Researching Family Wills in Northern Ireland
The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) Wills Search
Introduction to PRONI Wills online
In tracking family roots in Northern Ireland, a good free online site that is both interesting and useful is the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland online Wills search – PRONI Wills. A Will becomes public once Probate has been granted.
Using the online PRONI Wills search
The online PRONI Wills records are searchable by name and can be refined by the inclusion of relevant dates and area. Northern Ireland area search choices include:
A few things to consider
The site is easy to use, though a bit time consuming if your family member has a very common name and you do not have a date of death to narrow the search down, but it is still well worth a look!
Of course not everyone made a will and you are more likely to find one if your ancestor was a landowner, even a small farmer, or had his own business.
The majority of searches will give the name of the will owner. The date of death and the date the will was granted. Where the person lived, and his/her occupation. Also the amount of money or goods bequeathed and the names of the executors.
Images of the PRONI Wills
In some cases an image of the actual Will is available to read online or print. This can produce a wealth of family information! It will list all the beneficiaries of the estate and who got what, thus providing evidence of wealth and social status. The document can reveal unknown siblings, the married names of daughters’ even nieces and nephews and perhaps information about family who have emigrated.
The names of the witnesses will also be shown, usually extended family members, neighbours or business colleagues. The florid and legal language used gives a real flavour of the times!
The content and even the tone of the will can give an indication of family life and relationships, that cannot be conveyed by mere dates alone. I found an example of this in my great great grandfather’s will, where he left one son only £5 due to his “intemperate habits”. This document can also provide
an insight into the interests and character of the testator e.g. charitable bequests.
You can access this free Public Records Office of Northern Ireland website at PRONI Wills
Read our other genealogy research articles at: Your Family Tree
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