Irish historic wills: abstracts and transcripts

Wills abstracts and transcripts

As well as the original consistorial and prerogative wills and grants, together with the transcripts made of them in the Will and Grant Books, a wide range of other sources exists, particularly for material before 1857. The most important of these is the collection of NAI itself, gathered after 1922 in an attempt to replace some at least of what had been lost. As well as original wills from private legal records and individual families, this ever-expanding collection also includes pre-1922 researchers' abstracts and transcripts. It is covered by a card index in the reading room, which also gives details of those wills and grants in the surviving pre-1857 Will and Grant Books. Separate card indexes cover the Thrift, Jennings and Crosslé Collections of abstracts and the records of Charitable Donations and Bequests. PRONI has made similar efforts, and the copies it holds are indexed in the Pre-1858 Wills Index, part of the Subject Index in the public search room. A CD-ROM transcript of the NAI card indexes covering Charitable Bequests, Crosslé Abstracts, Jennings Abstracts, Thrift Abstracts and Inland Revenue Will and Administration Registers 1828-1839 (see below) was published by Eneclann in 1999 and is now available on Images of the indexes are at

Inland Revenue records

The Inland Revenue in London kept a series of annual Indexes to Irish Will Registers and Indexes to Irish Administration Registers from 1828 to 1879, which are now in NAI. These give the name and address of both the deceased and the executor or administrator. As well as the Indexes, the archives also hold a set of the actual Inland Revenue Irish Will Registers and Irish Administration Registers for the years 1828-39, complete apart from the Wills Register covering January to June 1834. The Will Registers are not exact transcripts of the original wills, but they supply a good deal of detailed information, including the precise date of death, the principal beneficiaries and legacies, and a brief inventory of the estate. The Administration Registers are less informative but still include details of the date of death, the administrator and the estate. They are indexed in the NAI card index, copied at FindMyPast. The LDS Library has microfilm copies of the registers, British Film 101028 - 101038, online only at Family History Centres.

Estate Duty Office records

Between 1812 and 1857 copies of all wills liable for Estate Duty proved in English Prerogative and Diocesan Courts of testators with an Irish address, almost 3,000 in all, were sent to the Estate Duty Office in London. They remained there until some point after 1922, when 1370 of them, dating from 1821 to 1857, were transferred to PRONI. They are indexed in PRONI's Pre-1858 Wills Index. They concern testators from the entire island of Ireland. The LDS Library has microfilm copies of the full series, British Film 942224 - 942309, online only at Family History Centres.

Land Commission records

Under the provisions of the Land Purchase Acts, which subsidised the purchase of smallholdings by the tenants who occupied them, it was necessary for those wishing to sell to produce evidence of their ownership to the Irish Land Commission. As a result, more than ten thousand wills were deposited with the commission, the majority from the nineteenth century but many earlier. The National Library and PRONI hold a card index to the testators. The original documents remain tantalisingly unavailable to the public and are housed in the Land Commission (Records Branch, Unit 11, Clonminam Industrial Estate, Port Laoise; tel. +353 57 8634988).

The Registry of Deeds

The registration of wills was normally carried out because of a legal problem anticipated by the executor or executors in the provisions, almost certainly the exclusion of parties who would feel they had some rights over the estate. Because of this, wills at the Registry of Deeds cannot be taken as providing a complete picture of the family. Abstracts of all wills registered from 1708 (the date of foundation of the Registry) to 1832 were published in three volumes by the Irish Manuscripts Commission between 1954 and 1986. These are available in the digitised backlist on the Commission website, Although the abstracts record and index all the persons named--testators, beneficiaries and witnesses--they do not show the original provisions of the wills. These can be found in the original memorials in the Registry.

The Genealogical Office

Most of the will abstracts held by the Genealogical Office are covered by the Office's own index, GO Ms 429, which was published in Analecta Hibernica, No. 17, 1949 (NLI Ir 941 a 10). The manuscript index has since been added to, but is still not entirely comprehensive, excluding all the Betham material and many of the collections relating to individual families. A guide to the major collections is included in the reference guide.

English records

If a testator held property in both Ireland and England or Wales, a grant of probate was made both in England and in Ireland. Almost all wills proved before the Prerogative Court of Canterbury are available online at Many of the indexes of the Society of Genealogists to other English and Welsh wills are available at

Other sources

There are many other collections of will abstracts and transcripts in such public repositories as the National Library, the Representative Church Body Library, the Royal Irish Academy, PRONI and Trinity College Library. There are no separate indexes to these testamentary collections. Where a significant group of abstracts or transcripts exists, this is noted in the reference guide that follows.

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