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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 October, 2003, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Online access to Scots wills
Robert Burns' will
Wills of famous Scots are among the 500,000 available
The final wills and testaments of some of Scotland's most famous and influential figures have been made available online for the first time.

Every known will and testament written in Scotland from 1500 to 1901 is featured on the Scottish Archive Network (Scan) website.

It includes those of Rob Roy, Robert Burns, David Livingstone, Robert Louis Stevenson, and James Young Simpson, the pioneer of anaesthesia.

Archivists at the National Archives of Scotland, who are behind the new site, hope it will help thousands of professional and amateur historians all over the world to find out more about their family histories.

The 4m project saw the team of Scottish archivists, and US digitisation experts from the Genealogy Society in Utah, scan more than four million unique and fragile documents for the website.

The website took four years to complete and contains a total of 500,000 legal documents.

We wanted to increase public access to the wills... but at the same time didn't want to risk them being damaged
Robert Mildren
According to the site, explorer David Livingstone left no will when he died in Africa in 1873.

However, the archive contains a scan of a testament which consists of an inventory of the money held in his British bank accounts.

His chief executor, his eldest son Thomas Steele Livingstone, living in Hamilton, signed the document confirming that he had no knowledge of the extent of his father's estate, if any, abroad.

The explorer's wife, Mary Livingstone, had died in 1862 in Africa, so the estate was divided equally among their children.

The total estate in Scotland and England was estimated to amount to 1,463.

According to the website, Rob Roy left a token sum to Mary, his wife, as well as his personal effects, including his sword and clothes.

His will reads: "The testament dative and Inventary of the goods gear cattle household plenishing and others which pertained to the deceast Robert Roy Campbell in Innerlochlang.

"Betwixt his body cloaths and heall house plenishing estimate to eighty four pound six shilling and eight pennies."

An inventory of explorer David Livingstone's assets is featured
Project director Rob Mildren believes the scheme will revolutionise the way the public can access Scottish history.

He said: "Scotland has a fascinating archival history, but people have either not known that it's there or that it extends right throughout the country.

"We wanted to increase public access to the wills and other material, but at the same time didn't want to risk them being damaged."

The site allows you to search the index to Scottish Wills & Testaments from 1500-1901 and view digital images of the documents for free.

To view the whole of any document as a full colour electronic digital image costs 5.

Magnus Magnusson, author and former presenter of Mastermind, will formally launch the website, which was part-funded by the heritage lottery fund, at The Hub in Edinburgh.

Film archive catalogue goes online
14 Oct 03  |  Scotland
Scott archive goes online
08 Mar 03  |  Scotland
Scots online archive planned
14 May 02  |  Scotland

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