Wednesday 15 June 2016

Final tranche of National Archives of Ireland's 'crown jewels' collection is ready for online debut

The last tranche of the National Archives of Ireland's 'crown jewels' will be uploaded to the     NAI's Genealogy website very soon. I have no certain date, but anything from a couple of days to a couple of months looks likely.

The project to digitise and release online – free of charge – many of the most important records used by Irish genealogists started in 2007 with the online launch of the 1911 census for Dublin and has continued with regular additions for the last nine years. The NAI's website has revolutionised Irish family history research and finally turned the tables on that old myth about how All The Records Were Burnt.

During those nine years, the following collections have been made available free of charge on the NAI's Genealogy Website:
  • Census 1901*
  • Census 1911*
  • Census fragments from 1821–1851
  • Census Search Forms relating to 1841 and 1851
  • Calendars of Wills and Administrations from 1858 to 1922
  • Tithe Applotment Books from 1823 to 1837
  • Irish Soldiers' Wills
In addition to the free availability of all of the above collections on the NAI website, they are also free to access on FamilySearch and FindMyPast. (Those marked * are additionally available, free, on Ancestry.)

Here, then, are brief summaries of the collections waiting in the wings, ready to make their online debut on the NAI site, free:

Valuation Office House and Field Books, 1848 – 60
I hesitate to mention this collection again! It's had a difficult and protracted journey into cyber space, but the moment of its arrival is now almost upon us. The House, Field, Tenure and Quarto Books are coming.

This new collection is not complete – there is another sizeable tranche of these books (about one-eighth of the total) still undergoing conservation and cataloguing – so some researchers will find gaps in coverage in the new collection. There is no particular rhyme or reason to the gaps; you may be lucky, you may not.

These books are not likely to be bothering too many beginner researchers, but they can often reveal the 'missing vital link' to the history of a family. Previously scattered across several repositories, this collection is likely to be full of surprises now that it is fully indexed and readily accessible in one place.

Will Books, post-1858
This collection consists of the surviving Will Books prepared by the district registries. (The only Will Books lost in the PRO in 1922 were those for the Principal Registry based in Dublin and the Dublin District Registry.) Note: books for district registries that mainly fall in Northern Ireland (Armagh, Beflast and Derry) are held by PRONI.

The books contain transcripts of each will, the wording of the grant, the date of transcription and the date of death of the testator. See the example below, which shows the index summary of the will of Bernard Maguire who died in 1858. Click the image to see the Cavan District Registry's transcribed copy of the will with the wording of the probate grant recorded directly below it.

Click to view Will Book entry
Click to view Will Book entry

Diocesan and Prerogative Wills Indexes, pre-1858
These indexes are arranged by diocese and some of the books are in a very poor and damaged state (some even have bullet holes through them!). Although the majority of records in this collection are indexes, a small percentage (let's say 5%) are Will Books compiled at the time the will was proved.

Shipping records

This fourth collection is a bit of a mystery. I haven't been able to get clarification on exactly what it holds, over and beyond a working title of 'shipping records'. Whatever it holds, I'm sure it'll be another valuable addition to the online line-up.