A way with a will
The entire collection of Irish wills held by the Public Record Office, some going back as far at the 16th century, was completely destroyed in 1922. This much is widely known, and lamented. Less well-known is the change in the administration of probate in 1858 that created an annual, published calendar of all grants. This means that, although its original may have been destroyed, every will or intestacy since 1858 has at least a detailed calendar entry, recording at a minimum the date of death, the address, the executor and the value of the estate. Earlier entries are much more expansive, often representing a near-full abstract of the will. The Calendars are annual and fully alphabetical, and simplicity itself to search in the Reading Room of the National Archives.
The Archives has recently begun the process of making the Calendars available through its website nationalarchives.ie . Volumes from 1935 to 1949 are fully transcribed and searchable through the site’s “Search the Archives” page, though it has to be said that the search options offered are ridiculously unfriendly, more obstacle than aid. As so often when confronted by impenetrable database-ese, it’s more useful to trawl with the biggest net possible, just a name, and then sort through the catch individually. My own great-grandfather turned up in just such a search.
The site now also has PDF copies of all the Calendars from 1923 to 1982, though finding them is like searching for an invisible needle in an invisible haystack. The best guide is not on NAI’s own site, but comes from the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations, tinyurl.ie/8ff. Enough said.
What about the real bonanza for researchers, 1858-1922? A collaboration between NAI and the LDS church, the Mormons, will see a full transcript, with linked record images, on the NAI website within the next few months. Roll on the day.