As an exercise in what can be achieved in online research I recently randomly opened-up a copy of the Calendar of Wills & Administrations for a century ago and read the following calendar entry:
HOPKINS, Miles Richard. 10th January 1912. Probate of Will of Miles Richard Hopkins late of 1 Lower Sackville Street, Dublin and 1 Brighton Terrace, Monkstown, Co. Dublin, jeweller, who died 20th November 1911, granted at Dublin to John Fisher, Gentleman and Martha Hopkins, the widow. Effects: £28, 590 8s 5d.
While the Four Courts Fire of 1922 had a devastating effect on many of the Ireland’s state records, including wills and administrations, for estates proved between ca. 1910 and 1922 there is approximately a 50% chance of will or letters of administration surviving.
From the Calendar Will entry the following research can readily be undertaken online:
Miles Richard Hopkins death was registered at Rathdown, Co. Dublin in 1911. The reference entry gives his approximate date of birth as 1832, some eight years prior to that recorded in the 1911 Census of Ireland Return made by Miles shortly before his death.
Although Miles Richard Hopkins’ will cannot be inspected online, an historical money calculator recorded that the lowest value of Hopkins’ estate was nearly £3 million and if average earnings were used the estate was valued at £9.1 million.
Thom’s Dublin City & County Directory for the year prior to Miles Hopkins’ death records the presence of Hopkins & Hopkins, watchmakers and jewellers of 1 Lower Sackville Street and his residential address at 1 Brighton Terrace, Blackrock. The former address was given the rateable value of £110 and the later £75 per annum, both of which were sizeable valuations.
At the time of the enumeration of the 1911 Census of Ireland the Hopkins family were residing at 1 Brighton Terrace in 1911. Miles Richard Hopkins recorded that he was an unmarried 70-year-old silversmith and jewellery manufacturer, who was born at Tullow, Co. Carlow and was a member of the Church of Ireland. Residing with Miles Richard Hopkins were his unmarried nieces, Martha and Olive, both of who were born in Dublin and the domestic servant, Mary Halpin. The 1911 Census of Ireland Return contradicts the Will Calendar Entry for Miles Richard Hopkins, which stated that one of his executors was his widow, Martha. This is quite likely to be in error and the executor was probably his niece, Martha, who was residing with him Brighton Terrace shortly before his death.
None of the Hopkins family appear in the 1901 Census of Ireland. Miles Richard was not residing in England or Wales in 1901 and further research could be undertaken to ascertain whether or not he was residing in Scotland or had perhaps travelled to the United States on business.
The online trail for Miles Richard Hopkins starts to go cold at this point. While the Church of Ireland Parish Records for Tullow, Co. Carlow, can be viewed online and these include a large number of Christenings in the Parish for the family name Hopkins, some of who might be the siblings of Miles Richard, these do not include the Christening of a child named Miles Richard. A manual search of the parochial records for the Church of Ireland Parish of Tullow would have to be undertaken at the Representative Church Body Library.
While it is clear that a certain amount of work might be undertaken online, primary sources, such as parochial records still require manual examination and authentication. Other records that would prove useful in filling in the background of the life of the unmarried Miles Richard Hopkins might include research of the records for the Guild of Gold and Silversmiths held on microfilm at the National Library of Ireland. These could throw light onto Miles Richard Hopkins apprenticeship as a silversmith and jeweller. It would also be possible to trace the occupancy of Miles Richard Hopkins’ business at 1 Sackville Street Lower, either through Thom’s Dublin City and County Directory – the best collection of this is held at the Dublin City Archive and Library, Pearse Street – or through the records of rated occupiers and business held at the Valuation Office, Dublin.
1 The original grant for Richard Miles Hopkins’ estate was amongst the items salved from the Four Courts (National Archives of Ireland. T.9606).This can be inspected at the National Archives and is not available online.
12 Richard Hopkins was the Senior Warden of The Dublin Goldsmiths Company for the periods 1901/2 and 1902/3. Cited in Sir Charles James Jackson., English Goldsmiths & their Marks (London, 1949 edn).