I recently found a transcript of an Irish will in the District Registry Wills Books in the National Archives of Ireland. These are an often forgotten source for testamentary records because the assumption is that all Irish wills and letters of administration were destroyed in 1922, but this is not the case.
District Registry Will Books
Will books survive for Ballina, Cavan, Cork, Kilkenny, Limerick, Mullingar, Tuam and Waterford as well as fragments from the Principal Registry. In many cases these books cover much of the period from 1858 to 1900. You can now order copies from these district registry will books, and other surviving wills, using our Irish Wills Genealogy Clerk Service.
This means that if you have found an entry in the Calendar of Wills and Administrations for your ancestor and their will was proved in one of these district registries, a transcript of their will should be found in the will books.
The transcript that I found ran to ten pages and included detailed instructions by the deceased. The will made provisions for the care of his wife during the rest of her life and left a large portion of his estate to his caretaker, John Cronin, and Cronin’s wife, if they remained on the estate and looked after the deceased’s widow. The will named nephews, nieces, cousins and uncles of the deceased, providing me with their occupations and addresses. Finally, the deceased left a bequest to his ‘illigitimate’ daughter, giving her married name and her address in the United States. The family tree that has grown out of this document is detailed and intricate and since the Church of Ireland records for the parish in which he was born no longer survive, the will has bridged many gaps in this family history.
20th Century Wills
It should also be borne in mind that Irish wills were not deposited in the public records office until 20 years after a grant of probate. This means that wills from the first decades of the 20th century were not in the Public Records Office when it was destroyed in 1922. If your ancestor appears in the Calendars of Wills and Administrations in, say, 1908, their will should survive, and could prove valuable to your research.
If your ancestor owned property in England, it is also possible that their will was proved in a UK court. You can search the Calendars of Wills and Administrations for England and Wales from 1858-1966 online at www.ancestry.co.uk but you may also find that the Irish Calendars of Wills and Administrations refer to probate being granted in England. If this is the case, a copy should survive and can be obtain through the Principal Probate Registry.
The Calendars of Wills and Administration, which are an annual record of grants of probate or grants of letters of administration are available online in two parts. From 1858 to 1920 the Calendars can be searched for free online at www.familysearch.org From 1922 to 1982 you can download the calendar for each year from the website of the National Archives of Ireland. It is important to remember that probate was not always granted in the year of death, in fact, some cases took up to 20 years to prove. This means that you may have to search more than one Calendar for evidence of your ancestor’s will.
Strangely, the Calendars for 1921 are not available online and grants for Northern Ireland cease from 1917. The Calendars for Northern Ireland can be found on the PRONI website.
You can now order copies of surviving wills, letters of administrations and other documents found in the Index of Irish Wills or the Calendars of Wills and Administrations using the Timeline Genealogy Clerk Service.