Journal Volume 3 2000

Searching For Your Ancestors (continued/3)

Index of Surnames

The Index of Surnames covers these two surveys, an invaluable series of volumes based on counties. You can consult the full range of the Index of Surnames in either the National Archives or the National Library. Having identified the probable parish of residence of your ancestors from this index, you can then look at the printed Griffith's Valuation Books and the original Tithe Applotment Books in the National Archives. These records help to confirm names and places.

Estate Papers

Checking the landlord from Griffith's Valuation may lead you to Estate Papers, mainly in the National Library. The Fitzwilliam estate papers which cover large tracts of land in Co. Wicklow, round Coolattin and Shillelagh, give various details of tenants and their families.


Wills are so very useful in filling in family gaps, and yet they can be so very difficult to find. Many were stored in the Four Courts in 1922, and most of these went up in smoke. One box of wills which I examined in the National Archives were chocolate-brown, dry as toast, apparently unopened since the blaze.

Testamentary Card Index

In the National Archives is a Testamentary Card index, which catalogues all the wills that do exist there. Wills of the past were more individual than now, and an old will can give an insight into the character of the person making it. One that I checked started:

I, John Trousdell being in sound mind blessed be God and about to have an operation on my leg”…
This John Trousdell made various allocations, ending with a bequest:
 “to pay my poor wife.. (who will endeavour to maintain her offspring)... At her death [the bequest] to be divided share and share alike amongst the unfortunate children of our union."


John Trousdell lived for many years after his leg operation. A descendant commented that John T. sounded a bit of an old misery when he referred to his `unfortunate' offspring, and that it was really Mrs. T. who was unfortunate, for she had 19.

Registry of Deeds

Up to 1858 wills came under the jurisdiction of the various dioceses, and were therefore indexed in separate volumes in the National Archives. Wills and references to wills are found in diverse locations. Some are to be found in the Registry of Deeds, and these have been summarised in three volumes of printed abstracts. The Registry of Deeds in Henrietta Street is another storehouse of intriguing documents. The old Kings' Inns, it houses deeds from 1708.

Put on your oldest garb, and go there when you are feeling strong, for the memorials are stored in large, leather and linen bound volumes, some nearly ceiling height, and you must climb the spindly ladder to haul them down for yourself.


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