Marx’, Darwin’s, Shackleton’s wills online

This video from Britain is called Richard Dawkins: The Genius of Charles Darwin (Episode 1).

From the BBC:

11 August 2010 Last updated at 08:27 GMT

Marx‘s will among millions online

By Peter Jackson BBC News

It may not come as a huge surprise that communist and anti-capitalist philosopher Karl Marx died a poor man.

But why did the German, who had seven children by his wife and died in north London, leave his meagre £250 (£23,000 today) to his youngest daughter Eleanor?

New online records are offering tantalising insights into the financial affairs of famous figures from the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Official summaries, or indexes, of more than six million wills from 1861 to 1941 have been put online for the first time.

They took about a year-and-a-half to digitise, and reveal a fortune of more than £20bn.

Once-rich polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton left even less than Marx, the records show.

By the time he died in 1922, he was down to £556 (£20,000 today), having lost his fortune in a series of failed business schemes.

Naturalist Charles Darwin, by contrast, left the Victorian equivalent of about £13m today, and Charles Dickens £7m.

The probate calendar books for England and Wales present easily accessible records for historians and academics who have had to rely on paper searches until now.

But they also allow people to research their own family trees and tales of lost fortunes and wealthy ancestors.

Historic feuds and branching family trees mean many mysteries of missing millions will never be solved.

People across the labour movement are set to remember Eleanor Marx’s legacy tomorrow, as JOHN CALLOW explains: here.

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