Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Free access to Ancestry's new 170m US probate records

Ancestry has added more than 170 million wills and probate records dating from 1668 to 2005 and covering the USA. This is the first time these records have been made available online and that process has taken more than two years to be successfully achieved. The company says it has invested $10million in the digitising and licencing of the records.

It's not mentioned in the official press release but Ancestry's Mike Mulligan tells me that the development work for this project was done mostly out of the Dublin office. So applause all round for the guys and gals at Sir John Rogerson's Quay!

More than 100million people are referenced in the collection, either as the deceased, members of their families, friends and others involved in the probate process. Inevitably, a lot of people born in Ireland are included, so this is a bumper collection for Irish family history research.

In a quick recce into the New York and Californian records I've already found three Santrys of interest and there are still dozens of record sets to explore. I just hope I get some spare time this week, because Ancestry has announced five days of free access from today.

Not only is the US Wills and Probates collection being opened up, Ancestry's entire collection of US birth, marriage and death records is included in the free access, which continues until Monday 7 September 10pm MT (I think that's 5am Tuesday 8 September in Dublin/London).

You can search the entire US Probate collection here, or use the links below to search the collections of the individual states.

Alabama, Wills and Probate Records, 1753-1999
Alaska, Wills and Probate Records, 1883-1978
Arkansas, Wills and Probate Records, 1783-1998
Arizona, Wills and Probate Records, 1803-1995
California, Wills and Probate Records, 1782-1999
Colorado, Wills and Probate Records, 1875-1974
Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609-1999
Delaware, Wills and Probate Records, 1676-1971
Florida, Wills and Probate Records, 1810-1974
Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992
Hawaii, Wills and Probate Records, 1822-1962
Idaho, Wills and Probate Records, 1857-1989
Illinois, Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999
Indiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1798-1999
Iowa, Wills and Probate Records, 1758-1997
Kansas, Wills and Probate Records, 1803-1987
Kentucky, Wills and Probate Records, 1774-1989
Louisiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1756-1984
Maine, Wills and Probate Records, 1584-1999
Maryland, Wills and Probate Records, 1604-1878
Massachusetts, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991
Michigan, Wills and Probate Records, 1784-1980
Minnesota, Wills and Probate Records, 1801-1999
Mississippi, Wills and Probate Records, 1780-1982
Missouri, Wills and Probate Records, 1766-1988
Montana, Wills and Probate Records, 1831-1952
New Jersey, Wills and Probate Records, 1656-1999
New York, Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999
Nebraska, Wills and Probate Records, 1806-1989
Nevada, Wills and Probate Records, 1906-1925
New Hampshire, Wills and Probate Records, 1643-1982
New Mexico, Wills and Probate Records, 1801-1993
North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998
North Dakota and South Dakota, Wills and Probate Records, 1800-1985
Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998
Oklahoma, Wills and Probate Records, 1801-2008
Oregon, Wills and Probate Records, 1833-1963
Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993
Rhode Island, Wills and Probate Records, 1582-1932
South Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1670-1980
Tennessee, Wills and Probate Records, 1727-2008
Texas, Wills and Probate Records, 1800-2000
Utah, Wills and Probate Records, 1800-1985
Vermont, Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999
Washington, D.C., Wills and Probate Records, 1737-1952
Washington, Wills and Probate Records, 1807-1997
West Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1724-1978
Wisconsin, Wills and Probate Records, 1800-1987
Wyoming, Wills and Probate Records, 1864-1915

Ancestry has produced a neat guide to using this collection. It's in pdf format (5.4Mb) and can be downloaded here: Probate Research Guide.

Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives: latest updates

Bridget Maguire, died 13 June 1810, St Fethlimidh,
Kilmore, Co Cavan. Photo courtesy Dave Hall.
Here are the new and updated files now available, free, at Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives (IGP-web). They've all been added in the second half of August.

CAVAN Genealogy Archives
St. Fethlimidh's Headstones, Kilmore

DONEGAL Genealogy Archives
Rent Roll For Grove-Hall Estate 1783

DUBLIN Genealogy Archives
Grangegorman Military Cemetery (Updated)
Grangegorman Military Cemetery (WWII & Veterans)
Mount Jerome Headstones - Part 109-111

FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives
Rent Roll of the Estate of Blaney Balfour Sr & Jr Esq -1815
Rent Roll of the Estate of Blaney Balfour Sr & Jr Esq -1820
St. John's (CoI), Muckross

KERRY Genealogy Archives
Census Substitutes
Catholics in Barony of Clancrough, 1792

KILKENNY Genealogy Archives
Petition to repeal Laws Affecting Catholics - 1792
Roman Catholics - from Hibernian Journal - 1792

LOUTH Genealogy Archives
Petition to Repeal Penal Laws - 1792

MAYO Genealogy Archives
Catholics in Mayo (from Hibernian Journal) 1792
Curraunboy (Cornboy) Cemetery (partial)
Pullathomas Cemetery (Names From Sign)

ROSCOMMON Genealogy Archives
Assylinn New Cemetery, Upper Side, Pt 1

SLIGO Genealogy Archives
Drumcliffe Cem. Headstones - Part 3
Sligo Cemetery - New Part, Section C
Sligo Cemetery - New Part, Section D
Templeronan Graveyard - Parts 1 & 2

TIPPERARY Genealogy Archives
R.C. Inhabitants of the Town of Carrick-on-Suir - 1792
Rental of the Estates of Francis Mathew, Esq 1781

WATERFORD Genealogy Archives
Principal Catholics of Town & Parish of Dungarvan - 1792

WICKLOW Genealogy Archives
St. Patrick's Church, Enniskerry - Part 7

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Clones parish's Preacher Book 1841–1863 online

The online Archive of the Month from the Representative Church Body Library (RCBL) is a Preacher Book, compiled 1841–1863 in the parish of Clones, Co Monaghan, which has been scanned to pdf format for free download.

Such Preacher Books were part of the standard administrative records produced and maintained by Church of Ireland parishes. They typically record details of each service given, the name of the preacher and reader, the size of the congregation, the sum of money collected, and 'observations'. The latter range from explanations for an unusual or unexpected size of congregation (bad or good weather, local events etc) to occasional mention of genealogical events.

For more about Preacher Books and their potential genealogical value, see the presentation by genealogist Maeve Mullin on the RCBL Archive page.

Any connections to the 1853 Annie Jane tragedy?

A new website,, has been launched by independent researcher Allan Murray to gather information on the people involved in the Annie Jane tragedy of 28 September 1853.

The Annie Jane was on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Quebec with more than 450 emigrants, most of them Irish, on board. They didn't get far, as the ship had to return to port within a few days after losing her mast. Following repairs, the ship set sail again, only to lose her mast again and be wrecked on the island of Vatersay in the outer Hebrides. Just 103 passengers survived.

Although he lived relatively close to Vatersay, Allan Murray had never heard of this tragedy when he came across a monument commemorating the dead while hiking on the island. He resolved to discover more, and it's turned into a personal mission. He has started to write a book to record the story of the Annie Jane.

"It's a great, if haunting, story," he told Irish Genealogy News. "There was the aborted first voyage and then the second voyage when Captain Mason, ignoring the pleading of his passengers to return to port, famously declared 'It's Quebec or the bottom', as he threatened them with a gun. Then there was the shipwreck and the bodies strewn across the beach, the looting by locals, and the hardship of 103 people arriving on an island where there was only one proper dwelling house. Even then, the ordeal wasn't over. One group of survivors were almost shipwrecked again on the Isle of Skye as they made their journey back to civilisation.

"And then the inquiry into the disaster was a whitewash, with blame attributed to the French-Canadian crew."

Allan intends his book to identify and reveal details of all those who lost their lives and all those who survived. He has already carried out a lot of research and has compiled a list of 307 named casualties, among them whole families. Surviving passengers originated from counties Armagh, Kerry, Cork and Antrim, but those who perished may well have come from other counties.

He is looking to explore the lives of all the passengers, whether they survived or not, and needs help from other family historians. “I’m inviting any family historian who has anecdotal or other evidence of an ancestor who survived or died in the tragedy to contribute to the website. There were also a number of passengers who refused to get back on the ship after its first aborted voyage; some travelled to Quebec on the Sarah Sands and Jane Glassin; their stories would be welcome, too.”

He believes the information is 'out there', it's just a matter of finding it. "Yes, they were poor immigrants," he says. "But somebody must have grieved for them."

Allan tells me he has never undertaken something of this nature before, and since he works full-time, he really does need to draw on other people's research skills and own family stories to bring together all the pieces of the jigsaw.

"At this point, I'm not really sure I can finish the book. It's a long-term project. But one thing I will have achieved is an online memorial to the Annie Jane and her passengers.

Why not take a look at Allan's website and see if you have any possible connection to the named passengers or any other pertinent information to pass on? Or maybe just lend him a hand with some genealogy research?

NIFHS unwraps fresh and expanded website
The North of Ireland Family History Society has relaunched its website – – with a brand new look and more readily-available information about the group and its eleven branches.

The modern, airy design looks great, but there is more to this than just a facelift. The Society says that the improved new website will allow, in time, for more resources to be made available online. In particular, more indexes and transcriptions will make their way to the website as complete records (as per the printed materials held in the Society's Randall Gill Library). Some of these will be open to all researchers; others will be restricted to NIFHS members only.

Already, the site's content seems hugely expanded, and the detailed lists of the Society's resources are well worth exploring. The Shop, always a tricky area for a small website to handle, is also much improved.

The new site is a well-executed development for the NIFHS. Well done to all involved.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Irish genealogy, history/heritage events, 31 Aug–12 Sep

Tuesday 1 September: Registration & Research tips for new members. Host: North of Ireland Family History Society, Omagh Branch. Venue: Omagh Library, Spillars Place, Omagh, Co Tyrone, BT78 1HL. 7:15pm.

Tuesday 1 September: The Tudor Conquest of Ireland: Untold stories, with David Edwards. Genealogy at Lunchtime series of lectures. Host and venue: National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. 1–2pm. Free. No booking. All welcome.

Wednesday 2 September: Describing the Ards in 1683: the William Montgomery manuscript revisited, with Ian Montgomery. Part of the 'Up Down' series of lectures. Host and venue: PRONI, Titanic Boulevard, Belfast. 1pm. Free but need to book your place by email to or telephone to 028 90534800.

Wednesday 2 September: Reinterpreting the Revolution: A Centenary Discussion on the Easter 1916 Rising. Hosted by J P O'Malley, the panel will include prominent historians Diarmaid Ferriter, Maurice Walsh and R F Foster. Venue: London Irish Centre, 50-52 Camden Square, London NW1 9XB. Doors open 7pm. Price: £8/6 concession. Tickets and details.

Thursday 3 September: Northern Ireland in the 1950s - a Look Back in Time, with Dr Peter Smyth. Host: North of Ireland Family History Society, Belfast Branch. Venue: Holywood Arches Library, 4-12 Holywood Road, Belfast BT4 1NT. 7:30pm.

Thursday 3 September: The Great Famine in Ulster, with Dr Gerard MacAtasney. Part of Libraries NI's 2015 Famine Commemoration. Host and venue: Newry City Library, 79 Hill Street, Newry BT34 1DG. 6:30pm. Free. For more details telephone: 028 3026 4683 or email:

Thursday 3 September: The Irish in European warfare in the 17th Century – military origins of diaspora, with Padraig Lenihan. Genealogy at Lunchtime series of lectures. Host and Venue: National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. 1–2pm. Free. No booking. All welcome.

Saturday 5 September: Charlie: the Hedge School. Venue: Electric Picnic, Stradbally, Co. Laois. Panel: Martin Mansergh, Brian Hanley, Donal Fallon, Colm Keena. 3pm. Sold Out.

Sunday 6 September: 1916–2016: what are we commemorating? A History Ireland Hedge School, chaired by editor Tommy Graham. Venue: Electric Picnic, Stradbally, Co. Laois. Panel: Martin Mansergh, Jason Burke, Roisin Higgins, Conor McNamara. 3pm. Sold Out.

Tuesday 8 September: Defending Ireland from the Irish: the 1867 Fenian Rising, with Jerome Devitt. Host: South Dublin County Libraries. Venue: County Library, Library Square, Tallaght, Dublin 24. 7:00pm. All welcome.

Tuesday 8 September Family history and genealogy sessions, with Margaret Bonar and Betty Craven. Donaghmede Library, Donaghmede Shopping Centre, Grange Road, Dublin 13. All are welcome and admission is free. 2:30pm to 4pm. Booking is essential, tel: 085 1444883.

Tuesday 8 September: Anglicans Aren’t All Anglo! – Church of Ireland records, with Rosaleen Underwood MAGI. Fifth of the 'Your Ancestors and the Nation’s Archives' lecture series presented by Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI) and the National Archives of Ireland. Venue: Reading Room, National Archives of Ireland, Bishop Street, Dublin 8. 5:15pm. Free but need to book by email: Everyone welcome.

Tuesday 8 September: The House on Bunion Hill: an Irish census project, with Ray Gillespie. Genealogy at Lunchtime series of lectures. Host and venue: National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. 1–2pm. Free. No booking. All welcome.

Tuesday 8 September: The recording of historic homesteads, with John Tierney. A day course in tracing, surveying and digitally publishing a Memory Trail of historic homesteads. Host: Kilrush and District Historical Society. Venue: Teach Ceoil, Grace Street, Kilrush, Co. Clare. 9:30am to 4pm. Free. All welcome.

Tuesday 8 September: Northern Ireland Civil Registration records, with GRONI staff. Host: North of Ireland Family History Society, Lisburn Branch. Venue: Bridge Community Centre, Railway Street, Lisburn, BT28 4XP. 7:30pm to 9:30pm.

Wednesday 9 September: Researching Ancestors in the Army in India, a free workshop with Valmay Young of FIBIS. Venue: British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1, UK. 2pm. Free but you need to book by emailing Details.

Wednesday 9 September: Building the Silent Valley Dam, 1923 to 1933: setting the record straight, with Philip Donald. Part of the Up Down series of lectures. Host and venue: PRONI, Titanic Boulevard, Belfast. 1pm. Free but need to book your place by email to or telephone to 028 90 534800.

Wednesday 9 September: Recording of headstones workshop, with John Tierney of Historic Graves. Host: Clare Roots Society. Venue: Teach Ceoil, Grace Street, Kilrush, Co. Clare. To book or for more details, contact

Wednesday 9 September: Ireland Reaching Out, with Mike Feerick. Host: Western Family History Association. Venue: Lackagh Parish Centre, Lackagh, Co. Galway. 8pm–10pm. Details.

Thursday 10 September: 1315: The Bruce Invasion, with Seymour Phillips. Milestones of Medieval Dublin monthly lunchtime lectures series hosted by the Friends of Medieval Dublin. Venue: Wood Quay Venue, Dublin City Council Civic Offices, Wood Quay, Dublin 8. 1:05pm–1:45pm. Admission free. NO booking is necessary.

Thursday 10 September: Getting started in local history, with Séamus Ó Maitiú. Genealogy at Lunchtime series of lectures. Host and Venue: National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. 1–2pm. Free. No booking. All welcome.

Thursday 10 September: Irish Genealogy Resources: Finding Records for an Irish Ancestor. Workshop. New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, South Court Classroom A, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street New York, NY, 10018. Noon. Details.

Friday 11 September: Using American Resources to Find Ulster-Scot & Irish Ancestors, with Kevin Shue. Host: Ulster Historical Foundation. Venue: PRONI, Titanic Boulevard, Belfast. Free. 1pm. Details and booking.

Saturday 12 September: A Scholar's Search: No Irish Need Apply? with Conar Donnan. Host and Venue: Irish Railroad Workers Museum, 920 Lemmon Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21223, USA. Donations Welcome. 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM EDT. Need to register.

Saturday 12 September: SS Nomadic, a Titanic Restoration, with Graeme Moore. Venue: PRONI, Titanic Boulvevard, Belfast. 1pm. Free. Booking is recommended, by email to or telephone to 028 90534800.

Saturday 12 September: Society of Genealogists Open Day. Free library tours (all fully booked) and lectures aimed at beginners. Venue: Society of Genealogists, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1, UK. 11am to 6pm. Details.

Saturday 12 September: The lure of the East: The Irish in the India Office records, with Hilary Tulloch on behalf of the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS). Venue: Seminar Room, National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. 2pm–3:30pm. Free, but email booking essential.

Saturday 12 September: Catholic Historical Society of Ireland Annual Conference. Venue: St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Dublin. Four lectures: The use of relics and images in late medieval and early modern Ireland, with Raghnall Ó Floinn; Negotiating religious change and conflict in Ireland: female religious communities, c.1560-c.1640, with Bronagh McShane; “God never prosper the king”: sedition and Catholicism in 17th-century Ireland, with Eamon Darcy; A grand fancy fair and drawing of prizes: Catholic fundraising and Irish economic culture, 1850-1921, with Sarah Roddy. 10am to 3:15pm. Registration on morning of conference. Cost (lunch not included): €15 (€10 unwaged). Email for details:

Saturday 12 September: Public Record Office of Northern Ireland open for European Heritage Weekend. There will be a full service on the Saturday. This is a welcome opportunity for those who are unable to visit PRONI (Titanic Boulevard, Belfast) during the working week. 

Autumn edition of Irish Roots magazine published
The Autumn edition of Irish Roots magazine has landed on my doormat, and it's looking like another helpful and informative issue full of news about Irish genealogy projects, societies and collections, as well as loads of helpful advice on how to conduct your research – whether you're working backwards in time or even forward.

Donegal comes under the microscope with a feature about conducting research in that county and a piece about the Donegal Diaspora Project. The free online databases of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland are explored, and there's a round up of sources for Irish church records (all denominations).

The background to the recent historical release of the National Library of Ireland's RC parish collection is examined, too, alongside photographs taken of dignatories who attended the launch event.

Moving the research abroad to follow the families of Irish emigrants, you can learn about Irish Anzacs and an important database of records that commemorates them, and discover the best sources for learning about the Irish who became firemen in the United States of America.

And in the final part of a series providing guidance on locating the living descendents of your ancestors, there's an illuminating case study feature demonstrating some of the techniques that can be used to achieve your aim.

With letters to the editor, answers to reader's genealogy queries, my own What's New? Review and much more, there's plenty to read and learn in this issue.

Irish Roots is available in digital and print format, by subscription and by single copy purchase, from the magazine's online shop. It is also available for sale in some news/bookstores.