Using National Archives for locating historic wills

20 January 2022


From time to time, you will need to obtain a certified copy will and grant of probate or letters of administration prior to 1992. (From 1992 onwards you can search the online register at The place to obtain historical grants and wills is the National Archives. Of course, the starting point is, however, it is not the most intuitive searching system.

There are two methods. First, if you have the date of death and date of grant then you can order a certified copy using the order form. There is a degree of searching on the site to locate the form and the form is attached here for ease of use. If you need historic grants so that you can prepare a de bonis non application or you need certified copies for a first registration, then you need to complete the form as attached and apply for the Certified Will (€30) and the Certified Grant of Probate (€40).

If you don’t know whether or not a deceased made a will or whether a grant was taken out, then there are some more steps to be taken. The National Archives do not carry out any searching. However, they do offer a fantastic free service which is not publicised very much. If you write to National Archives with a name and date of death they will conduct a five year forward search of the name in the Archives to see whether or not any grant has issued. It’s called a Five Year Search in the Calendars of Probate and Administration. Again this is a very useful service and could rule out much for you with respect to your searches.

The National Archives do help in sifting through old wills

The other option is to do some searching yourself. You can bring up a pdf of each of the years of the Calendars of Wills by using the search function in the National Archives. When you go onto the website, on the top of the home page there is a link called “Search the Online Catalogue”. Following that link, if you put the search term, say, for example, “calendar of wills 1932” into the search box, you will get a pdf of the 1932 Calendar of Wills. What this will show is all of the grants for 1932 in alphabetical order according to surname. It is a very useful source if you have a general idea of when a grant was issued. While you can’t do a CTRL + F to find a name as such, you can scroll through and see if you can locate the name that you need. Very useful if you wish to rule in or rule out a particular name or grant.

I hope you found this useful and if you need any assistance on probate, will drafting, capacity or tax matters don’t hesitate to drop me, Colm Kelly an email on

Here is the link to that form