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Online database reveals estates of Marx, Darwin

By the CNN Wire Staff
Das Capital: Karl Marx left 250 or 23,000 ($36,000) today.
Das Capital: Karl Marx left 250 or 23,000 ($36,000) today.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The wills are published online for the first time
  • They show Karl Marx died a poor man, but Charles Darwin was wealthy
  • Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton did not leave much, either
  • There are also entries for Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll
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London, England (CNN) -- A collection of wills reveals Karl Marx died a poor man and Charles Darwin left behind a large estate, an ancestry website said Wednesday.

The England and Wales National Probate Calendar, 1861-1941, reveals the value of more than 6 million estates, including some left by famous people.

It was published online Wednesday for the first time by Ancestry.co.uk.

The records show the anti-capitalist Marx died in 1883 leaving 250 pounds (23,000 pounds today) -- $395 ($36,000 today) -- to his youngest daughter, Eleanor.

The famous Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton left even less on his death in 1922 -- just 556 pounds (20,000 pounds today) -- $878 ($31,600 today). The website said he lost his fortune in failed money-making schemes while allegedly trying to recapture the adventure of his youth.

Darwin, by contrast, left a personal estate worth 146,911 pounds (around 13 million pounds today) -- $232,000 ($20.5 million today) -- when he died in 1882, the website said.

"Probate" refers to the court's authority to adminster a deceased person's estate. That power lay with the church until 1857, when the state took it over and began putting together the records published Wednesday, Ancestry.co.uk said.

The records show the average value of a person's will during the period was 3,400 pounds ($5,363), with some wills leaving as little as 10 pounds ($15.75), the website said.

Entries also reveal details about the fate of the deceased, such as Edward John Smith, captain of the Titanic. His will says he was "lost at sea," along with passengers Bejamin Guggenheim and John Astor, and the ship's builder, Thomas Andrews.

The wills show John Cadbury, who created the eponymous chocolate empire, left a personal estate of 43,773 pounds (around 4.2 million pounds today) -- $69,000 ($6.6 million) -- when he died in 1889.

Several famous authors left substantial estates when they died, according to the records.

Charles Dickens, author of Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, left "effects under 80,000 pounds" (around 7.1 million pounds today) -- $126,000 ($11.2 million today) -- when he died in 1870.

The author of the Sherlock Holmes detective stories, Arthur Conan Doyle, died in 1931 with 63,491 pounds (3,000,000 pounds today) -- $100,000 ($4.7 million today).

A smaller but still notable amount was in the estate left by Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. He died in 1898 leaving 4,145 pounds (450,000 pounds today) -- $6,500 ($710,000 today).

The database can be useful to those researching their family history, helping them learn more about their relative's social standing and worldly possessions, Ancestry.co.uk said. In addition to the estate's value, each entry may also include the name of the deceased person, the date and place of their death, and, in some cases, bequest recipients.