Wills and probate

This twitterchat for #ANZAncestryTime was based on wills and probate records. Some of the tweeters have written blog posts relating to the topic:

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What interesting discovery have you made in a Will or Probate Record? How did this help your research?

Names, names, names! Confirmation of relationships, discovery of property details, so much detail in wills and probate records.

I found wills of certain ancestors very interesting, particularly my half 2xgreat uncle in the UK who provided the names of all his nieces and nephews. How easy it to obtain wills in New Zealand and Australia

Deb, in NZ the wills and probate are held at archives. Many are scanned and available via @FamilySearch. Check Archway first and there is a link to the documents in Archway. Fran

I have found a lot of good information in Wills or in Probate records. Best is usually the married names of the daughters. Sometimes some puzzling ones like why certain people are missing

I’ve had this too – sometimes it’s because those people have been helped financially in some way before death, so weren’t left anything. Or, were automatically left property due to inheritance rules, so didn’t need to be included

I learnt that one of my 2nd great grandfathers was probably not too happy with his son, my great grandfather, like many others weren’t. He had behaved badly over decades, and let many people down.

You want to find the true stories Karen but sometimes they can be disappointing

This is a great example of things we wouldn’t ordinarily know about an ancestor’s relationship. Wills are invaluable for research

Haven’t been fortunate enough to have an ancestor with one…

with a irish wills you can use Australia as a search term capturing people who lived in Oz or who left $ to family in Oz.

Very true Pauleen My g g grandfather’s Will in Ireland told me where his seven daughters had all emigrated to in the US and who they married. Very helpful

I have another will from an Irishman who married into the family. He left his farm to his daughter. Only I have idea where it is. It was nearly 100 years ago.

I have an Irish Will where my three times g grandfather left a bed to a granddaughter…. 🙂

In another Irish Will I discovered where an old mirror and hairbrush set my grandmother gave me came from and how old it was

A will confirmed what seemed obvious by the birth date – a son was really a grandson but was adopted by his grandparents

My paternal GF died young, predeceasing his mother, leaving my GM a widow with a 13 year old child in the 1940s. My paternal great GM died a few years later & only left money to her surviving adult children & nothing to my father. I can’t forgive that

My great grandmother was excluded because they had Brought up her illegitimate child…stated in will

I can’t understand it. Someone said to me not to judge the past by present expectations, but I’ve found plenty of wills from that time and earlier where provisions were made for grandchildren when parents had died

Best record was husband’s grandfather’s probate had birth certificates of his mother and aunt both within the 100 yr cut off

One of my biggest breakthroughs came through a probate record in London Gazette. It was my aunt’s biological father. Details on next of kin pointed me to his daughters & I was able to reunite sisters who had never met. I was so nervous about contacting someone out of the blue but it turned out well. I agonised over a letter, but then decided I couldn’t stand the wait. I rang her! Thank goodness some people still pick up the phone.

I’ve used relatively recent probates to track down family Brooke and had success with a letter, but have baulked at contacting another because the death of the person was too recent (for me) to feel comfortable. In time maybe

gt grandfather in 1907 left his land to daughter seems ahead of his time. Son did already have some land.

I found a probate packet at the Qld State Archives containing an inheritance dispute that was more than interesting. And another where the dispute lasted 40 years!

Another great-grandfather’s will reflected his financial circumstances – not good – but showed his life insurance and his portable house. The life of a railway family.

A new Zealand Will proved a family family story about a ‘missed out on inheritance’ was untrue. The money belonged to a second wife. There was no family money…

An English Will showed me that a daughter was really an adopted niece. So a whole new search ahead

Best discovery was a will from a half aunt of my fathers. Turns out the money was not left to the cattery as per family lore although listed was many piece of china and who should receive them.

I love the details in wills, especially those left by women, as they often mention extended family, and smaller items as bequests.

I have found that my female ancestors tended to leave things to servants much more than males did

My Northern Irish ancestors all seemed to outlive their husbands and make Wills. They had substantial land ownings luckily for me

@geniaus encouraged me to get the probate for my 2nd great-grandmother Isabella Ellis nee Sinclair. Boy oh boy was it jam packed with information. I was fascinated to see how she lived in the same suburb I did as a baby.

I found my grandfather had left me a piano which I played often as a child but not since we moved house in the late 1960s

Also found out my great great grandmother’s married sister was childless and left everything to nieces and nephews

I found a missing Scottish ancestor in an asylum in Australia. His will showed that a person who wasn’t a family member, left him a large amount of money

My great grandfather had a complex will which verified family details and raised issues about the actions taken. He had wills in the UK, Qld and NSW.

My great/grand uncle left an interesting will with several large donations to missions and charities incl Indigenous advancement. His choices were based on religious affiliations.

My 4x great grandmother’s will confirmed I had found the right family back in England (and later doubly confirmed with DNA), wsa such a great moment reading it!

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What can you discover about ancestors in Wills and Probate records and why are these important resources?

I discovered a daughters married name from a second husband, the daughters step father, to explain their link. With “step” relatives sometimes being omitted from inheritances, this was nice find

Didn’t learn too much that was unexpected. The one long will I saw from the early 20th century was extensive. Hard to read – in legal jargon, with no full stops. It gave me contact to a person I knew nothing about as his son had abandoned his family.

I ended up transcribing my gxgrandfather’s will so it made sense to me even though it was typed up.

Names of married daughters and sons-in-law. Other complex relationships. How wealthy they were. Where they lived. And their signatures.

wills can provide more personal details like what items were passed to various relatives and friends too.

Who had fallen out with whom!!

Not for my family I was researching for the @WikiTreers challenge and found out someone was married twice led me to search for second wife and death of first

Contesting of Wills found in Probate records can be extremely interesting.

You’ve reminded me, I have an ancestor who contested the will of his ex wife. It went to the High Court, but he lost. She left him a small portion with the rest to her children. He thought he should get more.

It can answer questions like, of all the brothers/sisters why did Pa inherit the house? The will showed Pa inherited house only if he continued to care for his disabled brother in that house.

I discovered a daughters married name from a second husband, the daughters step father, to explain their link. With “step” relatives sometimes being omitted from inheritances, this was nice find.

You can discover information about their descendants e.g. who’s still alive when they died and their relationships. You can find out about property. And you can get an idea of their lifestyle from what is listed in the inventory.

Finding wills or probate can give great details about their property & financial circumstances and may tell of family conflicts or previous $ support. Combined with other documents gives a comprehensive view.

Wills can show family relationships, and missing people. The wealth and assets left by a person can show the type of lifestyle they lived

Have found land being passed to children and directions of where that land is or what it is called in wills.

What related records have you used? ie Intestacy, Administration, Guardianship, Deceased Estate Files? Can you think of similar resources?

I’ve looked in death duty registers (England) for more details of an ancestor’s beneficiaries: nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your… Sadly in my case, the “eldest daughter of my son George” was still not named!

I agree death duty registers can lead to more questions. Revealed a trust indicating which side of the family the wealth came from.

Witnesses signatures are also treasured finds

I also like that they touched the wills and then I have touched them. Though my photos from Archives in NZ are not as nice as the digital copies. Many are off centre

Agree Fran, that’s what makes holding originals so special.

Probate Packets can contain the Will, Court documents, a death certificate, an inventory of the estate and more

If deceased estate files survive/exist (as for NSW) they can be a gold mine detailing the person’s household effects. It makes you curious where the paintings & other assets went.

Intestacies (and wills) may reveal a residence far away, provide a death certificate and perhaps more info on the death

I have used Wills, Probate and Intestacy Files. Sometimes newspapers will tell you if a Will was contested so you know to go looking for the Probate records

The NZ High Court documents have probate material along with the will although nothing no exciting discoveries from this material for me.

I found about 33 pages of documents about one ancestor here. Completely and utterly unexpected that anyone in my family had been in NZ. archives.govt.nz Also, probatesearch.service.gov.uk/#wills

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Where can we find Wills, Probate, Administration Files, Intestacy Records and Deceased Estate Records? Suggest resources for understanding these records.

You can search for NZ records at @FamilySearch: familysearch.org/search/collect… or Archway archway.archives.govt.nz/Home.do

Just had a quick search on Archway and found will for my 3xgreat uncle and his son, woop..

’10 Tips for Finding & Using Wills, Intestacies, Probate records & Related Documents for Genealogy’: bit.ly/332wkrO. I’m not online right now but I scheduled this to be posted

I am just so used to all Tassie records being online, will need to check where probate records can be found

For finalised probate records from 1825 to 1995, enquire with the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office

In Tasmania, wills and letters of administration are online at the Tasmanian Names Index at Libraries Tasmania website

A summary from @nswarchives detailing what could be in the probate packets for #ANZAncestryTime NRS-13660 , Probate packets search.records.nsw.gov.au/primo-explore/…

Title Deeds to houses and land often contain information about deaths and inheritance. It can be worth searching the Land Registry website and Title records

I was looking through some 18th century title deeds for a property and came across a will for the earliest known owner. What a bonus!

I found some wills here, but not for my families AJCP research trove.nla.gov.au/search/categor…

I found the result of a will discussed in a letter that was sent from my family in Scotland to my family in the USA. The siblings were the inheritors. As my gggfather wasn’t included, he must have already died. Narrows down when.

Margaret I have a family letter from the 1800’s from Scotland explaining why a son was left out of the Will. He was Illegitimate. But for the letter the family didn’t know

you can search for SA wills on FamilySearch

Transmission of property indexes by death can be helpful. Land transfers before death may give a clue why there isn’t a will.

Advertisements in newspapers will alert you to a will under probate. News stories may detail info on the property, if large. Advertisements for sale of property after death.

I find it handy to have a currency converter at hand when reading Wills. I really like this one nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency-conve…

this webinar might be helpful. records.nsw.gov.au/archives/webin…

They will mostly be in archives, including Public Curator files. Newspaper advertisements will provide clues to a will being probated and who is the primary inheritor.

In Victoria Wills Files can be found at the Public Records Office Many but not all are online @PRO_Vic

Readers: What is a fascinating discovery you have made while searching wills etc?

Griffiths Valuations Ireland

This week’s chat was run by those very knowledgeable about Irish land records particularly the Griffith Valuations. I have not used them yet, but now I am finding more Irish on my father’s line maybe the following will come in useful for future research.

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What are the Griffith’s Primary Valuations (GV)? How and why have you used them to find your Irish families?

For those looking for some background to Griffith’s Valuation – this and the related articles are useful: askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/h…

Why is GV important? Read this article by Ask About Ireland. askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/h…

For those who have not used GV or need some free tutorials, there are some excellent ones on YouTube and some specific to several Counties too

Griffith’s Valuations are/were a multilayered response to determine the rateable value of land and property to share the cost of the poor law support. It involved calculating the size, productivity and estimated rates on any property.

Critically, GV offers us an alternate insight into possible ancestral families during the mid 19th century especially given the absence of census records for that period. We will have to work a bit harder than we would with census data.

the key thing about GV from a #familyhistory POV is that it lists most land-occupying residents of the island of Ireland between 1847 to 1864…tenants and owners. It does not include whole families.

What I most want to know about Griffiths Valuations is whether the owner or renter of the property is named?

The occupier (renter) is named, and the person who rents the property to him/her is named, not always the owner

The immediate lessor is mentioned and then the person they rent to. The lessor may not be the absolute owner because they in turn may lease from higher up the chain. If you follow the overall links, and other sites, you can usually work it out.

For me Griffiths has been invaluable, it’s basically a mid-19th-century, head of household census, covering 70% of the population.

I found my 2xgreat grandfather on them and have used them to try and work out my rather unknown Ulster family, the one where I started with one person born in Castleblayney.

Griffith’s Primary Valuation of Ireland is the major part of a comprehensive land and property survey, for the purpose of levying taxes. I’ve found it indispensable in tracing my Irish families.

When I worked out my Riordan townland I used the mapping feature with Griffiths. I could go from the property number on an old map, to slide and work out where it fitted on a new map.

Exactly! Although it also works in reverse if you’re not too familiar with the geography.

It took quite a while with enlarging the map etc but eventually I could find it quickly with the curve on the roads.

There’s so much more to GV than a list of names: there’s revision lists (the amended valuations over time), maps, field and quarto books, tenure and house books (how I wish for these!). census.nationalarchives.ie/search/vob/hom…

a crucial thing for me is that they are limited for urban ancestors. I have found none of mine in it.

But you should still check it out, some of my Dublin city ancestors are listed, just not the ones who live it tenement houses.

Possibly because if they lived in tenements they were sub-tenants not the primary renter? I have had more luck with villages

I agree with @Rosiemonstre about GV’s limited used for urban areas, although occasionally this has been useful as it can demonstrate somewhere that has been urban for years wasn’t when the records started!

I watched a really informative webinar at ‘Ireland Reaching Out’ about Griffiths Valuations and Cancellation books … some time ago now. I think the link I posted may be a follow up article to that webinar

My top tip for researching GV for your families is to learn your locations in depth. Where the townland is on a map, what parish or barony it is in. Look it up on a current map or on John Grenham’s website johngrenham.com/places/ or on townlands.ie

Field books are like Swahili to me. I haven’t a clue what they mean in terms of agricultural productivity though the assessable value suggests they weren’t great. Why couldn’t I have had tenure books instead?

I have found GV useful seeing families living near each other, hence helping explaining the subsequent marriages

And witnesses to events, or perhaps a joint inheritance of land due to sharing an ancestor. Proving it is of course another problem!

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How have you verified that you’ve found the right family on the GV? Do you compare and consult other record sources as well as the GV?

Try to accumulate as much information on your family before you turn to Ireland eg parents’ names, and maybe siblings’ names. This helps to “triangulate” your data and narrow down the options. An unusual name helps too 😉

Cities can be a pain in which to research in many ways. I never trusted the 1851 Dublin census was my bloke until I matched it up with church records.

There are revision lists for the GV currently only online for Nth Ireland through PRONI or for the whole country via Family Search. Latter is in black and white. You need to search by keyword not place. Fingers crossed the digital images are coming!

I believe there is a plan to put the revision books online eventually. They have been slowly computerising them

Always need to cross reference with other records and FAN network, and follow the land holdings through the Cancelled Land/Revision books, to verify you have the right family.

Hopefully the parish registers may overlap with the timeline for the GV – this will help you confirm the correct townland and lead you to the right person on the GV.

Beware! when I started genealogy, I knew where our ancestral home was (we lived there) but the map did not correspond with my ancestor on Griffiths. Properties were renumbered over time, and the attached map was from a later date than the published valuation

That’s a great tip Dara! I’ve been looking at FMP maps and Ask About Ireland maps today – it gets confusing and you really need to understand the geography and location, don’t you.

My understanding is that the numbers and boundaries drawn on the attached maps date to the 1880s and will correspond to the Valuation Revisions of that date, though the maps used are earlier OS ones, so mightn’t include recent buildings. Can anyone confirm?

I thought it was the maps and numbers corresponding to later revisions than the primary valuation.

My reading of the @findmypast GV maps suggests no tenancy numbers. I need to re-read my Reilly.

My understanding (may or not be correct) is that the maps on @findmypast are the originals used by the surveyors. Happy to be corrected if wrong.

Yes, I think so too. The ones on askaboutireland don’t match.

One of my first stops in Dublin is usually to the Valuation Office to follow up more info from the Revision lists…they’re gold!

The marriage record for my great grandma gave her father’s name and occupation. Also found him in Slater’s Directory. Then we found her brother, same name and occupation. Gradually got six siblings.

That’s really cool Margaret. I had the parents + siblings which helped confirm I was on the right track. #Irishfamilyhistory requires mental gymnastics and perseverance.

Mine seem to go to and from Scotland – and every generation some seem to emigrate to the USA. Thousands of DNA matches back to Ulster. Well before GV.

I think there was more seasonal migration than we anticipate as well as permanent. And international migration was a constant among those with enough cash to fund it. They then supported those at home. Fascinating!

Ulster migrants went every year to Scotland for work & then came home – up to relatively recent times.

A2: Maps for GV can be confusing and challenging. This is why you need to be familiar with the location and use the slider for modern to historical map image on Ask about Ireland. The @findmypast are supposed to be the earliest – but can be the most confusing. #ANZAncestryTime pic.twitter.com/6AeRK6xqIv

— Pauleen Cass (@cassmob) June 22, 2021

When using the Valuation prep books, be aware that they often measured in Irish acres and then converted to standard for the published results.

I had planned to visit Ireland last year and a volunteer from @IrelandXO was going to take me to where the land was

We were really lucky when the relieving parish priest took us to meet a relative as he had a different surname but the priest was right. We’d bonded over lives in a missionary country. The GV revisions, and a chat with the bloke confirmed it.


What websites are available to search the GV? What are their benefits or weaknesses?

The most commonly used one is probably Ask About Ireland. askaboutireland.ie/griffith-valua… Downside is it can be temperamental and clunky and for the maps you need to know where you’re looking. Upside: use the books option and the slider for variations.

For Northern Ireland explore the GV and revision books through this site. nidirect.gov.uk/services/searc…

I love the AskAboutIreland website askaboutireland.ie/griffith-valua… – their map facility is the best!! Their maps date later than GV, around 1880s, so for contemporary maps go to @findmypast search.findmypast.com.au/search-world-r…

You do need to know what you’re looking for though Maggie, to narrow down to the correct townland. Best to do some homework first 😉

It can be very buggy & it is not maintained well. #ANZAncestryTime I still use it and FMP mainly.

The only complete version of Griffith’s Valuation with the ORIGINAL MAPS marked to identify the corresponding holdings, is on findmypast.com” (my capitalisation) ref. irishfamilyhistorycentre.com/article/how-to…

Worth pointing out that the maps are listed as a separate record to the valuation on findmypast. search.findmypast.ie/search-world-r…

Ancestry also has search capabilities https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/1269/

Revision lists enable you to follow the inheritance pattern for a property and lead you perhaps to a cousin today, give clues to approx dates of deaths of ancestors, or who inherited the land – possibly not the eldest son as you might think.

Ah, I only use the ‘askaboutrieland’ ones as FindMyPast doesn’t include maps for the six counties in Northern Ireland, and that’s what I was referring to. So you could well be correct!

Ask about Ireland. failteromhat.com/griffiths.php

I don’t use Roots Ireland except when I need to. You need to be sure you check what they have compared to others. Grenham’s site is good for this sort of comparison.


Can you recommend any books/blogs/websites to learn more about the GV and associated records?

The Ireland Reaching Out (@IrelandXO ) Website is one of my ‘go to’ places for things Irish … Here is a link irelandxo.com/ireland-xo/new…

this site is useful to learn more about the landed estates in Connacht and Munster, c. 1700-1914 landedestates.ie

I highly recommend Frances McGee’s book on the Valuation Office for those who want more detail. fourcourtspress.ie/books/2018/the…

Claire Santry’s Irish Genealogy Toolkit website is a fantastic resource to understand Griffith’s Valuation and associated records: Land and property records including GV https://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/Ireland-genealogy.html

My absolute favourite book for GV research is James Reilly’s book which can be found via Googling.”Richard Griffith and his valuations of Ireland” amazon.com.au/Richard-Griffi… If you can’t beg, borrow or steal it, read this pdf file. leitrim-roscommon.com/GRIFFITH/Griff…

Another useful website which offers further links is: irish-geneaography.com/griffiths-valu…

And a shameless plug for a talk I’m doing on Griffith’s Valuation and related records with @IHGS in October: ihgs.ac.uk/course-tutoria…

Don’t forget valuation and other books @NARIreland genealogy.nationalarchives.ie

Blog posts about using GV

Maggie – also used other Irish resources to help in her search

Margaret – mention of ancestor in the GV

Margy Rose – first success with GV

Pauleen – using GV and and quarto books, Valuation office, Household returns,

Alex – evaluating GV, part 2

Alex – on Irish research

Readers: Have you used Griffiths Valuations or other Irish records?