Wills are some of the most fruitful sources of information about people from past generations. As well as revealing family relationships, friendships and possessions, they provide a rich collection of signatures and marks of the individuals involved, including the witnesses.
Unfortunately, many of the earliest surviving wills are in a poor physical state. As well as the ravages of time, previous attempts to repair and rebind documents have sometimes introduced material that does no good to the pages they aimed to protect.
Fortunately, modern conservation can reverse much of the damage and mistakes of the past and ensure that these unique sources can be consulted for generations to come. An illustrated blog shows how Alison Faden of Northamptonshire Record Office has conserved 28 volumes of early wills kept there, so that they provide clearer and more long-lasting insights into individuals and society of the 16th and 17th centuries. The pictures that you can see on this page are vivid examples of the difference that modern conservation can make to the condition and legibility of these key resources for discovering more about life and death in the past.
FFHS Archives Liaison
3 January 2016