Wills and Testamentary Records...

From the Reformation the proving of wills and the granting of administrations in Ireland became the exclusive concern of the established Church of Ireland.

Wills were probated in local diocesan courts except where goods or land worth more than £5 were held in more than one diocese; such wills were probated in the Prerogative Courts of the Archbishop of Armagh.

For what was known as the ‘exempt jurisdiction of Newry and Mourne’ there is an index of wills for the period 1727-1857. In this case Newry and Mourne meant the parish of Newry and the barony of Mourne. It did not cover south Armagh. For this area see the index to wills probated in the diocese of Armagh. Copies of the will indexes will be found in the Library at PRONI.

In 1858 testamentary jurisdiction was transferred from the ecclesiastical to secular courts. A Court of Probate was established with a Principal Registry in Dublin and eleven district registries, including three for the province of Ulster, in Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry.

Original wills probated by the ecclesiastical courts for the whole of Ireland up to 1858 and the original wills probated in the Principal and District Probate Registries, 1858-1900, were deposited in the Public Record Office, Dublin and destroyed there in 1922. Transcripts of probated wills were kept in will books in district probate registries from 1858 and these are now deposited in the National Archives, Dublin and in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

PRONI holds the records of the registries of Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry. The jurisdiction of the Armagh District Registry covered Cos Armagh, Louth, Monaghan, Fermanagh and Tyrone, except baronies of Strabane and Omagh; the Belfast registry covered Antrim and Down and the Londonderry registry was responsible for Cos Donegal and Londonderry and the baronies of Strabane and Omagh.

The records from these registries for the period 1858 to September 1921 are now deposited in PRONI, except original wills and some grant books for Cos Louth and Monaghan, 1901-21, which were transferred to the Public Record Office of Ireland.

Many of the Irish wills destroyed in 1922 survive in some form somewhere. The main collection of copies and abstracts of wills is in the National Archives, Dublin. The major collection there are the genealogical abstracts of some 37,000 Prerogative Court wills for the period, 1536-1800, and some 5,000 administrations in cases of intestacy, 1595-1802, compiled by Sir William Betham. These Betham will abstracts relate to people of considerable wealth and status (Betham also compiled thirty-two volumes of will pedigrees based on this material and these are now held in the Genealogical Office, Kildare Street, Dublin).

There are also thousands of copies and abstracts of wills in the collections of the working papers of record searchers like Miss Gertrude Thrift and Tenison Groves in the National Archives Dublin and PRONI with card indexes to facilitate access.

In PRONI there are will abstracts relating to the following Co. Down families:


  • Bailie,
  • Barnet,
  • Bennett,
  • Blackwood,
  • Boyd,
  • Bradshaw,
  • Brownhall,
  • Bruce,
  • Bryanton,
  • Creighton,
  • Cromelin,
  • Cumming,
  • Cowan,
  • Ekenhead,
  • Echlin,
  • Fairlie,
  • Getty,
  • Glendie,
  • Hamill,
  • Halliday,
  • Hattridge,
  • Hill,
  • Hamilton,
  • Hutcheson,
  • Isaac,
  • Kennedy,
  • Johnson,
  • Johnston,
  • Legg,
  • McRobert,
  • McGawan,
  • Macartney,
  • Ross,
  • Stewart,
  • Weld,
  • Wilson,
  • Wallace,
  • Walker,
  • Traill,
  • Vaughan,
  • Savage,
  • Reid,
  • Price,
  • Maxwell,
  • Nevin,
  • Mercer,
  • Dickson,
  • Cumine and
  • Magenis (D/1759).

Will abstracts 1671-1858, names from Andrew through to Young compiled by Philip Crossle (T/748)

Will of J Reed, Newry, died 17 February 1710 (T/845)

Collection of copy wills, leases etc and genealogical notebooks mainly on Newry families including Corry, Courtney, Glenny, Needham, Ogle, Moore, Moody, Scott and Spence (T/618)

Wills of S. Black (died February 1828) and Sarah Black (died July 1832) both of Newry (D/379/3-5)

Prerogative will of John Rakestrow, distiller, Newry, 1748 (T/699/4)

Will of Jane Rakestrow, Newry, 1751, with pedigree notes on family (T/699/4)

Prerogative will of George Glenny, merchant, c.1803 (T/699/8)

Prerogative will of Thomas Jefferson, Newry, 1833 (T/699/9)

Prerogative will of Joseph Glenny, 1841 (T/699/10)

Prerogative will of Eliza Crozier, Newry, c.1853 (T/699/12)

Further collection of copies of Newry wills in collection T/743:

/1 William Hamilton, 1779
/2 Abraham Cowan, 1794
/5 Denis Caulfield, 1819
/11 Samuel Price, died 1843
/15 Robert Hamilton, died 1853
/16 Newry & Mourne will of Charles M.Seymour, 1854