I’m everyone’s volunteer. In normal times I would be dashing between Gloucester Cathedral, Berkeley Castle, Cheltenham College, Cobalt and of course Gloucestershire Archives. I like to use my brain to do something potentially useful, I like learning new things, meeting people with the same interests and chatting to fellow volunteers, friends I have made over the years. All that stopped with lockdown.
Probate inventories are fun to transcribe. They require some thought, a lot of imagination and some research. There is a feeling of triumph when you finally work out what some convoluted string of letters is meant to represent and they give an unmatched insight into people’s lives. They vary so hugely, from the widow who possessed little more than a bed, a stool and some ‘old lumber’ to the man with three looking glasses and red curtains for his bed. The attitude of the appraisers varies too. Some lovingly list every candlestick, some dismiss the contents of the house in three lines and list every animal. ‘Two hogs dead and two alive’ is one of my current favourites. So they keep me entertained, they give me a chance to exchange notes with friends working on the same project, I hope they are useful and they give me a sense of purpose. For the past six weeks I have walked a mile every morning to raise funds for the Samaritans then transcribed two inventories. Feeling I have achieved something with the day, I can concentrate on doing another jigsaw and wondering what to eat.
Gloucestershire Archives has also allowed a group of volunteers to return in person. We are enormously grateful for the chance to meet again and continue with our tasks and are very appreciative of the amount of work that went in to making this possible.
By the way, you can watch a film describing the main elements of a probate inventory in detail, at https://youtu.be/tQTrofpf6hw.