Mon, Dec 29, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Princess Diana’s among 41 million British wills online

AFP, LONDON

About 41 million British wills dating back to 1858, including those of former British prime minister Winston Churchill and Princess Diana, were made available in an online database on Saturday.

The British government’s full archive of wills from England and Wales, stretching back more than 150 years, has been put on the www.probatesearch.service.gov.uk Web site.

It includes the wills of World War II prime minister Churchill; novelist Charles Dickens; Diana, princess of Wales; children’s writer A.A. Milne; code-breaker Alan Turing; writer George Orwell and author Beatrix Potter.

The digital copies of the wills cost £10 (US$15.5), but basic details for some of them are available online.

“This fascinating project provides us with insights into the ordinary and extraordinary people who helped shape this country and the rest of the world,” British Minister for the Courts and Legal Aid Shailesh Vara said. “It is a fantastic resource not only for family historians, but also for anyone with an interest in social history or famous figures.”

Previously the archives had only been publicly available to search in person.

In Churchill’s will he gave £304,044 — worth more than £5.1 million nowadays — to his family.

When Dickens died in 1870 he left a will written in cursive script that laid out highly specific directions for his funeral.

“I emphatically direct that I be buried in an inexpensive, unostentatious and strictly private manner,” he wrote, adding that mourners must not wear scarves, cloaks, long hatbands, “or other such revolting absurdity.”

Though the archive has been converted into digital format, the original paper records will still be kept in a controlled environment.

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