The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) has indexed and digitized early wills from the three District Probate Registries of Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry between the years 1858 and 1900.
Speaking today about the Wills application, Culture Minister Nelson McCausland said: “One of PRONI’s key goals is to digitise key cultural resources and make them easily available to a worldwide audience. This free of charge application will therefore be of enormous assistance to anyone trying to trace their genealogical roots and will be of particular help to those wanting to begin their research from the comfort of their own home.
“In recent years there has been a huge increase in people researching their family history and trends have shown that a large number of these people are from outside the UK. I am sure this new application will be of particular interest to this international audience.”
Wills are one of the most used archival sources by both family historians and solicitors. The images have been linked to an existing searchable index which allows researchers to view details such as name, dates and the abstracts taken from the original entries.
Future digitisation plans include the addition of further pre-1858 will indexes to the PRONI Name Search facility. These indexes from Northern Ireland dioceses, will list the names of people who had wills probated as early as the seventeenth century – pushing the possibility of family and local history research further back in time.
Looking ahead to next year’s opening of the new PRONI headquarters, the Minister added: “I recently had the privilege to visit the stunning new PRONI headquarters at Titanic Quarter. This much needed £30million investment in our cultural infrastructure was provided by the Northern Ireland Executive. The new state-of-the-art facility will open to the public early next year and will protect Northern Ireland’s irreplaceable archives in a safe and secure environment.”
The wills are online at http://www.proni.gov.uk/index/search_the_archives/will_calendars.htm