When he didn't return his wife Lady Jane felt the British government wasn't putting enough effort into searching for the lost expedition. She sent a volley of letters to the Admiralty and to any one she could think of in a position of power. She financed several search efforts on her own over the course of twelve years. Frances Woodward called her "the heroic widow who refused to believe in her own widowhood."
When Jane Griffin met John Franklin at a dinner party honouring Arctic explorers he was a widower. She was a well-educated energetic, intelligent and self-disciplined woman. She was also an avid explorer and adventurer who travelled by mule, hiking and tenting. They married in 1828.
After spending several years in service in the Mediterranean, John Franklin was assigned to the role of Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania. While there, Jane didn't become a stay at home tea party wife. She involved herself in the politics of the region, established a school, set about to improve the lot of women convicts and founded a museum. She also explored the coasts of Tasmania and became the first European woman to cross overland from Hobart to Macquarrie Harbour.
When the Franklin expedition set out in 1845 they were looking for a navigable passageway through the Arctic, but their ships met with disaster. It was twelve years after the disappearance and several search parties later that Lady Jane was brought confirmation by the McClintock party that her husband was dead.
Through the years investigators tried to put the pieces together. Some scraps of equipment, bones, and bits of uniform were retrieved. Stories of cannibalism were passed on by the Inuit residents of the North. Lead poisoning from improperly tinned food was suspected of playing a role in the deaths. Only one fragment of writing was found amongst the scraps recovered. It was rolled into a tin and buried under a cairn. It read, "Sir John Franklin died June 1847 and the total loss by deaths in the expedition has been to this date 9 officers and 15 men." That left 105 men to die later, by exposure, hypothermia, scurvy, lead poisoning or any combination.
Jane didn't stop her searches with news of her husband's death. She continued to look for some cache of records or other evidence of the fate of the ships. She refused to believe the stories of cannibalism and poured her considerable energies into finding the answers to the fate of her husband and his men. Her searches added greatly to the knowledge of the Arctic.
Now the discovery this year, by a Canadian investigation party, of one of Franklin's ships lying on the seabed has sparked more curiosity and speculation.
Lady Jane's searches and her own world travels ended with her death at the age of 83.
One of her last acts before her own death was to set up in Westminster Abbey a monument to her husband with a inscription,“. . . erected by Jane, his widow, who, after long waiting, and sending many in search of him, herself departed, to seek and to find him in the realms of light."