Wills are one of the most satisfying and interesting genealogical documents you will come across. They not only help us make links to family members and confirm wives and children of the deceased, but they also give us a marvelous insight into the character of the individual and the lifestyle of the family. If there is also an inventory attached, this is an added bonus, allowing us to get an idea of their household goods and the day-to-day items that were important to them.
The trouble is, once you get to the 18th, 17th and 16th centuries, these documents can begin to look like a foreign language unless you have some knowledge of old handwriting. Many letters were formed completely differently to the way we are used to today, and there are various archaic abbreviations and legal phrases that can also be confusing. Added to that, there are often words that have fallen out of use, not to mention that each secretary had his own handwriting style!
Palaeography – the study of old handwriting – can be learned, but it can take a while before you get the knack of recognising certain words and letters. The more you read, the easier it becomes. Which is fine for a professional who reads old hand frequently, but if you only have the occasional document it may not be worth spending the time to try and relearn the art of reading old hand each time.
I offer a service of will transcription at my usual rate of £25 per hour. Here are the details:
This depends on the length of the will, and how difficult the handwriting is. However, an average 2-3 page will can take around 2 hours as a rough estimate. So expect to pay at least £50, but if the will is more than 3 pages then this could be anything from £75 to £250.
WHAT YOU WILL RECIEVE
I will send you a full transcript of the will and/or inventory. Mostly I will use the old spellings, as long as they can be understood, as this keeps the historical feel of the will – but if you prefer me to write it with modern spelling, please let me know. For example: ‘I give and bequeath to my sonne Edwarde the sume of sixe poundes‘.
If there are any archaic words that may not be understood today, I will give an explanation of these at the bottom of the will.
In particularly difficult documents, it may be that there are several words that I am unable to transcribe. Either these will be marked with short lines for the missing letters (e.g. st—e) or with a word that I think it might be but am unsure. Both will be surrounded by square brackets.
The transcript can be sent via email or by post, whichever you prefer.
WHAT I NEED FROM YOU
- A copy of the will, either by email or by post.
- Supporting information about the family – e.g. what you know of the deceased’s life, spouse, children etc.
- Any information you are particularly hoping to find – e.g. reference to a specific family member.
To discuss your requirements, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone me at 01608 662751.