Wills have always been an extremely important source of genealogical information about the property-owning classes, in Ireland as elsewhere. They provide a clear picture of a family at a particular point in time and can often supply enough details of a much larger network of relationships-cousins, nephews, in-laws and others-to produce quite a substantial family tree. Apart from their genealogical significance, wills can also vividly evoke the way of life of those whose final wishes they record.
The minimum information to be found in a will is:
Specific properties are usually, though not always, mentioned. The two dates,
that of the will itself and of its probate, give a period during which the testator
died. Up to the nineteenth century most wills were made close to the date of
death, and witnesses were normally related to the person making the will. As well
as the minimum information, of course, many wills also contain much more,
including at times addresses and occupations of beneficiaries, witnesses and
executors, and details of family relationships-quarrels as well as affection.