Friday, 16 March 2012

Where there's a will....

The National Archives of Ireland has been busy updating its online catalogue with an entry for each of the Calendars of grants of probate of wills and letters of administration from 1858-1982.

While the search facility is a tad confusing (to put it politely), the updated catalogue is in good shape if you're looking for wills dating from Independence to the 1980s.

All calendars from 1923 to 1982 have been scanned. You'll find links to each year's calendar here, courtesy of CIGO.

Taking it one stage further, all entries in the calendars from 1935 to 1949 have been keyed, so each now has its own individual entry in the online catalogue, with a simple link to the exact page of the scanned calendar. Each of these entries also has a link to the NAI order form for Testamentary Copies for users who wish to order copies of the original documents.

Example: I'm researching the life of my grandfather's brother, Jeremiah Santry. A simple search produces two results. One is of a Jeremiah whose will is dated 1986. Clicking through to the catalogue entry, I find his address, date of death, and date probate granted. There's a reference number that will allow me to follow the trail in person to the original documents. This being a 1986 grant, the documents are not available to order.

The second Jeremiah died in 1936 and is, indeed, the one I'm after. His catalogue entry provides similar information but also, because it's a 1936 grant, prompts me to order copies of the original documents via the downloadable order form. A minimum two weeks is stated as expected turnaround time.

These keyed entries amount to just over 158,000 new entries in the online catalogue, while the scanned pdfs contain around 700,000 names. Collectively, they will be of huge benefit to Irish genealogy researchers.

Unfortunately, the ordering process is resolutely manual and only Euro cheques and postal orders are accepted in payment by post. Hopefully the NAI will improve those options in due course.

Update: Seems I'm not the only one swearing at the NAI search facility! So here's an explanation of how to get at the info:

To search by year, use this link.

Scroll to the year you want and click it.

If you have chosen a year between 1923 and 1982, look out on the next screen for:
Digital Document: Calendar of grants of probate of wills and letters of administration 19xx.pdf. Click on this pdf title and it will start to download, ready for you to search alphabetically. Be patient, they are big files.

If you have chosen a year outside of those dates, the next screen will not have a digital document link because the calendars for those years have not yet been scanned.

To search by name
From the NAI home page, follow the link to Search the Archives.

Simple Search
Just type in the name, as you would in any search engine, and you can sift through the results to find the one you want. Not all the results will be probate records. Remember that the only probate records to have been keyed in are for the years 1935-1949. You won't find named probate results outside of these dates.

The Simple Search is not just suitable for unusual names, like my Santry example above. I also used it in a search for my great grandfather, Patrick Doyle, who died in 1947. It returned only 86 results (not all probate records), and his probate record was easy to identify because occupations are shown in the result abstract. He was a retired coach builder, so he stands out clearly.

Advanced Search
The button is to the left of the Simple Search box.

To do an Advanced Search by name for deaths/probate from 1935 to 1949, fill in the boxes as follows:

  • Words from the title/content  : Calendars
  • Subject : Probate
  • Person/Institution : Name of person you are researching.

A search will then produce a list of results for you to sift through.

Sunday 18th: GRRRRR! The Advanced Search doesn't seem to be working.