When tracing your family tree, undoubtedly you will come across many types of documents: from church records to military rolls, pension books, trade directories, passenger lists, maps, and so on. When dealing with property, whether in a will or the purchase of your ancestor’s property, you will undoubtedly have to deal with outdated currencies and values. By translating those values you will be able not only to see how much money your ancestors were dealing with at the time, but also give you an idea of their social standing and even realise if they were good at economising, or total spendthrifts by the time they kicked the bucket.
In order to make things easier, you might want to follow the link below, which I have found very helpful. I imagine there are many other sites which offer a similar or perhaps even better service, but my experience using these has been thoroughly positive.
If you need to convert, or rather “translate” the price of English money into its modern (2005) value you might try the currency converter available on The National Archives (TNA) webpage (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency/). The link offers two possible converters: translating old values into those in 2005, or vice versa (this last option only allows converting today’s values into those of 1975 at the earliest). Using a very simple search machine, you will instantly grasp how much money your ancestor were leaving to their relatives in a will, or simply what the price for a loaf of bread really was. One of the best things about TNA’s currency converter is the “yesterday’s value” box, where you can choose any of the available years –starting in the year 1270- to calculate its modern equivalent.
For instance, my great-great-grandmother’s widowed aunt Hannah passed away in 1915, leaving her money and property to her son and daughter. Her probate records, which are available on-line on Ancestry.co.uk , show that she left £763 8s. By introducing those figures in TNA’s currency converter, and choosing the year 1915 as the reference year, I immediately learn that Hannah left a grand total of £32,872.00 to her bereaved children. Given the fact that the original value probably included all her property (perhaps even the house where she lived), the actual cash she left to her two grown-up children was not as high as one may initially think. Fortunately I also have the probate records for her son William, who died (murdered, actually) in 1927, and whose property at the time was valued at £1,133 14s 8d; this amount would have an approximate value today of £33,977.99. Again, not an astounding amount of money, all things considered, but better than nothing. Mind you, I’m sure his daughters had other things on their mind when their poor father was murdered by a lunatic.