Testamentary papers

During the Plantation period testamentary jurisdiction was vested with the Church of Ireland, a situation that continued until 1858. Unfortunately, virtually all will probated under the authority of the Church of Ireland were destroyed in Dublin in 1922 with the burning of the old Public Record Office of Ireland. Indexes, arranged by diocese, do survive, but the only one dating from as far back as the early seventeenth century is the index to wills probated in the diocese of Derry which starts in 1612. This has been published. Nearly 150 testators whose wills were probated between 1612 and 1640 are listed. Not only does the will index give the name and date of probate for each – which can be used as an approximate guide as to when they died – their residence and even on occasion their occupation are also given.

See list of pre-1641 testators in Derry diocese

Extracts from several of these wills survive. For example, abstracts of the wills of George and Ellen Halyburton exist. George Halyburton was a tenant on Sir William Hamilton’s estate of Manor Elieston in County Tyrone. His will of 1638 reveals that he had been leased the townlands of Gortin and Lenamore by Sir William on 2 May 1633 for 21 years at an annual rent of £22. His will also reveals that he was the son of Henry Halyburton. George died c.1638. On 18 September 1640 Ellen Halyburton wrote her will. She was then living at Gortin with her son Patrick. Her other son Henry was in Scotland. In her will she wrote that it was her desire that she be buried alongside her husband in the chancel of Cappagh Church. Those who were present when Ellen wrote her will were Robert Algeo, Robert Hamilton and Peter Massie, a curate. (Both wills can be found in PRONI, ref. T/808/15101.)