Will of Thomas Austen (1740-1801) of Yalding, Kent, England

Written September 24, 1795
Proved January 22, 1801
Rough transcription provided by
Caroline Pinkers (1931-2014)
Introduction & [Comments] by
Larry Pearce
1/18/19

Georgian mansion on High Street
Yalding, Kent, UK

Thomas Austen (1740-1801) of Kent, England, was my four-times great-grandfather. His granddaughter Susan married my Great-great grandfather Richard Pearce in London in 1813, and thus the merger of our two families. In my several decades of research into family history, and with the help of distant cousins from around the world, I have been able to collect and interpret dozens of documents, some centuries old, that shed light on these families. Brian Austen of Tazmania, Australia, has written extensively on my Austen line, and you are encouraged to peruse his work for context to this discussion. About the time that Brian and I were corresponding, another cousin, Caroline Pinkers, late, of Seattle, sent me what was apparently an electronic transcription of the Last Will and Testament of the family patriarch, Thomas Austen. She and several other cousins put me on to other information of the Pearces and Austens of England and early America. Much of it found its way onto my webpage, which was begun in 2001. Because the transcription of the Will was so rough, I copied it onto the old medium known as the floppy disk and stored it away. This winter, as my wife and I begin the arduous task of preparing to move to a retirement community, I found the priceless document and considered editing, interpreting, polishing, and including it on the E-gen pages devoted to the Austens. Perhaps someday I’ll locate the original and be able to go beyond the electronic transcription, which while it provides the miracle of quickly preserving age-old texts, too often substitutes lines and symbols for words and phrases not understood. I’ve kept the lines here but have eliminated the symbols. I’ve also taken the liberty to add a few punctuation marks and definitions, questions, and explanations  [in brackets]. For example, did you know that the 15P[ounds] per year annuity that Thomas left for his beloved Mary could be worth as much as $2 Million in current American cash? Consider some of the other endowments he left for kin and upkeep like 150P[ounds] and 750P[ounds]. No doubt, Thomas, though the Will refers to him as a “yoeman,” or gentleman farmer, had been quite successful in his lifetime and by 1795, dare we say, “wealthy.” Of course, it would take an accountant to calculate whether we should take the “real” or “economic cost” value of the sums over two centuries. Also, we aren’t certain when exactly wife Mary Martin was born or if she was Thomas’ first wife. Given the birth dates of some of the children, it seems that she was probably his second wife. Also, the language of the Will, “marriage with my now wife, Mary,” suggests that he remarried, probably after the death of an earlier spouse. Of course, this also calls into question the relationship between Thomas and the Henry Martin, “deceased,” he mentions. We believe that Mary’s father, Henry, had died in 1763, but just what is the “joint security” Thomas writes about with regard to Mary and her brother John? Had Henry Martin also been wealthy, and had he left money or property to Mary? Perhaps a lawyer could explain. Finally, before you scan the document below, have a look at the Vitals and Family Tree of Thomas and Mary Martin Austen. My research continues as to the particulars of this family, and in the future I hope to be able to provide dates and spouses of all the children listed in the Will as well as answer questions such as, “Had  there also been a son Charles?” “Had he passed away before father Thomas wrote his testament in 1795?” At the bottom of my later articles on E-gen I include a revision date, so I urge you to check back as I record new findings. Meanwhile, here are the thoughts of Grandfather Thomas, written over 200-years ago in his own hand:

Old bridge over Twyford River
Yalding, Kent, UK

THIS IS THE LAST WILL and Testament of me, Thomas Austen of Yalding in the County of Kent, Yeoman. I hereby make and publish and declare this Twenty-fourth day of September in year of our Lord Christ One thousand Seven hundred and Ninety five.   

Whereas upon my marriage with my now wife, Mary, I settled or secured to be paid unto her, or her assigns in case she should happen to survive me, a certain annuity or clear yearly sum of Fifteen pounds for and during the term of her natural life to be paid and payable out of and from the rents, issues, and profits of all that my messuages [dwelling houses with outbuildings and land] or tentements [separate residences in a block of apartments or land earning rent], buildings, farm lands, and premises situate and being in Yalding aforesaid and Nettlestead in the County aforesaid or in _________and now or late in my own occupation.   

Now I do hereby ratify and confirm the said annuity granted to my said wife and I do also hereby further give and grant unto my said wife one other annuity or clear yearly sum of Six pounds of lawful money of Great Britain to be paid and secured unto her as hereinafter is mentioned, both of which said annuities of Fifteen pounds and Six pounds I hereby and direct shall be paid and payable unto my said wife or her assigns by even and equal Quarterly payments on the four most usual Feasts Days of payment in the year.  That is to say, on the Feast Days of Saint ____ Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Also ____ of Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist and the first of the said payments to begin and be made on the first or _______ of the said Feast Day which shall happen after my decease, and whereas upon the marriage of my [eldest] Daughter Mary Austen with her own Husband Thomas Welfear [1794 that produced six children] the messuage or tentement farm lands and premises hereinafter mentioned to be situate and lying and being in Yalding and Nettlestead aforesaid were by articles of agreement [a lease of contract for the land between the father-in-law Thomas and son-in-law Thomas] charged with the payment of the sum of Seven hundred and fifty pounds to the uses at the time and of manner therein mentioned and also subject to the purchase thereof at a valuation by the said Thomas Welfear in case he should choose so to do at six months after my decease [The son-in-law has the option to buy the land at a price that he can determine after the death of Thomas, Sr.] of to the said Thomas Welfear paying the overplus of the consideration monies if the same should amount to more than the said sum of Seven hundred and fifty pounds to the aforesaid and in manner in the said Articles of Agreement mentioned, and whereas my [eldest] son John and my said daughter Mary Welfear will upon my said wife’s decease become entitled to the Sum of One hundred and fifty pounds equally between them by virtue of and under joint security made and executed by Henry Martin deceased, the father to my said wife.  

Now my Will is and I do hereby direct that my [second and third] Sons William Austen and Ambrose Austen and the said John Austen shall and do with the consent and approbation of my Executors hereinafter named or the Survivor of them within twelve months after my decease dispose of sell and convert into money all that my messuage or tentements buildings farm and lands containing Sixty-five acres more or less with the appurtenances [incidental rights of way] situate lying and being at or near Boarshead Street in the Parish of Rotherfield in the County of Sussex and now or late in the tenure or occupation of Thomas Crittall [probably a renter] his assigns or hereditaments and also all that the messuages, farm, lands, tentements hereinbefore mentioned to be Situated and being in the parishes of Yalding and Nettlestead aforesaid or in our of ___ (in case the said Thomas Welfear shall neglect or refuse to purchase the same at a valuation as before mentioned) and the fee simple and Inheritance of the same_______ and promises and I do also direct my Executors within the term of Six months after my decease to call in all monies and owing to me upon Bill Bond Note [money that has been loaned to others] or otherwise and to sell and convert into  monies all and every of my goods and chattels [items of personal property other than real estate such as belongings and worldly possessions] of what nature  or kindsoever and after vesting Sufficient part of the monies arising hereby in the hands of one or more of my said sons for the better securing unto my said wife her aforesaid annuity of Six pounds a year for her life and thereout also paying unto my son John Austen the sum of Seven hundred and fifty pounds and unto my [second] Daughter Sarah, the wife of Thomas Clark, the sum of five pounds for mourning only, she having received from me at the time of her marriage [1778 that produced six children] and since more than equal share of all my property, real and personal, and also after payment of all my just debts funeral expenses, probation of this my will and all other important charges and expenses, it being my desire to make an equal division of what it has pleased God to [grant] me with amongst my other children William Ambrose and John Austen and also said Mary Welfear.

I do by this my Will therefore direct my said Executors or the survivor of _______ his Executors or Administrators that where and so _______ as my said real and personal estates shall have been ________ and converted into ___________ as before is ______ And that they said and do pay the __________ resident thereof (after making the deductions above mentioned and also after denoting and computing unto my said daughter Mary Welfear as part there of the aforesaid sum of Seven hundred fifty pounds __________ on her by the said ___________ marriage, Articles, and ______ half part of the said sum of one hundred and fifty pounds payable unto her at the death of her said mother and also into my said son John Austen as part thereof his half part or share of the said sum of one hundred and fifty pounds payable unto him at the death of his said mother) unto and amongst my said Sons and Daughter William Austen, Ambrose Austen, John, and Mary Welfear or their personal representatives, in equal shares and proportions as provided always, and I do hereby direct that the receipt or receipts  to be signed and given by them the said William and Ambrose and John Austen or the Survivors or Survivor of them, his heirs, Executors, or Administrators for any sum or sums of money which shall be paid to them or thereby any purchaser of my said Real Estate,_______ and promiser or any part thereof shall be a good _____ and discharge to such purchaser or survivors for so __________ as in such receipt shall be _____ to be received and such purchaser or purchasers shall not afterward be obliged to the _________ of the money in such receipt or receipts ________ to be _________ nor be answerable for any of misapplication or non-application thereof or any part thereof provided also and my will further is that my Trustees and Executors their heirs, Executors, and Admins. shall be allowed to retain to _______ out of trust monies all such costs, charges, Damages, and Expenses as they shall sustain or be put unto in the execution of the trust hereby in ________ reposted within shall they be answerable for any more of the said Trust monies than what shall actually ________ to in their hand nor the sum of ______ for the other of them nor for any _______ which may happen by mistaken _______ or otherwise unless such happens by or other _________ their willful neglect or default and hereby nominating and appointing my Nephew John Austen of Penshurst in Kent, Yeoman, and my friend George Bassett of Yalding, aforesaid husbandman, as Joint Executors of this my will.

I so revoke all former wills or codicils by me heretofore made and do declare this writing contained in this and the two preceding sheets of paper to be and contain my Last Will and Testament.  In witness whereof I, the said Thomas Austen, have to the bottom of the two proceeding sheets in my set my hand to this last sheet my signature and seal; also day and year first in the above written.

[signed] Thos. Austen      

[seal] Signed, Sealed, and published and __________ by the said Thomas Austen the testator as and for his last Will and Testament in the presence of us who have subscribed our names as witnesses to the same in the presence of the said Testator and at his request the words “unto my Son John Austen, the sum of Seven hundred and fifty pounds” and the words “and fifty” being first interlined in the second sheet

[signed] Ann Roffe, Jno. Roffe, J. Slater.

I do make this codicil to my last Will and Testament that, if the before named Henry Martin, executer [probably the elder Henry Martin’s son, brother of wife Mary], shall  demand the said One hundred and fifty pounds of me before my decease or after of my Executors or Administrator after my decease, I do direct that the said sum of One Hundred and fifty pounds shall be taken and noted out of the sums of money equally that I have given to my said Son John Austen and Mary, the wife of Thomas Welfear aforesaid.  

Witness my hand

[signed] Thos. Austen  APPEARED PERSONALLY

Thomas Welfear, [Sr.] the Elder of the Parish of Peckham in the County of Kent, Yeoman, father of Thomas Welfear [daughter Mary’s husband] mentioned in the Codicil to the Thomas Austen (hereinafter mentioned) and Eliz Kingsworth (or Kingsnorth) of the Parish of Yalding in the County of Kent, Widow, and made Oath that they knew and were well acquainted with Thomas Austen late of Yalding in the County of Kent, deceased, for some time, and to the Time of his death and also with his manor and Character of handwriting and Subscription (having often seen him write and subscribe his name and having now carefully viewed and perused the paper writing hereto annexed purporting to be and contain a Codicil to the last Will and Testament of the said deceased)

I do make this a Codicil __________ thus as said writings by hand and thus Subscribed

[signed] Thomas Austen

These theses deponents [persons swearing to an affidavit] severally say they verily and in their conscience believe that ________ and contents of the said paper writing beginning and ending as aforesaid and also the Subscription thereto to be all of the proper handwriting and subscription of the said Thomas Austen, the testator, deceased.

[signed] Thomas Welfear, the Elder

and Elizabeth Kingsnorth   [unclear who wrote “How can she swear to Thomas’ writing when she cannot write herself?”] who were duly sworn to the truth of this affidavit before Miles Cooper, Commissioner

THIS WILL was proved at London with a Codicil the twenty second day of January in the Year of our Lord One thousand Eight hundred and One before the Worshipful ____________ Parson, Doctor of Laws, and Surrogate of the Right Honorable Sir William Wynnd Kinglet, Doctor of Laws, Master __________ or _______________ of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, lawfully Constituted by the Oath of Thomas Austen, the nephew and surviving Executor named in the said will to whom Administration was granted over all and singular the goods, chattles, and credits of the said _____ having been first sworn duly to Administrator. [The end]

Documentation:

“Word for Word: Document Transcribing Technology.” AbundantGenealogy.com. 18 Jan. 2019
https://abundantgenealogy.com/word-word-document-transcribing-technology/

“British Pound Time Value of Money.” IAmKate.com. 18 Jan. 2019
http://iamkate.com

“Time Value of Money.” MeasuringWorth.com. 18 Jan. 2019
http://measuringworth.com

Various definitions. Britanica.com. 18 Jan. 2019
https://www.britannica.com

“Will of Thomas Austen.” Caroline Pinkers. E-mail. 4 September 2001

“The Ambrose Austen, Sr. Family of Kent, UK.” E-mail 24 March 2001

“Thomas Austen.” Various Public Member Family Trees. Ancestry.comFamilySearch.com

“Nettlestead, Kent.” Wikipedia.org. 18 Jan. 2019
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nettlestead%2C_Kent

“Yalding, Kent.” Wikipedia.org. 18 Jan. 2019
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yalding

Last revised 1/19/19

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