Austen’s Last Wishes

Some may think this morbid, but: Searching the Public Record Office, I came across a ‘sample’ will – and it was that belonging to JANE AUSTEN! So I just had to put a link in the blog, for those who might be interested in seeing the actual document.

A really interesting page is that which explains wills (never before knew of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, until I came across it in a will), and also a section on deciphering the handwriting you might find if you order a will. The glossary is useful.

5 thoughts on “Austen’s Last Wishes

  1. Hi Kelly, thanks for including the link to Jane Austen’s will on your blog. It is a bit morbid, but includes quite a bit of information about her family and connections at the time of her death. I know from family history research from England, that this is a Bishops transcription and not the original document which can be even more of a challenge to read.

    Cheers, Laurel Ann


  2. Dear Laurel Ann – IS Austen’s actual will still in existence???

    I’ve not done a lot of will-work (if I can call it that!) yet, and assumed — when I saw these online copies of pre-1858 wills that come from a particular ledger book — that original wills would have been destroyed once they were copied.

    So are orignal wills (Austen’s in particular) stored at Somerset House or some such place?? Do tell, if you have more information.

    For readers not knowing at all what Laurel Ann and I mean about a ‘transcription’, take a look at these pages, which describes the ‘PROB 11 copy book’ (great picture of the ledger itself too):


  3. Hi Kelly, I’m not an expert at this, and it has been a few years since I researched my family history. To answer your questions; yes, Jane Austen’s original will exsists. I have not seen it, or an image of it, but I have read of it in my travels through Austen biographies. Their would have been copies made at the time and one would have been submitted to the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and it would have been transcribed by a clerk into their record book. That is the copy that is online. I do think that the court would have destroyed the document, since it is and “original document” and errors can happen in transcriptions. Jane’s family would have had copies, and her attorney. It will have her signature on it, and witnesses.

    If you want to find out more about the original document, my best guess on the present owner would be the Chawton Library, or the museum at Jane Austen’s house in Chawton. Their may be other old copies held by Austen family members, but not accessible to the general public.

    Could you e-mail me? I have been trying to reach you with no reply. Cheers, Laurel Ann



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