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The good news you've all been waiting for is that we have completed the listing of our main series of wills, inventories and accounts within the Durham Probate Records (1540-1858), and are working on inputting the last of the data and on improving the quality of some of the data to support indexed online searching. We can already use the database for specific searches for you, and can undertake broader or more complex searches for our search-room visitors: probate record enquiries should be sent direct to the archive staff at Palace Green Library (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: 0191 334 2972).
But when will all the data and images be launched online? Unfortunately, this depends on the mounting of the digital images, for which we do not yet have a definitive date. We are liaising with our partners who are undertaking this work (the Genealogical Society of Utah, or GSU), and know that they are making good progress working through the terabytes of data that they have imaged (over half a million images). So we are currently working towards a launch date of September 2010 for all the post-1650 data (with the catalogue and images for pre-1650 data hopefully following on quite quickly), though this does depend on continued good cooperation with our partners at GSU.
We are sorry that this is later than we had hoped, and ask for your patience meanwhile. As soon as we have more definite estimates for completion of the online image mounting, we will let you know here. (Family historians who do not already know the GSU's pilot record search site will be pleased to know that images of the Durham Bishops' Transcripts are already online, at http://pilot.familysearch.org.)
In the period leading up to the online launch of the catalogue we would welcome the opportunity to deliver illustrated talks about the project to interested groups. Evening visits to the archive can also be arranged for local groups, though there is a nominal charge per head. A list of forthcoming NEI events is also available, and there are a number of public events listed there at which you will find project staff happy to discuss the project and provide advice. Please contact us for more details.
Due to the sheer volume of images for the probate data, our partners at the GSU have prioritised mounting of images for the Marriage Licence Allegations over the probate records, and you should now be able to view these images (in yearly bundles) at their pilot record search site (http://pilot.familysearch.org). On the same site, you can access images of the calendar to the Marriage Licence Allegations prior to 1815: calendars for 1821-1837 are available at http://familyrecords.dur.ac.uk/, and a card index for the years 1816-1820 can be consulted by visitors in person to the Palace Green library search room.
But as this means that the mounting of the probate images will be still further delayed, and in order to make our catalogue as widely available as possible, we will be mounting online the full NEI catalogue for 1527-1857 (without digital images) shortly. We are committed to having this online catalogue fully working before Christmas 2010, but have the bare bones of a test site ready and working already, so watch this space!
In the absence of online digital images for the probate records, access to the originals will still be possible at Palace Green library for those who can visit in person. For those who cannot visit Durham, we will be able to supply photocopies of most wills, but this service will be subject to both the size and condition of the originals, and to occasional delays (depending on the volume of demand and the need to maintain our other search room services). The cost of photocopies for both probate records and marriage licence allegations is currently £5 per item (including postage and VAT).
The probate database (currently without digital images) is now available online: please read this introductory page for full details of what the database contains, and follow the links accompanying that page for information about searching the database, ordering copies, or visiting Palace Green Library search room to view any documents. As yet we have no date to release, upon which the digital images will be made available online by the Genealogical Society of Utah, but do not expect this imminently: news of this event will be posted on this page and the probate database introductory page.
No further news yet on the images, but you might like to know that we are preparing a batch of corrections (and some extra bits of data that were inadvertently omitted previously, mainly extra Surtees Society citations for 16th century wills and a few 16/17th century bonds). This lot should be going online within the next month, watch out on the scope of database page for an update when it goes live.