Launch of the Scottish Wills and Testaments, from 1902 to 1925
We're delighted to announce that the Wills & Testaments for 1902 to 1925 are now live on the ScotlandsPeople website! With this latest addition of records, researchers can now access 1 million Scottish Wills & Testaments, covering the period 1513 to 1925.
How many new records are there and how many people does it cover?
The new records, 392,595 in total, document the last wishes of 267,548 individuals who lived and died in Scotland between 1902 and 1925. The collection also includes the wills of Scots who died outside Scotland, but still had assets in the country. As inventories of moveable estate (savings, cash, furniture, stock, etc) are also included, you can discover the fine details of people's worldly possessions during this era.
The new records include both poor and the rich
People from all social classes are included in these new records - from famous industrialists and philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie and George Coats, to the impoverished inmates of the nation's poorhouses. With more than 35 millionaires included in the records, you can learn how the members of this Scottish 'Rich List' ultimately chose to distribute their wealth.
Conversely, the simpler and cheaper procedures for recording wills that were introduced by the Small Estates Act of 1894, ensured that more estates below £500 were also included.
'1902-1925 Wills and Testaments: what they tell us about the rich and the poor' - Friday 23 November, Edinburgh
If you'd like to learn more about what these records reveal about poverty and wealth in Scotland during this era, then you might like to attend a lecture that Robin Urquhart of the National Records of Scotland (NRS) is giving on Friday 23 November.
Entitled, '1902-1925 Wills and Testaments: what they tell us about the rich and the poor', this lecture takes place at New Register House in Edinburgh, from 2pm to 3.30pm. Admission is free, but booking is required.
Learn more about the Wills and Testaments at the 50+ Show - The SECC, Glasgow, Friday 9 and Saturday 10 November
If you're in Glasgow on 9 and 10 November, why not come along and visit us at the 50+ Show to see some of the Wills and Testaments? We'll be on stall number E23 in Hall 5, and will be helping people with their family history research and also showing them how to to do look-ups on the ScotlandsPeople website. We hope to see you there!
Learning more about major historical events and your family tree by reading the Wills and Testaments
The new records also highlight the effects of major historical events on people's lives, with the wills of World War One soldiers, suffragettes and people who perished on the Titanic and Lusitania included in the collection.
In addition to helping general historians with their research, the new records will also be invaluable to genealogists, who can use these documents to learn more about family relationships and living arrangements, as well as the close friendships that their ancestors enjoyed. If there were any debts, it’s likely that you will learn about these, too. In short, these documents offer a wealth of information for family history researchers and can help to fill in gaps, as well as potentially opening up new lines of ancestral research.
Some highlights - Andrew Carnegie, Sir John Murray, Thomas Millie Dow and World War One 'Jocks'
To give you a taste of what these new records contain, we've chosen some highlights from the 1902-1925 Wills and Testaments. For example, you can read about the self-improvement philosophy and Calvinist work ethic (using the carrot of lower rents, etc) that Andrew Carnegie wished to impress on his tenants.
Alternatively, the records can also reveal endearingly quirky aspects of a person's character - such as Sir John Murray naming his son, John Challenger Murray, in homage to the Challenger expedition that he (Murray Senior, that is) led in 1872. Another example of quirkiness finding its way into a record, is the sketch plan of a house that appears in the will for the Fife-born, 'Glasgow Boys' artist, Thomas Millie Dow.
On a more poignant note, this new collection of online Wills and Testaments also contains some very moving letters written by 'Jocks' who served on the Western Front. For due to the extreme circumstances that arose from 1914 to 1918, the personal letters of soldiers might be accepted in lieu of a formal will. The latest release of documents includes the testaments of more than 9,000 Scottish soldiers of all ranks, out of a total of 148,000, who died in the First World War.
To read the final letters written by two 'Jocks' who died in World War One, click on the images below. To read a guide about researching the additional wills of soldiers and airmen held by the National Records of Scotland, click here.
The Will of William Sutherland, Gunner in the 315th Royal Field Artillery (died 4 April 1918)
The Will of John MacDowall, Lance-Corporal in the 2nd Battalion of the Scots Guards (died 29 September 1915)
Over the coming weeks, we will be highlighting further examples of interesting wills and testaments, so please keep an eye on the email newsletter and our Facebook / Twitter pages.
Who will be interested in the 1902-1925 Wills and Testaments?
These new online records will be interesting both to genealogists and historians in Scotland, and to the Scottish diaspora across the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the rest of the world. To browse or search these new records, just visit the the Wills & Testaments page, and then login to start searching.
All the Best,
The ScotlandsPeople Team