Probate Registries

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Apart from their appeal to family historians, Wills and Inventories are potentially a very rich source of economic and occupational data. The deceased may have recorded in their wills an occupation or trade directly connected with transportation (carriers, wagoners, horsemen, or boatmen, for example, or indeed merchants), while their inventories may reveal geographic details of their credit and debt networks.

While the occupations of the deceased are often catalogued, and some of these catalogues are now available online, we are anxious not to overlook the uncatalogued details or the very many records which might appear only in paper or card indexes. Collating all of this information is an enormous undertaking that will only be possible through the generosity of a network of volunteers working in local archives.

The Victoria County History of Hampshire volunteer group has been working on the transcription of 16th- and 17th-century wills, focused on Basingstoke and its surrounding rural area. You can read about their work here.

For an example of a C17th merchant's probate inventory click here.

Draft probate project charter


  • Goals
  • Deliverables
  • Proposed project methodology
  • Proposed timeline
  • Required resources (people)
  • Required resources (technology)
  • Project risks



2 days ago
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Worth adding to this page the project team's interest in using Transkribus on an experimental basis to transcribe and/or key spot wills and inventories. The MarineLives project can offer ca. 100 wills with maybe 150 pages of diplomatic (or near diplomatic) transcriptions which can be matched against TNA images of those wills. The MarineLives project can also offer ca. 6 mill words of semi-diplomatic transcriptions of notarial hands from depositions made in the English High Court of Admiralty in the early/mid C17th. These two sources could both be used to train Transkribus.
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