Is there anything to be gained by categorising wills?

+5 votes
My husband has suddenly taken to transcribing wills and he is very good at it.  Some people actually like doing it! It is not my favourite task and I have only skimmed through them looking for family info. I haven't seen many complete transcriptions on Wikitree but suspect that wills are the source for a lot of the unsourced info floating around. Would there be any benefit gained from setting up a structure for finding them? I did look at the list of categories and found nothing.
asked in The Tree House by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (123k points)
Transcribing then categorizing wills is a big job.  If in the U.S., for example, you could have a United States Wills, then organize them into states.  So, when someone wants to look up John Doe who died in 1879 in Licking County, Ohio then s/he would go to Licking County, Ohio Wills and find John Doe, died 1879.

If you or someone you know is willing to put in the time and hard work it would be a helpful category.

I transcribed a will and placed it on WikiTree, just to see what could be done. Here it is Will of Stephen Flanders 
Things that can be added:

  • Links to WikiTree profiles of people mentioned in the Will.
  • A "What Links Here" link.
  • Inventory
  • Document images
  • Sources

It is a lot of work.

That's really good. I'm pretty sure we cannot use the images we have and I only have a couple of inventories. Yours is so much more than I expected.

3 Answers

+3 votes
What sort of categorizing are you proposing for wills? Content? Place?
answered by Natalie Trott G2G6 Pilot (392k points)
I had a few thoughts. LNAB for one name studies but maybe that's pointless because anyone can find the profiles anyway and then could see the wills. By the court, as I am interested in trying to identify anyone whose name appears on the wills and making sure they have a profile. How much hassle was it for an 18th C executor to do the job? Depends on how much we want to discover and record about the people in the profiles we create. "Who, what, why, when, where and how?" Still only thinking.
+4 votes
It seems like this question is a bit about how could serve as a repository for will transcriptions like your husband enjoys making.  If so, Categories are one supported tool for improving the findability of content submitted by volunteers to WikiTree.  But adding them (in some way) to the relevant ancestors' profiles may be a better way to make them findable than creating a Category structure for them.  And setting up Spaces for individual wills or sets of wills may be a preferable way to store their content, so annotations and corrections can be applied to an authoritative copy rather than being propagated across multiple profiles.

As to the question of whether there is anything to be gained by categorising wills/testators, Jack Day's threshold question of "What is the genealogical value of creating this category?" is a good starting place for analysis.  I have seen repositories of location- and surname-based will transcription collections elsewhere on the internet, but have neither the genealogical nor technical expertise to weigh in on whether categorizations in those styles would be helpful on WikiTree.
answered by E. Compton G2G6 Pilot (112k points)

I would say Estate and inventory would be nice tracking

  1. To see how the wealth in the family has changed
  2. If I could correlate bigger events like starvation with what I see in the estate and inventory
  3. See if the wealth was growing or not over generations...

Wills I have difficult to see how to use but you never know..... Maybe a Space page with the will and link from all profiles that are mentioned.... 



Maybe a Space page with the will and link from all profiles that are mentioned.... 

I actually have set up a Space like this for the Estate file of my gggggrandfather:

I'm only a fraction of the way through indexing the 1400 pages of the court record, transcribing the handwritten pleadings, and creating profiles for the cousins and everybody named in the documents.  Never mind actually figuring out why they generated 1400 pages of paperwork about the situation in the first place.  

+2 votes
It sounds to me like this might be a place to use maintenance categories within a personal project, although a free space page might work just as well.

I see will transcribing and adding the information and source to profiles as being sort of like a cemetery project.  The goal is to transcribe the information and then add it to existing profiles mentioned in the will and then get profiles created for those mentioned who do not yet have profiles.  Putting the category for a particular will on profiles mentioned in it could help your husband keep track of what profiles have and have not been created and/or had the information added from a particular will.

If your husband likes the transcribing but isn't real keen on creating the profiles to go with it, categories could help a partner willing to work on the profiles keep track of where you husband is in his work.  For example, your husband could create a free space page for each will transcribed and then create a category like Category: McKinnon will transcription project to put on each of those free space profiles.  That would help a person working with him find the transcribed wills and put the information on the existing profiles and create new profiles.  

Think of a will as a sort of mini virtual cemetery of the people important to the person who wrote the will which will most likely include  his relatives.

I'd suggest looking at how the cemetery project uses categories and see if a similar setup would help with your husband's work.
answered by Mary Jensen G2G6 Mach 7 (72k points)
Living in the past, we have the wills on paper and he uses a word processor to do the transcriptions which I transfer to my PC. I suspect his objective is to persuade me to get rid of the paper!

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