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A nation’s history recorded in last will and testament documents

13th November 2012

Details of the last will and testament documents of 267,548 people who died in Scotland from 1902 to 1925 have been put online by National Records of Scotland.

Records have been included of the deceased from all social classes – from those who died in poor houses to 35 millionaires.

Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and engineer Lord Kelvin are among two of the well-known names whose wills have been included, and there are also documents which help to highlight the social issues of the day. Wills of soldiers in the First World War, politicians and suffragettes have all had their last will and testament documents included.

Not all wills included on the site were formally drawn up using a solicitor for wills – one of the most interesting documents is a letter written by a second class passenger aboard the Titanic.

The letter, written by 28-year-old Robert Douglas Norman before he boarded the ill-fated liner in Glasgow, bequeathed his entire estate of £5793 (around £360,000 today) to various relatives. Norman’s brother was required, should he perish, to distribute his wealth as per the letter’s stipulations.

Upon the ship’s sinking this document became the traveller’s last will and testament.

Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said, “These wills and testaments offer a compelling and moving insight into the lives of Scots a century ago and provide a powerful connection to our past.

“I welcome the addition of so many more wills to the digital resources that can be enjoyed by the people of Scotland, and people of Scottish descent everywhere.”

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