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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Ancestors' last wishes go online
The final wishes of thousands of people who lived in the north-east of England as early as the 16th Century will soon be available online.

Almost all of the surviving wills from across County Durham, Tyne and Wear and Northumberland until 1858 will be included in the digital archive.

Visitors to the site will be able to search by name, place, occupation and date, and also see images of the wills.

Durham University is creating the archive after securing lottery funds.

'Worldwide interest'

The online catalogue will contain about 150,000 wills, many accompanied by inventories of the goods belonging to the deceased.

Dating from the 16th Century to 1858, they provide an insight into North East people and communities, their family relationships, trades and lifestyles.

The university's library secured a 274,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to create the archive, which will be known as the North East Inheritance project.

Dr John Hall, Durham University Librarian, said: "People with origins in the North East are now living all over the world, from Canada to Australia, so we are expecting worldwide interest in this project.

"We are very excited that these unique documents, which have been in the care of the Durham University Library since 1958, will at last be made more widely and freely available."

He added that the conservation work would ensure their preservation for future generations.

Access to both the catalogue and the digital images will be free and available worldwide in 2009.




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