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Wills and their associated papers form one of the most important sources of genealogical information in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland being one of the largest groups of records held, comprising over 9,000 feet of shelf storage. As well as their use in genealogical research, there is continuing administrative and legal use of the records on a daily basis by solicitors requesting copies of wills and grants to deal with disputes over property, etc.

Wills and Codicils: A will is a legal document in which a person (referred to as the ?testator?) records his/her last wishes and regulates the rights of others over his/her property or family after his/her death. Everyone can make a will with a few minor exceptions such as those of unsound mind. However, only a small proportion of the population made wills and married women rarely made wills before 1882. The signature is made or acknowledged in the presence of witnesses who also must sign the will. This was to ensure that there was no concealment of the will or the substitution of a false one by others and to prove that the person had power to dispose of his/her goods and property and was not under coercion.

Strictly speaking a will dealt with land and buildings and a testament with any other sort of property such as money, furniture, stock, etc., but the two are usually combined in one document referred to as a ?will?. Those who are left goods and property in a will are called ?beneficiaries? and those who are appointed to administer the terms of a will are known as ?executors?. The testator can name one or more persons to act as executor and anyone can be named. Any alteration to a will has to be separately dated and attested in the same way and is called a ?codicil?. A person can make as many codicils as he wishes and can alter or revoke his will at any time and as often as he wishes but the last one generally prevails.

Probate: Wills cannot take effect until after the death of a person and after they have been proved in a court of probate. The grant of probate authenticates the will and confers on the executors the power to administer the estate. Probate can take weeks, months or even years. Where the will did not specify any executors or the executors were unable to act or renounced their intention to act or had died, a grant of letters of administration with will annexed was granted, usually to the residuary legatees (who may be the next of kin).

Intestacy: A person who dies without making a will is described as intestate. In this case the court of probate can appoint administrators and can grant letters of administration to the next of kin or other persons to administer the estate of the intestate. On the granting of letters of administration (sometimes abbreviated to ?admon?) the court requires the administrator to take out an administration bond with sureties to make an inventory of the goods of the deceased and to administer faithfully. However, under current legislation administration bonds are not required in every case and an inventory is not required unless directed by a court.

Disputes: Where a person wishes to prevent probate or administration being granted they entered a ?caveat?. The reasons for objecting to a grant being issued may be that the will is to be contested or the caveator is not in agreement with a particular person applying for a grant. Only sample caveats have been preserved by PRONI.

Contents of Wills: Wills are a very valuable source of information for both the genealogist and the local historian. They will give: the name, address and occupation of the testator; the names of the beneficiaries and sometimes their address and occupation (all members of the immediate family may be named, including a network of other relatives); details of land and goods possessed; the names of executors and witnesses (and sometimes their address and occupation) who may also be related; and the date of the will, which can indicate the approximate date of death ( most wills up until the 19th century were made close to death). So wills can often give a complete picture of the family and their possessions and evidence of their wealth and status in society as well as evidence of how people lived. However, caution should be exercised when interpreting relationships since ?son?, ?father?, etc., are often applied to mean ?natural?, ?step? and ?in-law?, while nieces and nephews can be called grandchildren and cousins may be any relatives.

Disposing of Estates: Generally everything can be bequeathed except for goods held as administrator of an intestate?s estate. The executor of an executor can administer the goods of the first testator but the executor of an administrator cannot administer the goods of the intestate and so the court has to appoint another administrator of the goods left unadministered. This is called an administration de bonis non (abbreviated to d.b.n.).

Proving of Wills: Up until 1857 the Established Church of Ireland, through the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Armagh and the consistorial courts in each diocese, was responsible for granting probate and issuing letters of administration. The Prerogative Court had jurisdiction over persons with bona notablia (ie notable goods worth more than 5) in more than one diocese so Prerogative Court wills are generally those of the more wealthy in society. The consistorial courts on the other hand had jurisdiction over persons living in their own diocese and not having bona notabilia in any other diocese. This was swept away in 1857 when probate matters were transferred from ecclesiastical to civil jurisdiction. The records were eventually moved to the Public Record Office of Ireland (PROI) after the passing of the Public Records (Ireland) Act in 1867.


Although the Prerogative Court wills went back to the 16th century, those from the diocesian registries covering Northern Ireland dated back only to the 17th century. All the administration bonds, original wills and most of the grant books of probate and letters of administration were destroyed in Dublin in 1922 (surviving material is listed below). However, the PROI had made indexes of the wills and administration bonds, most of which survived. The indexes of wills are alphabetical and record:

    • the residence of the testator (town or townland),
    • the year of probate,
    • occasionally occupation.

The indexes to the administration bonds are alphabetical by year only under the initial letter of the surname and record:

  • the address of the intestate or testator,
  • occasionally occupation,
  • date of the bond.

Although the wills cannot now be produced (they were destroyed in 1922), the indexes indicate that a person did once exist and that his/her will was proved at a certain time.

Prerogative Court Records:


    1. "Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland 1536-1810" by Sir Arthur Vicars published 1897. It contains 42,000 entries, some relating to persons who lived in Ulster.
    2. Index to Prerogative administrations intestate 1595-1802. It records the name of the ?intestate?, residence, date of the administration and the names of the administrators, which are listed as brother, sister, children, wife, widow, husband, etc. PRONI Ref. T490
    3. Index to Prerogative wills 1811-57 (Northern Ireland testators only). On PRONI Public Search Room shelves.
    4. Indexes to the Prerogative will books 1664-84, 1706-08, 1726-9, 1777 (A-L), 1813 (K-Z), and 1834 (A-E), which include Northern Ireland testators. Original books are in the National Archives of Ireland (Dublin). Also indexed in "Irish Genealogical Guides: A Guide to Copies and Abstracts of Irish Wills" edited by Rev. Wallace Clare (1930).
    5. Indexes to grant books of probates and administrations and marriage licences 1595-1858. PRONI Ref. MIC 7/Reels 8-12.

Consistorial Court Records.

Diocese of Armagh: Covering parts of cos. Armagh, Londonderry, Louth, Meath and Tyrone:


  1. Wills Index 1666-1838, but mainly from 1677, surnames A-W; a 19th century copy. On PRONI Public Search Room shelves.
  2. Will indexes 1677-1857, surnames M-Y only, including indexes to wills for the Sub-Registry of Drogheda in Armagh diocese 1687-1846, surnames A-Y. On PRONI Public Search Room shelves.
  3. Index to administration bonds 1742-1857, A-E, F-L, M-P and Q-W (4 volumes). On Public Search Room shelves.

Diocese of Clogher: Covering parts of cos. Donegal, Fermanagh, Louth, Tyrone and all of county Monaghan:


  1. Wills index 1661-1857. On Public Search Room shelves.
  2. Index to administration bonds 1660-1858. PRONI Ref. T 3717/1.

Diocese of Connor: Covering parts of cos. Antrim, Down and Londonderry:


  1. Wills index 1622-1858, surnames A-L (1638-1858), surnames M-Y (1622-1857). On Public Search Room shelves.
  2. Index to administration bonds 1636-1858, 2 volumes ? surnames A-L (1661-1857) and surnames M-Y (1636-1858). On Public Search Room shelves.
  3. Index to wills (and possibly also administrations) 1846-1858. PRONI ref. DIO 1/21/1.
  4. Copy wills 1818-20. PRONI ref. T 2501.
  5. Copy wills 1853-8. PRONI ref. MIC 232.

Diocese of Derry: Covering parts of cos. Antrim, Donegal, Londonderry and Tyrone:


  1. Wills index 1612-1858 (Published). On Public Search Room shelves.
  2. Index to administration bonds 1798-1857. On Public Search Room shelves.

Diocese of Down: Covering parts of cos. Antrim and Down.


  1. Wills index 1646-1858 (2 volumes). On Public Search Room shelves.
  2. Copy wills 1818-20. PRONI ref. T 2501.
  3. Copy wills 1850-8. PRONI ref. MIC 232.
  4. Index to administration bonds 1635-1857. On Public Search Room shelves.

Diocese of Dromore: Covering parts of cos. Antrim, Armagh and Down:


  1. Wills index 1678-1858 (Published). On Public Search Room shelves.
  2. Index to administration bonds 1742-1858. On Public Search Room shelves.

Diocese of Kilmore: Covering parts of cos. Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim and Meath:


  1. Wills index (Betham?s copy and fragments from the original Dublin copy of the index). (Published). On the Public Search Room shelves.
  2. Index to administration bonds 1728-1857. PRONI ref. T 3717/2.

Diocese of Raphoe: Covering part of county Donegal:


  1. Wills index 1684-1858 (Published). On the Public Search Room shelves.

Exempt Jurisdiction of Newry and Mourne:


  1. Wills index 1727-1858 (Published).



  1. Burke?s Pedigrees:

    • Burke?s pedigrees 1536-1800. PRONI ref. T 559/1-42.
    • Index to the above pedigrees 1536-1800. PRONI ref. T559/43.

    The loss of the prerogative wills has very largely been made good due to the fact that Sir William Betham, Ulster King of Arms, made genealogical abstracts of all the wills, 1536-1800, and administrations intestate, 1595-1802. From these he prepared will pedigrees showing all names, relationships and dates mentioned in the wills and administrations. Betham?s successor, Sir Bernard Burke, had the volumes of will pedigrees copied for his own use but without subsequent marginal annotations. These copies, in 42 volumes, were purchased by PRONI in 1931, and contain details from 16,000 Irish wills and about 5,000 grants of administration.

    Each volume is self-indexed, giving an index to families and an index to other relatives, and in addition there is a composite index to various other names apart from the families for which there are pedigrees (T 559/43). PRONI has compiled a master index of testators and of persons for whom grants of administration were made; this appears in the T 559 list. For example, a Brown family pedigree may include a member of the Smyth family and so this Smyth reference will not be in the indexes in the T 559 list but will be in T 559/43 index.

    Some of the entries in the T 559/43 index have a cross marked over the volume/page number which means that you should check the index to the particular volume as there are more entries scattered throughout it. If the page number is followed by ?etc? it means that the particular T 559 volume to check the index at the back of it, thus ensuring you have seen all the entries for the families in which you are interested and which are included in that particular volume. The actual abstracts of the prerogative wills and grants of administration in T 559 can be consulted at the National Archives in Dublin, but they do have some limitations, e.g., they include almost no mention of property, the addresses of relatives are omitted and executors are only mentioned when they are relatives.

    The Genealogical Office in Dublin has a copy of Betham?s abstracts of grants of administration in a more convenient form, arranged alphabetically by surname, and also holds his volumes of sketch pedigrees. Vicars? Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland, 1536-1810, is also a useful guide to the abstracts and to Burke?s pedigrees and though it does not include intestates, it does include wills, 1801-1820, which are not in Burke?s pedigrees or even in Betham?s notebooks. An index for the period 1811-57 is in the National Archives, Dublin. PRONI has a copy for Northern Ireland testators only.


    1. Private Archives:

    Although original wills prior to 1858 were destroyed, copies of them are often found in private records, for example in solicitors? papers and in estate and family papers. Thousands have been found in archives deposited in PRONI, which has compiled a card index of all such pre-1858 wills. It can be consulted in the Public Search Room.


    1. Irish Land Commission Archive (Dublin):
    2. The records of the Irish Land Commission in Dublin contain over 10,000 copies of wills and administrations, mostly 19th century and will include those of persons with addresses in Northern Ireland. They were lodged with the Irish Land Commission as evidence of title to land prior to the sale of the land to the Irish Land Commission. An index to these wills and administrations (which simply gives the name and address and the date of grant of probate or letters of administration) is available on the shelves in the Public Search Room in PRONI. The documents themselves can be consulted at the Irish Land Commission?s Office in Upper Merrion Street, Dublin.


    3. Irish Land Commission Archive, Northern Ireland:
    4. There are copies of wills. Etc., in the Irish Land Commission papers in the Northern Ireland Land Registry archive (PRONI Ref. LR.1). Although there is no separate index to the wills, there is an index to estate owners which leads you to the reference for the appropriate papers.


    5. Registry of Deeds, Dublin:
    6. Another source of pre-1858 wills is the Registry of Deeds where wills as well as title deeds, etc., were sometimes registered (usually where a dispute was anticipated, for example, over persons excluded from the provisions of the will). Over 2,000 wills were registered from 1708, when the Registry of Deeds was set up, to 1832 when registering of wills ceased. Abstracts of these indexes, 1708-1832, were published by the Irish Manuscripts Commission in three (3) volumes with an index to the testators and beneficiaries. These are available on the shelves in the Public Search Room in PRONI.

      The printed abstracts are quite full, recording the name and address of the testator, the occupation (where given), the names of the relatives and their relationship to the testator, names and addresses of other legatees, executors, etc., the lands being bequeathed, and the names and addresses and occupations of the witnesses. These printed abstracts were made from the transcripts of the memorials of the wills which can be found under the PRONI ref. MIC 311 and which will record the entire will. The printed abstracts give the volume number, page number and memorial number to the transcript books so the wills can easily be identified.


    7. Genealogical Office, Dublin:
    8. Apart from copies of Betham?s abstracts of administration grants and his will pedigrees, the Genealogical Office in Dublin holds many abstracts of pre-1858 wills, some of which relate to Ulster. A manuscript index of most of these is held by the Genealogical Office and was published in Analecta Hibernica No.17, 1949, but has since been added to. It covers amongst others, the Swanzy and Welply collections, which are additional to those described under these collections.


    9. Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) Records:
    10. The Society of Friends has always had a strong emphasis on proper record-keeping, including the keeping of a record of wills in order that any personal or real estate left to trustees on behalf of children would be secured. However, the only wills for Northern Ireland are to be found amongst the Ballyhagen Meeting House records which contain 28 wills, 1695-1740. Abstracts of these were published in The Irish Genealogist, 1950. Many of these are unique as they were never proved and therefore do not appear in the indexes to the wills handled by the ecclesiastical courts.


    11. Estate Duty Office Records:
    12. Estate duty is levied on the value of property which passes on the death of a person. Copies of wills proved in English Prerogative and Diocesan Courts of testators with an Irish address and liable for estate duty, 1812-57, were sent to the Estate Duty Office, London, and were then passed to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland by the Public Record Office in London. There were originally almost 3,000 wills in this series but only those numbered 546-1916 were received. The series therefore begins in 1821 (though an index is available from 1812-20) and includes testators with addresses in Northern Ireland. Attached to each will is a declaration as to the value of the property (that it was under a certain amount) and the date of death is also given.


    13. Commissioners of Inland Revenue:
    14. Abstracts of prerogative and diocesan wills and administrations, 1828-39, (apart from the first half of 1834) sent to the Inland Revenue were obtained by the National Archives in Dublin. The will registers record the date of the will and probate, date of death, names and address of executors and details of main legacies and beneficiaries. The administration registers are less detailed but record date of death and names and address of the deceased and the administrators. There are also indexes to the wills and administrations for 1928-79 in the National Archives, Dublin.


    15. Stewart-Kennedy Notebooks:
    16. Trinity College Library in Dublin possesses the Stewart-Kennedy notebooks, which contain about 500 will abstracts, mainly from the early 17th century to the late 19th century. They relate to the Stewart and Kennedy families and related families. Many of these wills were proved in the consistorial courts of Down and Connor. A copy of these abstracts for Ulster testators can be found under the PRONI Ref. T 700.


    17. Welply Collection:
    18. W. H. Welply of Greenisland, Co. Antrim, deposited his collection of about 1,500 abstracts of wills in the Representative Church Body Library, Dublin. They consist mainly of Prerogative (some relating to Ulster) and Cork and Cloyne wills and date mostly from the early 17th century to the mid 19th century. Copies of a large number of them were given to PRONI and can be found under the PRONI Refs. T 797, T 993 and T 996. An index to those in T 797 can be found in the Deputy Keeper?s Report for Northern Ireland for 1937, apart from those where a transcript already existed in the Public Record Office, Dublin.

      The Welply will abstracts, which form a sizeable proportion of the Irish will abstracts held by the Society of Genealogists in London, include some testators with addresses in Ulster so you should check the index in the 1934 Deputy Keeper?s Report and the Rev. Wallace Clare?s Guide to Copies and Abstracts of Irish Wills, 1930.


    19. Swanzy Collection:
    20. The Rev. H. B. Swanzy of Newry, County Down, compiled abstracts of many wills and administrations from the Prerogative Court, 1681-1859, Clogher diocese, 1697-1832, and Kilmore diocese, 1694-1806. These are in the National Archives, Dublin, but copies are available in PRONI under the reference T 282. An additional 863 abstracts, largely of Down, Connor and Dromore wills, are to be found in the Representative Church Body Library with a copy in the Genealogical Office, Dublin.


    21. Crossle Manuscripts:
    22. A useful collection of copies or abstracts of wills, grants, etc. was made by Philip Crossle of Dublin and is available in PRONI largely under the PRONI reference T 283 A-B (but there are also copies in T 467, T 699, T 743, T 748, T 780 and T 845). They include wills, grants, etc. from the Prerogative Court, 1668-1855, and from the Consistorial Courts of Armagh, 1697-1819, of Clogher, 1720-1824, of Connor, 1672-1847, of Derry, 1682-1810, of Down, 1718-1830, and of Dromore, 1728-1852. An index to those in T 283 can be found in the Deputy Keeper?s Report for Northern Ireland, 1925, Appendix F.


    23. Tennison Groves Collection:
    24. In 1939 PRONI purchased a large accumulation of notes of the late Tennison Groves, an Irish records agent of many years experience who had transcribed documents in the Public Record Office, Dublin, which were destroyed in 1922. Included are abstracts of wills and administrations from the 17th century relating to testators with addresses in Ulster. The indexes to these are to be found in the Personal Names card index in the Public Search Room in PRONI.


    25. Office of Charitable Donations and Bequests:
    26. A printed list of abstracts of all charitable donations and bequests contained in wills registered in Prerogative and Consistorial Courts, 1801-07, was published and is available on shelves in the Public Search Room in PRONI. Those for 1805 and 1814 were abstracted by T. U. Sadlier and can be found at the Genealogical Office and are indexed in Analecta Hibernica, No.17. Details of them were also published from 1825 in the Dublin Gazette. Indexes to these for the period 1800-28 and 1840-57 are in the National Archives, Dublin.


    27. English Ecclesiastical Courts:

    If the deceased had property both in Ireland and in England and Wales, then a grant of probate was made both in England and in Ireland. So you will find some Irish wills in the Prerogative Courts of Canterbury and York and in English Consistorial Courts. There are some indexes available to these:

      • List of Irish wills and administrations, Prerogative Court of Canterbury, before 1660 and 1751-75 at the Irish Genealogical Research Society, London.
      • Calendar of Irish Wills, Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1634-52 published in Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vol. 78, part 2, pp. 24-37.


    Under the Court of Probate and Letters of Administration Act (Ireland) 1857, the testamentary authority of the ecclesiastical courts was abolished and the Prerogative Court and Consistorial Courts were replaced by the Principal Registry in Dublin and 11 District Registries, which included those for Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry. Applications for probate or letters of administration could be made at the Principal Registry in all cases but could also be made at a District Registry within whose area the deceased had a fixed place of abode.

    From 1858 to 1921 (when it was abolished) the Armagh Registry covered counties Armagh, Fermanagh, Louth, Monaghan and Tyrone except for the baronies of Strabane and Omagh in county Tyrone. Belfast Registry from 1858-1921 covered only counties Antrim and Down, but in 1921 it became the Principal Registry for Northern Ireland. Londonderry District Registry from 1858 to 1921 covered counties Donegal, Londonderry and the baronies of Strabane and Omagh in county Tyrone. In 1921 Donegal was removed from this District and thereafter applications for probate or letters of administration could be made at the Londonderry District Registry where the deceased had a fixed place of abode on counties Fermanagh, Tyrone and Londonderry (though applications could still be made to the Principal Probate Registry in Belfast).

    In 1922 the original wills of the Principal Registry (Dublin) up to 1904 and the 11 District Registries up to 1899 were destroyed in Dublin but the will transcripts made by the District Registries survived as they were held in each District Registry. They are as follows:

    District Probate Registries References

    Armagh, 1858-1921, with an index to each volume.

    PRONI Ref. T ARM 1. 1858-1900 only on microfilm ref. MIC 15C/1

    Belfast, 1858-1909, with an index to each volume from 1858-99.

    PRONI Ref. T BEL 1. 1858-99 only on microfilm ref. MIC 15/C2

    Londonderry, 1858-99 and 1921-47, with an index to each volume from 1858-99.

    PRONI Ref. T DER 1. 1858-99 only on microfilm ref. MIC 15C/3

    Cavan, 1858-1909, with an index to each volume.

    PRONI Ref. MIC 499

    Principal Probate Registry, Dublin 1874 ?G-M?

    PRONI Ref. MIC 232

    There is a complete list of all post-1858 wills and letters of administration available in what are known as will calendars. An alphabetical list was produced for each year recording the name and address of the deceased, occupation, usually the place of death (after 1982 this detail is omitted in all cases), the date of death, the value of the estate and the name of the person to whom probate or administration and in the early volumes relationship to the deceased.

    These will calendars continued to be produced from 1921 onwards for Northern Ireland testators and intestates. They are on open access in the Public Reception area of PRONI. A consolidated index (which includes Belfast, Armagh and Londonderry District Registries) exists for the period 1858-77 and is to be found on the Public Search Room shelves. Other indexes on the Public Search Room shelves in PRONI are:


      • Index to Belfast will books, 1890-99.
      • Index to Belfast wills and administrations, 1900-08.
      • Index to Londonderry wills and administrations, 1900-09, with Donegal wills, 1900-03.
      • Index to Armagh wills and administrations, 1901-08, with Louth and Monaghan wills, 1900-03.

    Original Wills:


    Belfast District Registry wills and administrations, 1900-21. (Copies in volume form up to 1909 can be found in TBEL 1)

    PRONI Ref. T BEL 2

    Principal Probate Registry wills and administrations, 1922-1984.

    PRONI Ref. T PRN 2 & 3

    Armagh District Registry wills and administrations except for counties Louth and Monaghan, 1901-21. (Copies in volume form can be found in T ARM 1)

    PRONI Ref. T ARM 2

    Londonderry District Registry wills and administrations, 1900-84. (Copies in volume form from 1921-47 can be found in T DER 1)

    PRONI Ref. T DER 2 & 3

    Donegal wills and administrations, 1900-21. (These are part of Londonderry District Registry records; they are wills of testators who lived in Donegal but the wills we proved in the Londonderry District Registry).

    PRONI Ref. T DER 6


    These records are not listed and must be ordered out by using the will calendars from which you should extract: the name, the date of probate and the place of probate [Armagh (before 1921); Donegal (before 1921); Londonderry; Belfast (used to describe the Belfast District Registry before 1921]: the Principal Probate Registry. The wills are stored in envelopes. Each will envelope contains not only the will but usually also the oath of the executor/s, a schedule of particulars of buildings and lands, Inland Revenue affidavits (in the case of early wills) and estate duty accounts. Envelopes of administration will include the application for grant of administration, the oath of the administrator and the administration bond.

    Grant books/files:

    The grant books are in several series:


      • grants of probate,
      • grants of letters of administration,
      • grants of letters of administration with will annexed,
      • grants ? special and de bonis non.

    From the mid 1960s, the grants are in the form of files rather than books.


    Armagh District Registry, 1900-21

    PRONI Ref. T ARM 4

    Belfast District Registry, 1900-21

    PRONI Ref. T BEL 4

    Londonderry District Registry, 1900-84

    PRONI Ref. T DER 4

    Principal Probate Registry, Belfast, 1922-85

    PRONI Ref. T PRN 4

    The appropriate grant book/file can be accessed using the will calendar from which you should extract the place and date of probate and the type of grant issued. For example, if you want to access the grant for David Johnston?s will which was, according to the will calendar, probated in Belfast on 15 December 1916, you then go to the list of testamentary records and look under the Belfast District Registry (which has the code T BEL) and then check the classification scheme for a reference to the class of grant books. This class is identified as T BEL 4 and, since the grant books are arranged chronologically, you should find the 1916 grant books under T BEL 4/17 and, since it is a grant of probate, the grant of David Johnston?s will should be found in T BEL 4/17/1.

    Will Calendar Examples (1916):

    JOHNSTON Bridget [238] 5 July Administration (with the Will) of the Estate of Bridget Johnston of Glenmore Collon County Louth Widow who died 22 December 1915 granted at Armagh to Thomas Johnston Farmer Effects 59 5s. 0d.

    JOHNSTON Catherine [152] 5 June Administration (with the Will) of the estate of Catherine Johnston late of 15 and 29 Botanic Avenue Belfast Married Woman who died 23 March 1916 granted at Dublin to Thomas A. Fisher Estate Agent Effects 143 17s. 7d. (Limited)

    JOHNSTON Charles Orlando [171] 21 July Administration (with the Will) of the Estate of Charles Orlando Johnston late of Corkbeg Whitegate County Cork Land Steward who died 6 June 1916 granted at Cork to James P. Fitzgerald Gentleman Effects 657 3s. 8d. Resworn 913 9s. 5d.

    JOHNSTON Couser [169] 18 May Administration (with the Will) of the Estate of Couser Johnston late of Ballynagalliagh County Armagh Farmer who died 12 March 1916 granted at Armagh to Susan Johnston the widow Effects 270

    JOHNSTON Eliza [168] 16 May Probate of the Will of Eliza Johnston late of Ballygreaney County Monaghan Widow who died 2 August 1909 granted at Armagh to Samuel Johnston Labourer Effects 254 5s. 0d.

    JOHNSTON James [63] 15 February Administration of the Unadministered Estate of James Johnston late of Hartfield House Drumcondra County Dublin Esquire who died 4 June 1880 granted at Dublin to Mary Corbet Married Woman Effects 20 5s. 0d. (Former Grant 15 January 1881).


    Wills from the Principal Probate Registry from 1986 onwards and from Londonderry District Registry from 1985 can be obtained from the following offices:

    Probate and Matrimonial Office, Royal Courts of Justice, Chichester Street, Belfast or from the Londonderry District Probate Registry, Bishop Street, Londonderry, respectively. For details on how to apply for a search see the Probate and Matrimonial Office?s leaflet ?Application for a Search? which can be obtained from that office at the above addresses.


    Although the destruction of the probate records in the Public Record Office of Ireland in Dublin was a tragic loss, fortunately the series of indexes made prior to 1922 escaped destruction. Furthermore, the enormous efforts that have been made in collecting copies and abstracts has done much to fill the gaps.

    Again I thank the Staff of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland for making this information available for researchers.

    Further Information re Irish Land Commission Archive (reference page 9, Newsletter March 2000): Supplied by Dr. Brian Trainor, Research Director, Ulster Historical Foundation.

    "The archive of the Irish Land Commission was enormous comprising of about 25,000 metal deed boxes. These boxes varied in size but would say on average they were equivalent of about five storage boxes such as those used either in PRONI or the National Archives, Dublin.

    When Ireland was partitioned in 1921-2 some 4,000 of the deed boxes of records related to estates in Northern Ireland were transferred to the Land Registry in Belfast and these were eventually passed on to PRONI about 15 or perhaps 20 years ago. By now they have been catalogued in some detail. As well as containing deeds providing proof of title to properties being sold these boxes contained all sorts of records of administration of the various estates including in some cases splendid volumes of maps as well as the usual bundles of expired leases.

    The collection in Dublin was retained in the office of the Irish Land Commission in Merrion Street opposite Government Buildings. I remember being taken on tour of the premises when I was a member of the National Archives Advisory Council and saw a unique feature for a storage facility. There was a hand pump installed to enable flood waters to be extracted and inevitably the deed boxes stored on the lowest racks had rust on the boxes and these showed a level to which flood-waters had risen. One can only wonder at the state of the documents stored in these conditions.

    When the ILC building was sold in something of a hurry about 10 years ago, the complete collection was transferred to the National Archives, Bishop Street, Dublin, along with the staff, who still administer the remnants of the ILC. They occupy the ground floor of the National Archives building but the records are not accessible to the public. Eventually the records and the staff will become the responsibility of the National Archives; although at the pace things move in the world of archives in Dublin this may not happen in our lifetime.

    When Richard Hayes was Director of the National Library of Ireland some forty years ago he discovered an exceptionally well informed messenger on the staff, a man called Ned Keane and it was Hayes who got him access to the ILC Archive and he went systematically through all the boxes and indexed all the wills that he found. A large number of these are post-1858 and thus not absolutely unique (unless probate was in the Principal Registry, Dublin). Index cards to the collection of some 10,000 wills are available in the National Library of Ireland (and thanks to you I now learn they are also available in PRONI). However this resource is a bit tantalising because there is no certainty of direct access to any of the items of interest that may be discovered (as these all relate to the 26 counties now the Republic of Ireland). Ned Keane was the joint editor of the King?s Inn?s Admission Papers.

    Registry of Deeds: The Irish Manuscripts Commission, 73 Merrion Square, Dublin 2 published abstracts of the actual wills, not just the indexes. Volume 3 is still in print and available from the IMC. The Irish Manuscripts Commission has published in their guide to the Genealogical Office a reprint of Beryl Eustace?s index to some 7,500 testators in the collections held in the GO. The price is 9.99 Irish available from the IMC or the UHF in Belfast. The IMC also published in 1957:

    Quaker Records: Abstracts of wills by P. B. Eustace and Olive Goodbody. Abstracts of some 224 wills are provided in this publication covering the monthly meetings at Carlow 1675-1740, Edenderry 1728-1763, Mountmellick 1755-1795, county Wexford 1680-1760, Dublin 1680-1760.

    The IMC also published a guide to Quaker Records 1654-1860 by Olive Goodbody and this included a contribution on Northern Ireland records by Brian Hutton of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. This was published in 1967. Hutton?s contribution comprised 11 pages and appeared as an appendix. Alan Gailey, a former Director of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum published an article based on the inventories of Ballyhagan Quaker wills probably in Ulster Folk Life.

    Irish Will Calendars 1858-77 (ref. Page 12, Newsletter March 2000): The consolidated index was prepared by the staff of the Public Record Office of Ireland (PROI, now NAI) and PRONI got a photocopy. This index does not contain the date of death or the county of abode of the testator. These are two important details included in the index to the printed Irish Will Calendars 1878-1900 held by the Ulster Historical Foundation. This index will be made available in restricted form on the UHF website ( later this year. Guild members will have access to the database.

    INDEX OF IRISH WILLS 1484-1858: ISBN 0 953755 70 3 This first volume has been published on CD-ROM and is available from Gould Books of South Australia for AUD$78.00 plus postage. Whilst every genealogist knows that the majority of Irish wills were destroyed in the 1922 PROI fire, it is remarkable how many original records and extracts do survive. In this CD-ROM the staff of Trinity College Dublin provides an index to the original records, copies, extracts and abstracts, totalling over 70,000 records.

    Not only does this index include the Testamentary Card Catalogues, Charitable Donations, Thrift, Crossle and Jennings Abstracts, it also indexes (for the first time) the surviving Inland Revenue Wills & Administrations. This first volume covers all 32 counties for this poorly documented period. It contains over 70,000 individual records with over 100,000 names, over 10,000 surnames and variants and over 1,000 different occupations. Good value at $78 with our dollar now down below 60c US.