How to explain this administration of Estate?


My great great great grandmother Ann Helferty died in Glasgow in 1871. She was originally from county Tyrone but came to Scotland with her husband and children in the 1850s. I am confused about the length of time taken to settle the estate and also the difference in the sums of her effects and resworn value. The date of this probate is 1911. Forty years after her death. Michael will be either her son or her grandson. The image is from the The National Archives of Ireland's Calendar of Wills and Administrations. I am also wondering why it was settled in Dublin.

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Ms Genealogy

Posted 2015-02-06T10:32:11.333

Reputation: 41

I have a time taken to settle an estate in my family which is almost as long as yours and got some useful ideas at

– PolyGeo – 2015-02-06T11:08:06.230

Welcome to G&FH.SE! What is the source of this image -- is it from the Calendar of Confirmations?

– Jan Murphy – 2015-02-06T23:07:35.970

2Oh, Dublin, of course! The reason I ask is that the front matter of the index might have some clues about how the index entries are supposed to be constructed. For example, while searching for my research subject William Tabb d. 1919 in the National Probate Calendar (England and Wales), I discovered that there is a short description on the first T page that notes what kind of property is supposed to be included under "Effects". Research Guides may also cover some of the points raised by Adrian. I suspect that Adrian is right, and the original file might not have survived after 1921. – Jan Murphy – 2015-02-06T23:57:12.847



The reason for a delayed probate like this, will be that (a) the family originally saw no reason to get probate (in 1871) but (b) they discovered something, or something happened to change their mind (circa 1911) that required probate. It might be, for instance, that in about 1911, someone discovered a bank account in Ann's name and the bank required probate (or letters of administration actually) to allow the family to have access to the money.

The chances of finding out what that something was are slim, given that the Probate Calendar entry above is probably all there is. However, I suspect the fact that the estate was originally sworn at £5 and then resworn at £265 1s 3d (i.e. the value of the estate was corrected) does in fact tell us something. If it was a bank account that was discovered then, aside from interest, the value would surely be known from the contents of the bank-book, so the initial value would be close to the final. So I don't think it was a bank account that was discovered.

It might have been a share(s) in a company - maybe the nominal value was £5, so probate was got using the £5 figure. Then the share(s) were sold using the probate authority, realising £265-ish, requiring the correction of the estate value.

But one classic possible reason for delayed probate is property. If Ann owned property and her children continued to live there - what would it matter if the house was never handed over legally? It's only when the children, or someone even later, dies that they want to sell the property and discover it's not in their name but in Ann's name, so need probate to administer her estate.

Basically - these are possibilities, no more. There is, however, a way of finding out about property in Scotland. Scottish property transactions were recorded in Registers of Sasines, so you could look in the 1911 sasine registers to see if there is an entry for property owned by Ann (or her executors) being sold. This is not online so has to be done by someone in Scotland - by chance the method of doing this has just changed - see "Sasines records access at NRS now painless" a blog entry by Chris Paton.

I must emphasise that this will only work for property in Scotland - further there is absolutely no guarantee that this is why the late probate was obtained.


Posted 2015-02-06T10:32:11.333

Reputation: 11 070


On the question of whether the file exists -- where would the records have been kept? In the USA, when the administration is drawn out, the earlier files are usually bundled up with the 'current' ones, so I would expect all the paperwork to be in that 1911 file. If the file survived, it would have been transferred to the National Archives IE twenty years later per their research guide on Wills and testamentary records. So what happened to the Principal Registry and/or the Dublin District Registry?

– Jan Murphy – 2015-02-07T00:05:00.397

2Firstly, 1922 happened when the Four Courts Complex was burnt during the Irish Civil War. The complex certainly included the Irish Public Record Office but I think it was a bit more than that, because masses of "current" Irish government records were destroyed - in particular all wills pre-1922 (and admins, etc.) proven in the Dublin registry were destroyed. – AdrianB38 – 2015-02-07T10:10:25.987

2Secondly, I think that there are fundamental differences between what the UK (and Ireland) kept in relation tto probate, and what the US did. I have recently been skimming James Tanner's blog articles on American probate - and the sorts of documents that he refers to, are nothing like what we associate with the term "probate" in the UK. In the UK, probate records consist of the will (if any) and the grant of letters of administration allowing the executors or whoever to administer the estate according to the terms of the will (if any) or the rules of intestacy. And basically, that's it. – AdrianB38 – 2015-02-07T10:15:37.160

2I should add: in older probate proceedings one can find inventories. So even if the original stuff for this survived 1922, the "file" would consist of no more than a single sheet of paper granting authority - and conventional wisdom is that the grant says virtually the same thing as the calendar entry, so (virtually?) nothing has been lost due to the fire in this case. My presumption is that any legal papers associated with probate in the UK would be retained by the solicitors. A transfer of Scots property, would be recorded as suggested above, just like any property transfer. – AdrianB38 – 2015-02-07T10:21:58.760

2Thank you for all the info. I had hoped this might lead to further information on Anne's parents and siblings of which I have very little. – Ms Genealogy – 2015-02-07T14:03:20.457

1I knew about the PRO being destroyed in 1922 but did not know what other buildings were involved in the fire. In the US, I found a file on FamilySearch which involved a dispute over a cousin's letters of administration. Each document did not have very much information, but due to the number of court appearances involved, it ended up being 80 pages on the microfilm. So even though there was not the extensive inventory or lists of bequests you would find in a will, I did find some information about the deceased person's siblings and nieces and nephews. What we call a 'lucky dip'. – Jan Murphy – 2015-02-07T17:31:30.663

1@MsGenealogy -- I found out about my probate dispute in the local newspapers. I've found other references to probate matters in the paper, so you might try looking for legal notices to see if something was published (attempts to notify other possible heirs). – Jan Murphy – 2015-02-07T17:34:07.977