18 January 2008

Northern Ireland resources online

For those with Irish ancestors a new website launched this month, January 2008, for the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland may be worth a look.

Of most interest for genealogy will undoubtedly be the free online databases directly accessible from a box near the top right-hand side of the main page.

There is a searchable index to the September 1912 Ulster Covenant, signed by 237,368 men, and the parallel Declaration signed by 234,046 women. Each person is identified by surname, forename(s), address, division, district, place of signing and an agents name. There is a link to the image of the original.

PRONI's freeholders records come from a variety of sources and are arranged on a county basis. They comprise two main types:
  • Registers - details of those who had registered to vote
  • Poll Books - lists of voters and the candidates for whom they voted
Freeholders’ records provide a range of information about land ownership and may contain all or some of: Name of freeholder, Address of freeholder, Location of freehold, Description of freehold, Name of landlord, Address of landlord, Value of freehold, Names of other lives, Date and place of freeholder’s registration, Occupation of freeholder, Religion of freeholder.

Wills is a database still in preparation. The first phase is for the District Probate Registries of Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry from 1858 to c.1900. It provides a fully searchable index to the will calendar entries for these 3 District Probate Registries with the facility to view the entire will calendar entry for each successful search.

Congratulations to PRONI on this initiative. The design is clean, the small images help make downloads quick, and there is Browsealoud available for those who have difficulty reading online. The search engine works quickly and results are well laid out. If only the Principal Probate Registry for England and Wales (Court Service) would take a leaf from their book, get off their collective duffs and get on with the job of putting their calendars to post 1858 wills online.

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