Wills and administrations
To ensure the legality of a will of a deceased person, a grant of probate must be made by the courts. As part of this process, the original will is lodged with the courts. If someone dies intestate, without having made a will, the courts can grant letters of administration for the disposal of the estate.
Before 1858, grants of probate and administration were made by the courts of the Church of Ireland, which was the established State church. These courts were the Prerogative Court and the various diocesan or consistorial courts. There are separate indexes of wills and administrations for each court available to search on microfilm in the reading room. Some of these indexes have been published. Of these, the most important are Vicar’s Index to Prerogative Wills, 1536–1810 and the Indexes to Dublin Grant Books and Wills, 1270–1800, Index of Wills and Marriage Licenses for Dublin Diocese up to 1800 and 1800–1858.
From 1858, grants of probate and administration were made by the civil courts: the Principal and District Registries of the Probate Court before 1877 and of the High Court from 1877. These grants are indexed in the annual Calendars of Wills and Administrations, which cover the period 1858–1982 and are available in the reading room.
It is possible to search the calendars (indexes) online. The original documents cannot be accessed online but can be viewed in the Reading Room of the National Archives, or a copy obtained for a fee. For further information on ordering a copy please see Obtain copies of archives.
From 1858 to 1917, the calendars cover the whole of Ireland. After 1918, the calendars cover the 26 counties in the Republic while indexes covering the six counties of Northern Ireland are available in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).
The testamentary calendars available in our reading room have been digitised and can be searched online for the years 1858–1920 on our Genealogy website and 1922–1982 in our online catalogue. From 1923-1951 and 1983-1991, grants of probate and administration held by the National Archives are searchable in the online catalogue by the name of the deceased individual.
A Guide to Testamentary Records held in the National Archives, including information on how to search online, is available in Legal records. Indexes covering the six counties now in Northern Ireland, as well as a further set of post-1858 indexes, are in PRONI.