Before the establishment of the Probate Court in 1857, the Church of Ireland Consistorial Courts in each diocese in Ireland were responsible for making grants of probate and issuing letters of administration. For estates with property valued in excess of £5 in more than one diocese probate and administration was granted by the Prerogative Court of Armagh. The records of the Prerogative Court are a record of the landed families of Ireland with property in more than one diocese. Although the majority of these records were destroyed in the 1922 Public Records Office fire, work on this collection, carried out by Sir William Betham, Ulster King of Arms, in the 19th century, survives in the National Archives and the Genealogical Office.
Betham created an index of testators up to 1800, which was later edited and published by Sir Arthur Vicars in 1897 as the Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland. Vicar’s publication can be searched online at Findmypast. Betham also made abstracts of the genealogical information found in the Prerogative Wills in a series of notebooks in the National Archives of Ireland. On the basis of these abstracts Betham created a series of sketch pedigrees, now held in the Genealogical Office. The Genealogical Office also hold 32 volumes of Betham’s Will Abstracts, some of which have been published online by the National Library of Ireland.
Sir William Betham
Betham’s Will AbstractsThis collection of Betham’s will abstracts (NLI GO Mss 223-254) are divided into two parts, the Old Series, comprising 4 volumes of wills up to 1700 (NLI GO Mss 223-226) and the New Series, 28 volumes from 1700 to 1800 (NLI GO Mss 227-254). These notebooks contain abstracts taken from wills proved in the Prerogative Court but also include individuals whose estates were not proved in the Prerogative Court. National Library of Ireland. However, navigating this collection can be tricky, with several indexes worth consulting. A search of Vicar’s Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland will determine whether a will was proved in the Prerogative Court and if a relevant name is located, the Will Abstracts and Sketch Pedigrees should be checked for more details.
Betham himself indexed each of his volumes in the Old and New Series’ and these indexes have been consolidated by Virgina Wade McAnliss in her Consolidated Index to the Records of the Genealogical Office, which are available to download from the National Library of Ireland website. Under each surname in the Consolidated Index you are most likely to find the reference: GO MS 223-54 Betham Will Abstracts, followed by a volume and page number. For example, under the surname Atherton in the Consolidated Index, is a reference GO MS 223-54 Betham Will Abstracts 3/116, 14/112, referring to volume 3 page 116 and volume 14 page 112.
The volumes that have been published online by the National Library of Ireland are numbers; 14 (h-J), 16 (L-S), 18 (Ma-Mo), 22 (Pr-Rob), 24 (Sa-Sm), 25 (Sm-St), 26 (St-Sw), 27 (Sw-Ti), 28 (Ti-Ty), 29 (V-W), 30 (Wa), 31 (We-Wi) and 32 (W-Z).
Betham’s Will Abstracts New Series Online
The volumes are arranged alphabetically by the surname of the testator, but Betham and McAnliss’s indexes include the surnames of anyone else mentioned in the abstract. The reference to Atherton in Volume 14, page 112 of the New Series of Will Abstracts relates to the will of Thomas Hunter of Birr in the Kings County whose will was dated 3 November 1769, which was proved on 14th October 1771. According to the sketch pedigree using details extracted from the will, Thomas Hunter was the grandson of _______ Hunter and Elizabeth Atherton. Elizabeth was the daughter of Oliver (possibly crossed out) Atherton and had a brother, Godfrey Atherton. Elizabeth married ______ Hunter and the couple had at least one son, _______ Hunter, who married and had a son, Thomas. Thomas Hunter married Katherine, sister of Anthony and James Hutchins and the couple had children; Thomas, Elizabeth, Rachel Calham, Richard and Joshua Hunter.
While the will itself did not relate to the Atherton family, there were Athertons mentioned as ancestors of the deceased, quite possibly because the property of Thomas Hunter came to him through the Atherton line of his family.
Inspecting McAnliss’ Consolidated Index can often lead to a long list of entries for a particular surname in the Betham Will Abstracts (GO Mss 223-254). It should be possible to determine by the volume number whether the entry relates to a testator of the relevant surname or someone who might have been cited as a family member. The volumes themselves also contain an index at the back for all surnames that appear in that volume.
The digitised volumes can be found in the National Library of Ireland Main Catalogue by searching for “Wills, New Series” under the author “Ireland, Genealogical Office”. You can then browse the digitised books directly through the Catalogue. For notebooks that have not yet been digitised, you can order copies of pages from the original Betham’s Will Abstracts using the Timeline Genealogy Clerk Service.
O’Byrne, Eileen, Betham and Lodge, published in Aspects of Irish Genealogy II Ed. M.D. Evans Grenham, John, https://www.johngrenham.com/browse/retrieve_text.php?text_contentid=70 (3/1/18)