Images of wills proved in the north of Ireland from 1858-1900 have now been made available online.
According to the website of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI):
“Before 1858 the Established Church (the Church of Ireland), through the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Armagh and the consistorial courts in each diocese, was responsible for granting probate and letters of administration. This was swept away in 1857 by the Court of Probate and Letters of Administration Act (Ireland), when probate matters were transferred from the ecclesiastical courts to the civil courts.
“The Prerogative Court and the consistorial courts were replaced by the Principal Registry in Dublin and a number of District Registries of the Probate Court (before 1877) and of the High Court (after 1877). You could apply for a grant of probate or letters of administration at the Principal Probate Registry in all cases but application could also be made at a District Registry within whose area the deceased had a fixed place of residence.
“The District Registries covering what is now Northern Ireland were those for Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry. From 1858 to 1921 (when it was abolished) the Armagh Registry covered testators living in Counties Armagh, Fermanagh, Louth, Monaghan and Tyrone except for the baronies of Strabane and Omagh in County Tyrone. Belfast District Registry from 1858-1921 covered Counties Antrim and Down while the Londonderry District Registry covered for the same period covered Counties Donegal, Londonderry and the baronies of Strabane and Omagh in County Tyrone.
“Unfortunately the original wills of the Principal Registry up to 1904 and of the District Registries up to 1899 were lost in 1922 when the Public Record Office of Ireland in Dublin was destroyed. However, the copies of wills that were made by the District Registries survived as they had not been transferred to the Public Record Office in Dublin. These copies of wills were written into large volumes – those for the District Registries of Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry are held in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
“The PRONI already provides a fully searchable index to the will calendar entries for the three District Probate Registries of Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry, with the facility to view the entire will calendar entry for each successful search. The database covers the period 1858-1919 and 1922-1943. Part of 1921 has been added, with remaining entries for 1920-1921 to follow in the near future.
“Digitised images of entries from the copy will books covering the period 1858-1900 are now available online, allowing users to view the full content of a will. 93,388 will images are now available to view.”