I was so excited to hear the news that thousands of wills were published online by Ancestry.co.uk. Among these wills are numerous of famous and noted individuals including William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Sir Francis Drake.
According to Ancestry.co.uk’s news site, “We’ve just added the most important collection of wills for England and Wales from before 1858 proved by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. It’s packed with wills from members of the old middle and upper classes and paints a rich picture of life at that time.”
Of all of the source documents I’ve worked with, my favorite are wills. I love the look of the beautiful scripts used throughout history and thoroughly enjoy the challenge of transcribing them as accurately as possible. I find that wills are the most information and ‘colorful’ documents. Yes, yes, I know they’re pen and ink and ‘black and white’ in reality, but what I mean by ‘colorful’ is that they provide the details of the lives of the persons involved. It’s never just dates, locations, etc. Wills provide the prologue, main story and epilogue of an individual’s life and introduces us to their family and sometimes friends. We learn details of financial circumstances, social standing, property owned, and best of all, their relationships, whether good or bad.
Once we have come to understand the contents of a will, we know more of their life story. Although they are only accessible through paid subscription, Ancestry.co.uk offers a 14 day trial period for users to check it out before committing to a full subscription.