google-site-verification: google1a99cbc777ffb68f.html

Wills and Administrations prior to 1858

    In US research we use probate records extensively.  They can help identify the married names of daughters, family land holdings and separate families of the same name.   Like most Irish records, this is a sad story…most of the original wills were lost in the 1922 fire. 

    Probate records in Ireland are classified as pre-1858 and post 1858.  Prior to 1858 wills and administrations were filed in the ecclesiastical or church courts (presided over by the Church of Ireland).  There were twenty-eight Diocesan courts, known as the consistorial courts which handled probate matters for those who lived within their boundaries, or had a value of £5  (according to the Historical UK Inflation rates and calculator website, £5 in 1850 would be equal to £580 in 2017 or about $750).   If an estate was valued at over £5 or included property in more than one diocese, then it was probated in the Prerogative Court of Armagh or Dublin (subordinate courts to the Prerogative Court of Canterbury).  If an individual owned property in England as well as in Ireland, their estate was most likely probated in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. 

    Prior to the 1922 fire, most wills and administration bonds (referred to as admons) were indexed and many of the indexes have survived.  That’s the good news…the bad news is that there is no single index to check and what you will get in many cases is just a name, location and date.  The indexes are not fully alphabetical, so if you’re using microfilm or the original books when you get to the letter of your surname, go through the entire section.  Some are grouped by name, but other are in chronological order.  Most of these indexes are now online at various sites.

Prerogative and diocesan copies of some wills and indexes to others, 1596 – 1858 (National Archives of Ireland)

Index to pre-1858 Diocesan wills and administration bonds and Index to surviving pre-1858 wills in PRONI (part of the PRONI Name Search database).  One of the things that makes PRONI unique is that they went to private sources such as solicitors to obtain copies of some of the destroyed wills and other documents lost in the fire.

Index Of Irish Wills 1484-1858 (FMP covers records at the National Archives  of Ireland)

Index to Irish Wills (Ancestry)

Sir Arthur Vicars, Index To The Prerogative Wills of Ireland, 1536-1810 and Supplement (1914) (FMP -Index to the abstracts done by Betham)

    For the Prerogative Wills, in addition to the Indexes, there are also extracts that were made before the fire.  Sir William Bethan made handwritten abstracts of the family information in the wills to 1810.  His original notebooks have been microfilmed and are available in the National Archives.  These are his handwritten notes so bring a lot of patience when you’re viewing these.  For anyone searching for 17th and 18th century records for gentry or upper class families, these are a goldmine. Here’s an example: 


Gershon Boate of Marystown
in co Roscommon

2 Sep 1743—22 Jan 1744 [written —probated]

son Benjamin B
eldest son Gershon B
2 son Samuel
eldest dr Rachel B. alias Ross
2d dau Lydia
3 — Susanna
gr son Thomas Robinson

If you plan to search these records at the National Archives, make sure you learn as much as possible before visiting.  Here are some reference books to check.

Grenham, John, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, Dublin, 2012, 4th Edition.

Hutchison, Brian W., Researching Irish Testamentary Records..., Toronto, Heritage Publications, 2002.

Ryan, James G. Ph.D., Irish Records: Sources for Family and Local History, Ancestry, (USA), 1997.

    Next week I’ll discuss the post 1858 probate records.

   Happy Hunting!


There’s still a week left to entry the drawing for a set of Irish Quick Reference Guides for my 10th Blogiversary.  The winner will be announced next week.


irish guide bundle large

Two trips to mention.  

First, registration is open for the 2018 Irish Research Trips.  There will be a trip to Belfast, and a trip to Dublin (you can do one or both).  Registration is limited to 15 researchers so sign up now to reserve your space.

Do you enjoy cruising?  Why not combine a cruise with a genealogy conference.  Next April I’ll be speaking, along with Dick Eastman and Gary and Diana Smith on a Caribbean cruise on the beautiful Celebrity Equinox.  Sign up now to take advantage of the free incentives. Early registration is important as cruise blocks have to be sold early.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2017