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Our Wiltshire Family History Society President and Chairman have jointly written to the Ministry of Justice about the proposal to destroy old wills.

Our President and Chairman's response is available here but in summary it says

This Society takes a strong position against the destruction of original wills which have an historical importance and significance that would be seriously compromised if they were to be preserved only in digital format.

The root of the problem is the fact that the MoJ is not an archive service, despite holding a collection of manuscripts of national importance. It is not bound by the principles that underpin such a service: that archives are unique and irreplaceable, ‘They are primary source material and maintaining their integrity is vital to their legal, evidential and historical value.’ (Surrey History Centre website; accessed 10 Jan 2024)

Digitising archives has much merit in allowing greater access and reducing wear and tear on the originals. However, digital copies are vulnerable in different ways to documents. They can become inaccessible and therefore lost as hardware becomes outdated or is insufficiently backed up.

There is a consultation with the deadline for responding by the 23 February, but it is likely that the outcome will not be announced for several months.

 

The Family History Federation January Bulletin No 41 has an article by independent author Richard Holt about the issue. This has more information and links to the relevant consultations and press releases etc.

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