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16 October 2014
Scottish Roots - Searching for your family history in Scotland

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A catalogue of new developments and ideas. Each month we'll feature a different area of research.
This month:

Wills and Testaments

Wills and testaments are a fantastic resource for the genealogist and historian alike. They are a treasure trove of information about how people lived in the past. They let us step back in time and see how our ancestors dressed, how they furnished their homes, the tools of their trade, what land they owned etc. Wills can also provide a wealth of detail about family relationships. You can find names of family members and their relationships. It is worth remembering, however, that the eldest son in a family may not be mentioned, because he inherited the heritable property (land and buildings) of his father.

There is a distinction between a will and a testament. A will was drawn up by an individual wishing to settle his or her affairs prior to death giving instructions as to the disposal of his possessions, whereas testaments were the legal document drawn up after a person died, to let the court confirm an executor to wind up the deceased’s affairs. Testaments contain an inventory of the dead person’s property, and some testaments include a will. Those with wills are known as a ‘testament testamentar’, those without as a ‘testament dative’.

From the Reformation to the Victorian period commissary courts were responsible for wills. The geographical areas that they covered were based on the Pre-Reformation church courts and differ from modern administrative areas. In 1823 the commissary courts were abolished and from 1824 the responsibility shifted to the sheriff courts. Registers for both are housed in the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh

Testaments for the years 1513 to 1901 inclusive have been digitally imaged by the Scottish Archive Network. You can search the index free of charge at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk . Colour images of these documents are available for downloading at a cost of £5 per document, regardless of the number of pages, from the same website.


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Getting Started
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Digging Deeper
Feature
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