Jane Austen and Great Bookham ~ Guest Post by Tony Grant

Jane Austen and Great Bookham
by Tony Grant

cassandraleighausten

Cassandra Leigh Austen

Cassandra Leigh was born on September 26th 1739 at Harpsden in Oxfordshire. She was the third of four children born to Thomas Leigh and Jane Walker. She had an older brother James and an older sister Jane and a younger brother Thomas. Her father’s brother, Theophilus Leigh, master of Baliol College Oxford, had a number of children also, including two daughters named Mary and Cassandra. This meant there were two Cassandra Leighs in the family. On April 26, 1764 George Austen, Proctor of St John’s College Oxford, and Thomas Leigh’s daughter Cassandra were married at St. Swithin’s Church in Bath, and just after that he became the Vicar of Steventon in Hampshire near Basingstoke. Theophilus Leigh’s daughter Cassandra married Samuel Cooke in June 1768. On the 13 April 1769, Samuel Cooke became the vicar of St Nicholas Church, Great Bookham, in Surrey.

George and Cassandra Austen had eight children, James, George, Edward, Henry, Cassandra, Francis, Jane and Charles. Jane was born 16 December 1775 at Steventon. She was to become the world renowned author Jane Austen.

Samuel and Cassandra Cooke had six children but only three survived: Theophilus Leigh Cooke, George Leigh Cooke and Mary Cooke. Anne and their other children with the same names as those who lived, Mary and Theophilus, all died in infancy and their burials are recorded in the St Nicholas parish register.

St Nicholas Church, Great Bookham - c2016 Tony Grant

St Nicholas Church, Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Throughout Jane Austen’s letters there are numerous references to aunts, uncles and cousins. She had an extensive family. There were the Leighs of Adelstrop, the Leighs of Stoneleigh Abbey, the Brydges, the Turners, as well as the Cookes of Great Bookham in Surrey. Jane, her sister Cassandra, her brothers and her mother corresponded and visited all of them at different times. Jane Austen spent a lot of time travelling. She was a great walker, whether it was along the lanes around Steventon, walking up onto the hills around Bath, walking from Chawton to Alton or to Farringdon. She took carriages and coaches to London and Bath, as well as many other places, stopping at inns and hostelries or family along the way. Great Bookham, where the Cookes lived, was about fifty miles from Chawton on route to London. Carriages travelled at an average speed of no more than eight miles an hour at best. To get to Great Bookham took Jane Austen and her family about five hours from either Steventon or Chawton. The countryside was beautiful, especially in summer when birds and wild life and wild flowers were seen in abundance. It occurs to me that Jane Austen could have been a great travel writer and observer of nature. Maybe she was a close observer of the natural world but she didn’t record it. Human interaction was her thing.

The High Street, Great Bookham

The High Street, Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Great Bookham is situated in Surrey a few miles from where I live. The area around Great Bookham inspired Jane Austen’s novels to quite an extent. It must have been while staying with her Aunt and Uncle and cousins Mary, George and Theophilus that she first visited Box Hill which is only a few miles away from where the Cookes lived . She probably used Great Bookham itself as well as Leatherhead and other villages and small towns nearby as sources to create Highbury, the fictitious town in her novel Emma. West Humble, a small settlement near the base of Box Hill, is reputed to be the small village outside of Dorking where the impoverished Watson family lives in Jane’s unfinished novel The Watsons. Of course Dorking itself, the setting for the Ball in The Watsons, is nearby too.

Jane’s Aunt, Mrs Cooke, was an aspiring writer herself. She wrote a novel called, Battleridge. In a letter to her sister Cassandra, Jane writes:

[Sat 27-Sun 28 Oct 1798]

Your letter was chaperoned here by one from Mrs Cooke, in which she says that ‘Battleridge’ is not to come out before January; & she is so little satisfied with Cawthorn’s dilatoriness that she never means to employ him again.

Jane, and perhaps the rest of the Austens, did not always enjoy the prospect of travelling to Great Bookham to visit their cousins:

[Tue 8 Wed 9 Jan 1799]

I assure you I dread the idea of going to Bookham as much as you do; but I am not without hopes that something may happen to prevent it; Theo has lost his Election at Baliol, & perhaps they may not be able to see company for some time. They talk of going to Bath in the Spring, & perhaps they may be overturned in their way down, & all laid up for the Summer.

Jane actually spent quite a lot of time with her relations at Bookham, up to a week or at times for longer stretches. Reading her references to the Cookes suggests that her aunt and uncle could be at times pompous and overbearing and perhaps liked to present a perfect view of life rather than a realistic one.

[Tues 10th– Wed 11th January 1809]

…Easter Monday, April 3rd is the day we are to sleep that night at Alton, & be with our friends at Bookham the next, if they are then at home;- there we remain till the following Monday, & on Tuesday 11th hope to be at Godmersham. If the Cookes are absent, we shall finish our journey on ye 5th-These plans depend of course on the weather, but I hope there will be settled cold to delay us materially.

If Jane isn’t corresponding with her aunt and uncle she is writing to and receiving letters from her cousins. She does appear to get on well with her cousin Mary.

[Mon 30th Jan 1809]

“…I had this pleasant news in a letter from Bookham last Thursday, but as the letter was from Mary instead of her mother you will guess her account was not equally good from home – Mrs Cooke has been confined to her bed some days by illness, but was then better& Mary wrote in confidence of her continuing to mend. I have desired to hear again soon.”

This extract does suggest that she gets the truth from Mary, and is suggestive of their warm relationship.

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Rectory painting

After his marriage to Cassandra Leigh, Samuel Cooke brought his new wife to Great Bookham and was installed as vicar on the 13 April 1769. At first they lived in the rectory, situated across the road from the entrance to the grounds of St Nicholas Church in Church Road. This is now the post office:

The first rectory now post office - c2016 Tony Grant

The first Rectory, now post office – c2016 Tony Grant

They later moved to a new, larger rectory set back from the road, built on a plot next to and immediately north of theoriginal rectory. This was the rectory that Jane Austen would have visited and stayed at. It no longer exists (see painting above). On its site there are a row of shops:

Shops on site of old Rectory - c2016 Tony Grant

Shops on site of old Rectory – c2016 Tony Grant

From old photographs of the rectory we can make comparisons with another building just south of the post office. The sash windows in the still existing building are exactly the same design as those of the demolished rectory. The chimney stack is very similar and the front door and portico look like a miniature version of the rectory entrance -the pillars and canopy of look as though they are of identical design and pattern. (It is interesting to note that a maid servant who would have served Jane while she stayed with her cousins was named Elizabeth Bennet!)

Rectory that Jane Austen knew

Rectory that Jane Austen knew

****

House with similar features to Rectory - c2016 Tony Grant

Similar features to Rectory – c2016 Tony Grant

Before marrying Cassandra Leigh and becoming vicar of Great Bookham, Samuel was first educated at Blundell’s School in Devonshire and became Blundell’s Scholar at Balliol College Oxford. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1762 and gained his Master’s degree in 1764. From 1762 he was a Blundell Fellow at Balliol and became rector of Cottisford, Oxford. However, after settling in Great Bookham with Cassandra and producing a number of children he lived in Bookham for the rest of his life. He is, however, buried in Beckley in Oxford where his wife inherited a house through the Leigh family. He may have died while visiting Beckley.

Interior of St Nicholas, Great Bookham - c2016 Tony Grant

Interior of St Nicholas, Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Frances Burney

Frances Burney

There is another connection between Great Bookham and Jane Austen’s literary career. A writer who influenced Jane Austen was Frances Burney (Madame D’Arbley). She wrote two novels that we know Jane Austen read, Evelina and Cecelia, Jane a subscriber to the latter.  At the time Jane was visiting her relations in Bookham and staying in Church Road to the west of St Nicholas Church. Burney and her husband, General Alexander D’Arbley, who fled to England after the rise to power in France of Maximillian Robespierre, were living in Fairfield Cottage, now named The Hermitage, a small cottage that still exists in Lower Road to the south of the church. Burney was introduced to the French emigres and D’Arbley by her sister Mrs Phillips – they met at Juniper Hall near Mickleham next to Box Hill. Jane Austen and Frances Burney must have been in close proximity on many occasions. Burney’s son Alexander was baptised in St Nicholas Church on April 11, 1795, by the Reverend Samuel Cooke. Burney herself mentions  Mrs Cooke in a letter to her father:

[Bookham, June 15, 1795]

Mrs. Cooke, my excellent neighbour, came in Just now to read me a paragraph of a letter from Mrs. Leigh, of Oxfordshire, her sister. . . . After much of civility about the new work and its author, it finishes thus:—“Mr. Hastings I saw just now: I told him what was going forward; he gave a great jump, and exclaimed, ‘Well, then, now I can serve her, thank Heaven, and I will! I will write to Anderson to engage Scotland, and I will attack the East Indies myself!’” F. D’A.

Burney Cottage in Great Bookham - c2016 Tony Grant

Burney Cottage in Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Burney also mentions the Reverend Samuel Cooke in another letter to her father:

“ Mr Cooke tells me he longs for nothing so much as a conversation with you on the subject of Parish Psalm singing-he complains that the Methodists run away with the regular congregation from their superiority in vocal devotion.”

Claire Tomlin in her autobiography Jane Austen : A Life explains that Jane read Burney’s novels:.

Cecilia…..Nearly a thousand pages long. It too must have filled many winter evenings by the fire at Steventon, and taken its toll on Jane’s eyes, which at times became tired and troublesome. She admired Burney’s comic monsters and her dialogue, but most what she learnt from her was negative; to be short, to sharpen, to vary, to exclude. Also, to prefer the imperfect and human heroine to the nearly flawless one. What Burney had demonstrated with her first book- concise as none of the later ones were- was that there was a public for social comedy finely observed through female eyes.”

View of St Nicholas from Fanny Burneys cottage

View of St Nicholas from Burney’s cottage c2016 Tony Grant

While living in Fairfield Cottage in 1794, Burney began writing Camilla and finished a tragedy called Edwy and Elgiva. Sheridan presented this at Drury Lane with Mrs Siddons and Kemble. The play was a disaster, Burney putting it down to the cast being under rehearsed. Also while living in Bookham, Burney gave birth to a son on December 18, 1794 – he was baptized Alexander at St Nicholas Church by the Reverend Cooke. Many important French emigres attended the baptisim, all friends of General D’Arbley. The D’Arblays obviously knew the Cookes well, and it seems inconceivable that Jane Austen never met Burney – yet there is no evidence that she did.

I have discovered a few more things about Frances Burney, not related to Jane Austen but of interest to me, that give me the impetus to explore her world more. Burney’s father was a well-regarded composer and musician. He was a friend to Mrs Thrale, a great society hostess in the 18th century. Mrs Thrale lived at Streatham Park in a grand house where she entertained Dr Johnson, a close friend of her husband Mr Thrale. She encouraged and nurtured Frances Burney and many other famous people of the time such as James Boswell and the great artist Joshua Reynolds. Streatham Park, now a Victorian housing estate, is a mile from where I live. Chessington Hall, just south of me is where another friend of Burney’s father’s lived and where Frances often visited. It is said she began writing Cecelia while staying at Chessington. Yes, I have much to explore.

Also living in the area of Great Bookham at the time Jane visited, and close associates of Frances Burney, were Richard Brinsley Sheridan – living at the great house of Polesdon Lacey on the edge of Bookham – and Madamoiselle Anne Louise Germaine de Stael. She was a novelist too. Jane liked her Corinne ou L’Italie. De Stael owned Juniper Hall where French emigres including General D’Arbley were given shelter. We know that De Stael read Jane’s novels but pronounced them “vulgaire.” Jane avoided meeting De Stael, but this is another story entirely…

Interior St Nicholas - c2016 Tony Grant

Interior St Nicholas – c2016 Tony Grant

References:

  • Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomlin ( Viking 1997)
  • Jane Austen’s Letters. Collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye (Third Edition, Oxford University Press 1995)
  • The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arbley
  • Great Bookham at the time of Jane Austen, Fanny Burney and R B Sheridan by William Whitman (Pub: The Parochial Church Council of St Nicholas, Great Bookham)

Want to visit Great Bookham? here’s how to get there on Google Maps.

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont; text and photographs by Tony Grant, with thanks!

Guest Post ~ Brian Austen on “A Genealogical Interest in Jane and the Many Other Austens”

Several months ago I posted an interview with Ron Dunning about his Jane Austen Family Tree website

Dunning - jane-austen-frontispiece-1870

I have recently heard from another Austen who lives in Australia. Brian Austen has been long at work on his own Austen Families, and while it does not yet appear that there is a relation to Jane Austen, his efforts have put him in touch with many of her descendants, including Ron Dunning! –  Brian has been compiling his own family tree with global connections to both the Austen and Austin families [see website links below].  He has graciously written a few words on his findings, and I welcome him here today to share his story with you.

A Genealogical Interest in Jane and
the Many Other Austens

By chance and while googling for Ron Dunning’s website address, I came across the Jane Austen website with your interview with Ron Dunning on his wonderful genealogical contribution on Jane’s family. As I said in my comments* I have met Ron and emailed him on a number of occasions to solicit his help, answer a query of his or to give him a lead.

Quite some years ago I began to research my own Austen family history. Not much was known. My father thought that his father was born on the boat coming to Tasmania but that was all. However the Tasmanian archives did have a record of his passenger record, albeit spelt as IN.

Nevertheless I was underway. I was given copies of some family letters written during WW2 so I had various family stories, and some names and relationships. So armed I wrote to several Austens listed in the Kent (UK) telephone directory. I since found out that this did cause quite some consternation as none of the recipients knew of Australian connections! – but a couple were familiar with some of the people I had mentioned. I had pretty much scored a bulls eye, and across different branches of the family, branches that no longer had contact. So I managed to unite families in Kent and across the world.

Gradually I pieced together a part of the family history. But I realised that the task might be made a lot easier if I searched for others who had researched the family. I decided to track down genealogical histories of Austen families and although this was before the tremendous surge in the popularity of family history, I soon had a mushrooming pile of Austen information. Unfortunately none of it related to my family.

But it did two things. It demonstrated that although the name was relatively uncommon in Tasmania, it was much more common in England, very common in fact and we shared the same name and spelling as England’s famous Jane. If only we were related to her! And I did learn that part of the family folklore is that yes, we are related, although no one knew how.

I also learnt that I enjoyed the collecting and examining of other people’s family histories. Occasionally I would find connections between families who were overjoyed at being given links to lost family members. I exchanged emails, research and information with many Austens across the world and was even invited to family gatherings and reunions. This was great fun. I joined the Austins Families Association of America and attended Conventions. I joined other Genealogical groups and went on holidays meeting fraternal Austen researchers. And it hasn’t stopped.

Gradually I built my own tree by broadening the number of branches, rather than by extending very far back in time: [see the website Austens of St Peters and Tasmania ]. But it has been very satisfying to find new “cousins” and add to the store of family stories such as “Rediffusion” (early days of cable television in England) and a connection with the breaking of the German Enigma Code. But no connection with Jane, unfortunately. And I am not alone.

Most of the Austen families with whom I have been in contact claim an unknown family connection to Jane Austen; the rest just hope to be related. Naturally (before I found Ron – actually he found me) I developed a Jane Austen tree, which although being incomplete was nevertheless quite good which all too often gave me the information to be able to disappoint a lot of people, including myself. But the search for links goes on for even though Jane’s immediate family has now been well documented (thanks to Ron and others), there are still enough gaps in the families of her ancestors to be encouraged while her distant past remains unproven….

[For some recent considerations see “Untangling the Austens” by Pam Griffiths: http://www.genealogycrank.co.uk/austen.php – the document is here: http://www.genealogycrank.co.uk/pdfs/austen_evidence.pdf ].

To that end my great hope is to be able to convince a genuine, documented family descendant of one of Jane’s brothers to provide a properly conducted DNA sample. We are still looking and are still hopeful for there are some descendants somewhere in the world yet to locate.

So after twenty years what have I found? Mainly that despite an expanding collection of Austen families, I have just scratched the surface. And I really have not done very much at all with our sister families, the INs. I do have to learn how to improve my website presentation, (http://austenfamilies.weebly.com/ ) and I need to recruit extra hands to the task. But it keeps me off the street, and it is fun, especially meeting new family and contacts.

by Brian Austen, Hobart, Australia

Brian Austen

************************

Thank you Brian for sharing your family histories and the joys of genealogy!  When you first contacted me, I related to you my own story of recently receiving a call from a young man in Australia who has been looking for my family for 10 years – his great-grandmother was my grandfather’s sister – we were the side of the English family who came to America in 1912 – there were five siblings – two stayed in the UK, two went to Australia, and my father and his family all came to America, losing touch through the years – now this young man, eager to find us has gotten us all together, cousins appearing everywhere! – so I understand the great joy that these connections can generate!  I have no Austens in my family [none that I know of anyway!], but it is the global aspect of bringing veritable strangers together that is the most intriguing and heartening, as you so rightly say! Perhaps you and I are even related somewhere there in Australia!

*Brian’s comment on the JAIV Ron Dunning Interview:  In the course of my attempt at collecting Austen family histories I have exchanged many emails with Ron and met him in London. I regard his work as a role model, a fine example for all of us who are trying to research and present our family histories. Thank you for this interview and transcript; I shall add a link to it from my page on Jane Austen’s family.

Brian Austen Hobart Australia

If anyone would like to comment or ask Brian a question, please to so below.

c2012 Jane Austen in Vermont

An Interview with Ron Dunning on his Jane Austen Genealogy ~ The New and Improved Jane Austen Family Tree!

Some of you may be familiar already with the Ancestry.com Jane Austen Family Tree created by Ronald Dunning.  It is quite the amazing compilation of ancestors and descendants of “Dear Aunt Jane” – a resource for Austen fans and scholars alike the world over.

So we are happy to announce that Mr. Dunning has continued with his Austen genealogical work and his new and improved website is to be “unveiled” at the Jane Austen Society meeting tomorrow (21 July 2012) at the Chawton House Library [an article about the history of the website will appear in the next JAS Report] – details of the meeting are here: http://www.janeaustensoci.freeuk.com/pages/AGM_details.htm.

The link to the new website is here: http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/  where you will find new content, the complete transcribed text of the manuscript of Akin to Jane, and links to the original RootsWeb site noted above [see below for information on how best to access the data.]

Ron has been very kind to answer a few of my questions about how and why he took on this monumental research project, so hope you enjoy learning more about it – then you must take some time to search the database – it is great fun to poke around in when you might have an extra minute or two on any given day – you might even find that somewhere deep in the listings some of your very own relatives share a connection to Jane!

********************************

A hearty welcome to you Ron – with thanks for sharing with us the history of your website!

JAIV:  What prompted you to get involved with this Austen family research project to begin with? 

RD:  I grew up in Toronto, a city, and a wonderful city it is, whose civilised history only goes back for two centuries. All of my grandparents were English, but the thought of having interesting ancestors would have seemed too ridiculous to entertain. My paternal grandmother was the sort who wrote regularly to every English member of her and my grandfather’s families, and was always nattering about their current situations. In 1972, aged 25, I left Toronto to find work as a classical musician, and the idea of going to England, where there would be a ready-made family, was deeply appealing. Just before my departure, my grandmother told me that we had some sort of connection with the Austens, though she didn’t know what.

We must have been almost the only branch of descendants who’d lost sight of it!  I was pleased to be able to tell her, before she died, that Frank Austen [Jane’s brother] was her great-great-grandfather.  It was difficult to get much further back than that in the 1970s, so I gave up the search to get on with work, and to raise my own brace of descendants. In 1998 my wife bought a computer for our kids and, Luddite that I am, I grumbled and scowled in the background – till I thought that I might just see what it’s like.

I was soon drawn back to family history. The kids were old enough that they preferred neglect to parental attention, though we did meet occasionally to fight over whose turn it was to use the computer. At the time I thought that it would stand to reason that the Austen genealogy had been exhausted, so for the next five years I worked through the seven non-Austen great-grandparents’ lines, and just copied the charts in the backs of Jane Austen biographies.

When that was thoroughly exhausted I was addicted, and needed a fix! Simultaneously it became evident that the authors of the biographies had all copied the family charts from one another, and there was a lot further to go.  In particular they mainly recorded the male lines, dishonouring the women. I’ve found that not just Cassandra Leigh but George Austen too had eminent ancestors, which means that their records go back, potentially, to the beginning of recorded history.

Now I have a lifetime’s supply of fixes, and in retirement, a full time job.  Do not call it a hobby.  And don’t say that I’m obsessed. Oh well, all right, perhaps I am. This study means a lot more to me than just a growing collection of names – it makes me feel organically connected, not just to the Austen family (and I don’t feel at all proprietorial about Jane) but to the whole of English history.

JAIV: Tell us something about Joan Corder and her manuscript, Akin to Jane – how and when and where did you first come upon it – what a find! – and why did she not publish her research? 

RD:  Joan Corder was born and lived through her life in the English county of Suffolk. She served as a young woman, during World War 2, in intelligence as a plotter, then moved back home to look after her widowed mother. She didn’t marry. Over the course of her life she became a distinguished herald and genealogist; Akin to Jane was her first big project.

It was to her enduring disappointment that she couldn’t interest a publisher – so only two copies of the manuscript were made. One was presented to the Jane Austen Society and can be seen at the Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton, where it has been, presumably, consulted by most if not all of Jane Austen’s later biographers.

With use, the manuscript has become increasingly fragile; people still visit the Museum to inspect it. My Austen cousin Patrick Stokes scanned the work to help preserve it for posterity, and it’s his scans that are displayed on the website. The museum curator is pleased that she can now refer interested parties to the web, and retire the original.

[Ron says on the website: “I would like to acknowledge and thank my Austen cousin, Patrick Stokes, who first brought the manuscript of Akin to Jane to my attention, and gave me a copy.”]

Joan Corder

 

JAIV:  What, of all the discoveries in your research, surprised you the most?

RD:  So many discoveries! They constantly amaze, but no longer surprise.  I’ve been making a list, and intend to write articles about them. Here is a sample and though many of them seem improbable, they are all true.

Direct Ancestors

1.  William IX, Duke of Aquitaine.  William was a leader of the 1101 Crusade.  He is best known today as the earliest troubadour – a vernacular lyric poet in the Occitan language – whose work has survived.  Grandfather of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Jane Austen’s 19th-great-grandfather.
2.  Owain Glyndwr, Prince of Wales. Shakespeare’s Owen Glendower. Jane’s 13th-great-grandfather.

Owain Glyndwr – the BBC

3. John King, Bishop of London, from 1611 (the year of the King James Bible) to 1621. John King ordained John Donne. Jane’s  4th-great-grandfather.

John King, Bishop of London (1611-1621)

4.  Faith Coghill, the wife of Sir Christopher Wren. The  1st cousin once removed of George Austen.

5. Lizzie Throckmorton, the wife of Sir Walter Raleigh. A distant cousin of Cassandra Leigh.

Elizabeth Throckmorton

[image from Peerage.com]

6.  Katherine Leigh, the wife of Robert Catesby, the Gunpowder plotter, another distant cousin.

7.  Both of Jane’s parents were descended from royalty. Cassandra was descended from John of Gaunt, the son of Edward III, so every previous English king, back to William the Conqueror, and some beyond, was her ancestor.  For George we have to go back two generations further, to Edward I.

8.  Some Scottish royalty – the real-life Duncan I of Scotland who was either murdered by his cousin, the real-life Macbeth, or killed in battle against him.  Macbeth, as we know, succeeded him as King.  Duncan was Jane’s 21st-great-grandfather.

9.  By the way, we all know from Jane’s juvenilia that she “preferred” Mary Queen of Scots to Queen Elizabeth. Well – not only was she related to both, but in Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers she is quoted favourably comparing her brother Frank with Queen Elizabeth.

Cassandra Austen’s Mary Queen of Scots – The History of England


JAIV:  This is all wonderful! 
But I must ask, any real gossip – things hidden for generations?

RD:  Ooh – I’d be banished from the family if I revealed any of those!

JAIV: Oh, but the story of Elizabeth and Herbert is quite an interesting one! All hidden from the family and worthy of a Victorian novel! –  or at least akin to the writers of Victorian novels, as the lives of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins can attest! [see below for the link!]

JAIV:  Where do you go from here? 

RD:  I began the web project thinking that I would be producing a revision of Akin to Jane , but it eventually became obvious that the plan was unworkable. I want the reader to be drawn to my research, and not to think that Joan Corder’s work was the end of it. She managed to record a little over 300 of George and Cassandra Austen’s descendants, and gave ancestors no attention. My genealogical database contains more than 1200 descendants – that is, another 900 – and another ten thousand people, who include ancestors, collateral families, and families of social connections. The address of that, by the way, is http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~janeausten.

There is a link beneath each individual in Akin to Jane to that database, but in the long run I plan to organise things better. I’ll spend next winter learning the html to create a proper design (you won’t know it, but the current one is improper), and intend to do wondrous things with a sidebar. That will take care of technicalities. I have only just begun thinking beyond the current content, and have decided that I will add more original family history source material. I believe that one can jinx plans by talking about them too soon, so I’ll do that when I know that the material can be used.

JAIV:  Is there a book in the works?

RD: I’m sorry. No book. Articles, yes. Though I’ve really enjoyed building the Jane Austen’s Family website, it has absorbed an immense amount of time – time taken away from research, my first love.

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Thank you Ron for joining us here today! [well, really you are at the JAS meeting at the Chawton House Library, and I am here in Vermont, but we can pretend, can’t we?] – it has been delightful getting to know you via emails! and I very much appreciate you sharing all this with us. What a gift of research you have given the Jane Austen world…

Now Dear Readers, it is time for you to journey through these ancestry files, both those of Joan Corder’s Akin to Jane manuscript, now transcribed for all to see on the website, as well as the expanded genealogical research at the Ancestry.com site that Ron has lovingly put together over these past how many years?!   Ron makes it clear that this is still a work in progress [isn’t everything?] and he will continue to make changes to the set-up and continuously add content.  But it is best to just dive in and see all that is there – [as an aside, so please forgive the intrusion, I must say that I put in several of my family names (both my parents were born in England, so I knew there was a chance of some connection somewhere), and find that the mother of Sir Christopher Wren has my maiden name, and his wife, mentioned above [Faith Coghill] was a direct cousin to George Austen! – now I have some serious sleuthing to do to find the exact connection – but I have been quite annoying to friends and family these past few days since my discovery – and not sure in any given minute whether to sit down and write a Novel, or get out my drafting table and design a Cathedral – this genealogy stuff can be quite daunting!]

So back to the matter at hand – let’s head into the Austen genealogy: to begin, go first to the main page: where you will see these links:

1. Akin to Jane – Joan Corder’s original and transcribed manuscript – click on this and you will find these links:

Akin to Jane title page

  • Jane Austen’s Family– Index of Names, and Lists: Corder’s notes on the Austen family, indexed by Austen family members, all surnames of the extended family – you will find links to:

1.  Jane’s family and their descendants: George and Cassandra Austen; James Austen; George Austen; Edward Austen, later Knight; Henry Thomas Austen; Cassandra Elizabeth Austen; Francis William Austen; Jane Austen; and Charles John Austen

2.  Index of people by surname: Austen Family; Austen-Leigh; Bradford, Hill and Hubback; Knatchbull; Knight; Lefroy and Purvis; and Rice

  • Highlights page – oh! much here and much more to be added:

“There is good reason for the general reader to delve into this manuscript. One of Joan Corder’s informants, Miss Marcia Rice, who was 84 in 1954 when the work was written, was the granddaughter of Edward Knight’s daughter Elizabeth, and her husband Edward Royd Rice. Miss Rice wrote extensive memoirs of her family, which Joan Corder copied. Her recollections of her distant childhood were refracted through the most rosy of tinted spectacles; few could read those for her grandmother without needing the discreet use of a tissue. Here is a direct link to Elizabeth.

Please don’t stop with Elizabeth – Miss Rice didn’t. She left a wonderful record immortalising her entire Rice family, from aunts who could be quirky or intellectual, to uncles who could be courageous or reckless. For many of them there are links in the text to portraits. Be sure not to neglect reading Miss Rice’s personal memories, on page 115; and those following, on her great-aunt Marianne Knight.” –

  • Heraldry – Eleven Coats of Arms: these are worthy of a website all their own!

Austen Coat-of-Arms

  • Joan Corder – author of Akin to Jane: information on the author of the original family tree.
  • Author’s and Editor’s Notes: notes from both Corder and Dunning with explanations on how to use the Akin to Jane database and links to Dunning’s Roots Web database.
  • Contact Me – Ronald Dunning: he would love to hear from you!

Ron Dunning

2.  Recent Research – Ron’s explanation of his research that continues that of what is in Akin to Jane at the Jane Austen Family Tree website at RootsWeb:
http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?db=janeausten

3.   Articles – there are three articles now, more to be added:

  • “An Unconventional Love Match”
  • “The Last Welsh Prince of Wales – Jane Austen’s Welsh Ancestry”
  • “Latitude and Longitude”

Be sure to read all the extra links – these often explain the contents and how the database works; and do not miss all the illustrations that appear throughout the website:

http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/akin-to-jane/text/illustrations-and-portraits.html

Vice Admiral Francis William Austen

Now the fun part: you really do need to explore – but I shall give you this start – the wonderful story noted on the “Highlights Page” above of Elizabeth Austen [later Knight], daughter of Jane Austen’s brother Edward, from her grand-daughter Marcia Alice Rice, as written for Joan Corder in 1953:

http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/akin-to-jane/text/edward/051a.html

 Image of Elizabeth Austen-Knight Rice and her husband Edward Royd Rice

and then this quite romantic tale that I mentioned above of another Elizabeth and her husband Herbert: Herbert was the last child of Fanny Catherine Austen Knight Knatchbull (Jane Austen’s favorite niece – quite the mouthful! – and later on they added Hugessen to the name!) –  here we have a tale of a secret marriage, he and his wife Elizabeth living under an assumed name, Herbert never telling his mother, never telling his colleagues in Parliament, having many children – all right out of a Victorian novel! : you can find it here on the ancestry.com website:

http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=janeausten&id=I3046

and you can read Ron’s take on the story and his research here:

http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/articles/unconventional-love-match.html

So just dig around – click on any link of interest – there are treasures to be discovered lurking behind those links! – whatever would Jane Austen make of all this do you think? – would she be absolutely appalled to discover she was related to Queen Elizabeth?? I now wonder after all if even I am related to Queen Elizabeth … and maybe you are too!

If you have any questions for Ron, please leave a comment here – he is happy to respond to any queries or suggestions…

c2012, Jane Austen in Vermont