Known to many by her writings, endeared to her
family by the varied charms of her characters
and ennobled by her Christian faith and piety
was born at Steventon in the County of Hants.
December 16 1775
and buried in the Cathedral
July 18 1817.
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom
and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
Could it be that I have a relation in distant past with connections to Miss Jane Austen. Be still my heart. Sometimes, I believe genealogy enthusiasts can be a bit zealous to find someone of renown in the branches of there family tree, perhaps finding what more resembles tangled vines seeking nurture from the true tree, (ie. distraction).
So be it.
There is a Richard Knight in my family line. Born 14 Jan. 1603 in Romsey, Wiltshire, England, died 4 Aug. 1683 in Newbury, MA. Jane Austen had cousins who were Knights. In fact, in 1814, Thomas Knight, who was without heir, adopted (customary in the day) his cousin, Rev. George Austen’s third eldest son, James, Jane’s brother. James inherited Chawton House , and became Jane’s home during the most prolific time in her life. She strolled the gardens and walked on ground that royalty had tread in centuries before, when kings visited the grand estate belonging to the Knight family, some whom were our own ancestors. Could they have been Austen relations?
My Knight ancestor, John, a tailor by trade, came from Southampton, England in 1635 on the James with his brother Richard and settled in Newbury, MA. The question, then, remains – does this John Knight share ancestry with Thomas Knight, James Austen’s adoptive father and his biological father, George Austen? If so, I am distant kin to Jane Austen?
According to the Austen Family Genealogical Charts I have a lead. The significant clues being that “Southampton” is the birthplace of Cassandra Leigh, Jane’s mother. In 1806 they lived there and spent time visiting various branches of the family (Jane Austen, A Life by Claire Tomalin, 194–206). And as I mentioned above, my ancestor John Knight was also of Southhampton. Was John Knight (1594) kin to Sir Richard Knight (1665) who inherited Chawton House in 1641. The key is learning if these two are related, and if so there is a remote connection that I can claim. Albeit, quite remote.
Perhaps this confuses you, but my aim is to show the process one takes in trying to determine such things. One must first find a clue and then confirm it. To discover a connection as fact would thrill me, yet I must weigh the effort in seeking this out further against what is truly valuable. My time. Time I could better spend writing. You see, I do share ancestry with several famous authors already. As an author myself, that makes me smile. So I do share a kindred of sorts with Miss Austen, who’s first novel was penned under the pseudonym “A Lady”. And much due to her efforts and devotion to writing, I may use my own name. And that is what really matters. Yet, wonder I will.
Related or not, in honor of the 235th anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth, I am recalling one of the grandest events of my lifetime. I’m not referring to my wedding, nor the days my children were born. Nothing can compare to those days, but this was a great literary event that my husband and I attended in 2007 – A Jane Austen Gala!
Playing make believe was really fun for the Jane Austen Gala. That kind of thing may not be everyone’s cup o’ tea, but I tell you this, I have not had so much fun in ages! Though it wasn’t just dressing up in costume and attending the event that I enjoyed, but the preparation, the research, the blogging, the creating, the comradery, the reading Jane Austen and watching movies based on her books, the anticipation, the date with my husband! It was not just “making believe”, it was living history. As a writer, avid reader of regency romance, and history fanatic this affair was thrilling for me and truly brought me closer in my experience to that which I have ever been to this era.
Ah, but my attendance at a Regency Ball has caused me to consider how many ladies back then, who shared the meager position of my own, would have wished for such a chance. I was blessed that despite my humble lot in life that I was able to attend such an elegant event. Elizabeth Bennett dancing. Dancing with her own Mr. Darcy. Sir Bradford and Lady Carla.
In God’s kingdom we are not limited by economy, but are blessed by His glorious riches. And my relation to Him is of utmost import.
“You must learn some of my philosophy.
Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure. “
~ Jane Austen ~
And I add. . .genealogy gives me much pleasure!