Thursday, 28 March 2013

Northern Irish will calendars searchable on Ancestry

Ancestry has provided a search screen that essentially allows third party access to PRONI's database of will calendars. The title of it is a bit curious though - Northern Ireland, Will Calendar Index, 1839-1943. It is accessible directly at, and for free.

The database on PRONI has information on all wills and administrations granted through the District Probate Registries from 1858-1943, with the exception of parts of 1920 and 1921 (these are handwritten copies held by PRONI, and still to be added). So why does the collection start in 1839? Well, it seems that it is down to one single entry found between 1839 and 1857 - for a Daniel McKevitt, who died on April 1st 1839. Here's the blurb:

Will of Daniel McDevitt, Moville, County Donegal. Lodged with the Probate Office on 30 April 1839. [This entry does not appear in the will calendars but information from the will books has been abstracted and a will calender entry compiled and added to the will calendar database. In this instance the will was lodged with the Probate Office but was never proved so the date of the grant and the date of death are actually the date of lodgement of the will.]

So in terms of the date of grant, prior to 1858, there is one entry only, that listed above. The civil process took over from the Anglican regime in 1858. Although the District Probate Registries recorded the info on grants of probate etc from 1858, and then summarised them in the calendars, not everybody had their estate go through the probate process from day 1 after they died! In some cases, it was many years later, so grants of probate, or administrations, from 1858 may well concern someone who died many years before - hence why there are many entries of deaths recorded in the database between 1839 and 1857.

There is nothing really advantageous from the access granted by Ancestry, the PRONI site's interface is far superior at, but it is worth knowing it is there. The collection is planned to be extended beyond 1943 in due course.

(With thanks to John Reid at Anglo-Celtic Connections)


My new book, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet, is now available from Pen and Sword. For my other genealogy books, please visit; whilst for my online Scottish based genealogy courses please visit the Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd site.

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