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07/02/2021 | News release | Archived content

Seven new Irish collections for discovering details about your Irish family

Trying to explore your Irish family history and coming up against some brick walls? Ancestry has released six new record collections that may hold the missing piece (or person!) to your research. Ancestry's Content and Acquisition Manager, Rhona Murray, takes us through the new collections and how to use the records to find your family connections.

Ireland, Census Fragments, 1821-1851
When mines exploded in the basement of the Public Record Office of Ireland on the 30th of June 1922, documents spanning six centuries of Irish administrative history were lost or damaged in the fire that then broke out, including all of the census records taken prior to 1901. What survived are fragments of the census for the years 1821-1851. While they cover very specific locations around Ireland, if you find your ancestors within the 357,000 records, you will be sure to have hit a goldmine. Depending on the year, you can find information such as names, ages, occupations, home address, relationship to head of household, and observations. When taking into consideration that Civil registration of Birth, Marriage and Death only began in Ireland in 1864, these records can really help grow your tree if your family can be found within. Click on the link to the collection and scroll down to read the description to see which areas are covered in these fragments.

Ireland, Crew Lists and Shipping Agreements, 1863-1920
Being an Island, maritime activities have long since been a source of employment in Ireland. This collection of Crew Lists and Shipping Agreements spanning nearly 60 years are a great source when conducting family history research. You can expect to find details such as full names, ages, birth places, ship name, dates of voyage etc. Although the ships themselves appear to be largely registered in Ireland, looking at samples, we can see crew men for one ship alone giving a wide range of birth places including Dublin Ireland, Galway Ireland, Massachusetts USA, Vermont Canada, London England, Sweden and so on. At a minimum, these records have the potential to help us understand the day to day jobs our ancestors did, and at a maximum, perhaps unlock the story behind how or why our ancestor migrated to another country.

Ireland, National School Registers, 1847-1959
The National School Registers collection spans 26 of the 32 counties of the island of Ireland. The registers themselves largely date from the 1860s onwards. However they include information on people born as early as 1847, who might not be easily traceable in other surviving Irish record collections. As well as information on the name, age, residence of the children, their denomination, and even date of birth in later registers etc, we can also see the occupation of the parents. The children of labourers, farmers, shopkeepers, shoemakers, coachmen, plumbers, soldiers, cabinet makers, waiters all appear within the collection. It is worth noting that the collection is not comprehensive, and many schools around Ireland still hold their registers locally. Use the 'Browse this collection' feature on the right-hand side to drill down and see which areas the records relate to.

A note on Wills and Wills substitutes
Wills are a fascinating source of information when building a family tree as they often detail many family members and their relationship to the person writing the will. Sadly, a vast collection of original Irish Wills were in the Public Record Office when mines exploded and a resulting fire broke out, damaging the records. What we have here is a group of three different substitutes to the original Wills that were lost during Irelands Civil War in 1922.

When people passed away, a grant of probate of their will or a letter of administration (died without a will) had to be made by a court before the next of kin could deal with a deceased persons assets. The record collections listed below range from 1591-1900s, during which time the court systems changed. We shall explain each collection in brief to help you understand which collections may be useful to your research.

Ireland, Indexes to Wills, Probate Administration, Marriage Bonds and Licences, 1591-1866
Prior to 1857, the Church of Ireland, as the established church in the country at that time, oversaw the testamentary authority. If an estate was valued at less than £5, the testamentary affairs were processed in the Consistorial Courts within each diocese. If an estate was valued at more than £5 then the Prerogative Court would oversee the process under the authority of the Archbishop of Armagh. This collection contains indexes of wills processed in both the Consistorial and the Prerogative courts, typically giving details on the deceased's name and address, year of probate or bond. If you are lucky an occupation may be listed.

In addition to overseeing the testamentary authority, the church was also responsible for issuing marriage bonds and licenses. In order to marry, a couple needed to prove that they were legally entitled to do so. This could be done in the form of marriage banns which took a number of weeks, or alternatively could be done via a marriage bond, which was often a speedier process. A marriage bond was a commitment to pay a set amount of money to the court as a guarantee that the marriage they intended to enter in to is legally sound. If the marriage came to fruition a marriage license would be issued. These records typically contain names of the bride and groom, the date of the marriage bond or license, and a place.

The collection contains records pertaining to all of the island of Ireland, both north and south, with the survival rates of records felt to be patchy prior to the 1850's.
In 1858 the Probate Act dissolved the churches power over testamentary affairs.

Ireland, Wills and Grants of Probate, 1858-1900
In 1858 the responsibility of processing Wills changed, and between 1858-1877 it was vested with the Principal Registry Office in Dublin and 11 District Registries scattered around the country and from 1877 onwards it lay with the High Court.

The District Registries around Ireland transcribed the Wills being processed in their courts in to bound volumes and held this copy locally while the original Will was then forwarded to the Principal Registry in Dublin, which in turn placed them in the Public Record Office where they sadly perished.

This collection of Wills of Grants and Probate contain a combination of official copies of District Registry wills for the various regions around what is now known as the Republic of Ireland as well as Letters of Administrations for those who died intestate or without a Will. You may find more than one record for the same person so make sure to check both search results as one may provide the date of probate and the other may relate to the will itself. Details typically include the name of the deceased, names of relatives and their relationship to the deceased as well as the place and date of the Will or probate.

Ireland, Registers of Wills and Administrations, 1828-1885
The Inland Revenue in London kept annual indexes of Irish Wills and Administration Registers from 1828-1879 which generally give the names of the deceased and the executor of the Will as well as a date and location. In addition, there are some actual Inland Revenue Will books within the collection that date from 1828-1839 which hold even more detail. While these Will Books are not exact transcripts of the original wills they do none the less give us a wealth of information to use in our research, such as the deceased's name, date of death, the principal beneficiaries of the will as well as a brief overview of the deceased estate.