872-1951)
A sizeable collection of will abstracts amounting to approximately 4,000 was compiled by Miss Gertrude Thrift. This collection is deposited at the Public Record Office of Ireland, Dublin and was microfilmed by the Family History Library microfilm 592949 956 andmicrofilm 596408 419. This material is indexed in the Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records and Keeper of State Records in Ireland, 55th Report pp. 69 90 and 57th Report pp. 325 420. Not all of the will abstracts are for the Prerogative Court.
William H. Whelply (1866-1960)
William Henry Welply lived to be over ninety years of age and compiled an extensive collection of will abstracts. Copies of his work appear in various record offices. The Representative Church Body Library, Dublin has a collection of many of these will abstracts which cover much of Ireland. The Whelply will abstracts are indexed in Analecta Hibernica Vol. 17.
The abstracts from this collection relating only to families living in the Cork area were printed and published in the Albert E. Casey Collection. Volume fourteen of this fifteen volume set contains the will abstracts for counties Cork and Kerry and covers the entire time period the Prerogative Court was in existence (1536 1857). The wills are indexed by every name mentioned in the abstract at the end of volume fourteen. However, the index is defective and some entries are missing. The extracts in this collection are typewritten and the printing reduced standard 8 1/2 x 11 pages to accommodate printing four to a single page. Thus, the printing in these volumes is very small and may require the use of a reading glass. This collection (Casey's) was microfilmed by the Family History Library and volume 14 is on Family History Library microfilm 823809 item 2. Again, this material was printed only for the Cork area families, the remaining extracts were not published in this work.
A number of volumes of the Welply collection are also to be found in the Society of Genealogists, London. These cover the time period 1569 1806, thus duplicating much of the Betham collection.
Abstracts of 195 Prerogative wills were compiled by Dr. Lorton Wilson of Burnham on sea, Somerset. This collection is on microfilm at the National Library of Ireland (Ref. N.2880 P.1990). Wills of Irish persons proved in England also appear in this collection. This collection has not been microfilmed by the Family History Library.
Web Sites and online indexes
- Online indexes pre-1858
- Online index with many images of probate records post-1857 Registries of Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry.