|Just as the passing generations and shifting fortunes of a particular family can be traced back through the Durham probate records, so also can the history of a local community. With the North East Inheritance catalogue being available online, it has never been easier to investigate how much has changed in your parish, town or city, and indeed how much has remained the same. While individual wills can bring to light important local incidents and also shed a slanting light on national events, by considering collections of local wills made over a number of years significant trends and pattern can emerge, and which can place that locality in the national picture of the time.|
Social HistoryCommunities together share and transform the landscape over the years. In their wills the individuals who together still colour our own sense of place can speak directly to us. For many of them their last will and testament was the only opportunity they would have had to document their lives and concerns. A number of schools and local charities still active today can be traced back to endowments made in wills, sometimes hundreds of years ago.
Individual buildings and bridges or particularly bad stretches of road can also be rediscovered through probate records.
|Probate inventories, with their detailed lists of household goods, work gear and stock can afford a series of snapshots of consumer tastes, agricultural practices, wages and prices, and wider economic trends within the region.
Probate records are primarily concerned with the transmission to the next generation of the deceased's personal property, and as such they present excellent opportunities for the researcher to measure the changing activities and fortunes of particular families, trades and places.
The North East Inheritance catalogue is designed to facilitate researchers creating study collections of probate records based on their own criteria: one might easily compare the wills of merchants in Newcastle with those in Durham, or analyse the changing lifestyles of labourers and yeomen in a couple of parishes, or perhaps examine the development of the coal trade over the whole region. Names can be collated to uncover otherwise undetected circles of kin and also the debt and credit networks that knit communities and regions together.
Whether you are researching a house, a community or the whole region of the North East, the North East Inheritance catalogue has much to offer you.