The FamilySearch website has a very useful and free of charge database for identifying probate material. “Ireland, Calendar of Wills and Administrations, 1858-1920” is an index to the published calendars. The original published books are alphabetized within each year. The database on FamilySearch means you can search for an extended amount of time, even when you only have sketchy information.
The published calendars cover all counties up through 1917. After that there are separate calendars. This index to calendars is also duplicated, and free of charge at the National Archives of Ireland website.
The Scope of the Search
Much like other websites, the database search capability does pose some difficulties. Searches tend to have standardized fields, most of which do not apply. For this reason you might want to put in the limited information; such as name, county of death and range of dates.
You may be surprised who left wills. For example, these calendars start in 1858, a decade after the massive deaths and immigrations due to the Potato Famine. The reduction in the population meant land and wealth was freed up for many who stayed. So although your ancestor may have immigrated, siblings may have stayed and took over family holdings.
If you know a townland where the family lived, then you should be able to determine relatives who stayed. However, do not rely on a townland name when using the database search fields. You still will need to go into the calendar itself, which is scanned as part of this database.
The Search Does Not Stop with the Index
Once you have found entries in the index that are of interest to you, then you will need to click onto the image. At that point, you are linked to the image of the book itself. It will provide a basic abstract of the original will or administration.
From the abstract you will need to look at the microfilm of the original document. This will be a manuscript, which can be found at the Family History Library. The originals are housed at the National Archives of Ireland. By referencing the manuscript, you will have all the information in the document. The exception is the Principle Registry, which records do not survive.
Reconstructing the Family History
The index can be used in conjunction with the Griffith’s revision books, church registers, and the 1901 and 1911 censuses. In short, a more complete picture of your family history can be reconstructed through this will database.
If you would like help with your genealogy please call 385-214-0925.