Life On An Emotional Rollercoaster – What It’s Like To Be An Heir Hunter

No doubt about it—when you are a probate genealogist (or heir hunter as most of the public know us as) your day’s work often runs the gamut of every emotion. From elation to sadness, excitement and joy, and everything in between, it’s an emotional rollercoaster, writes Danny Curran, founder and CEO of Finders International.

The highs—heart-warming cases where people are reunited or meet up for the first time and those that are often picked up by the media. The lows, where we pass on news of the death of family members.

Our main job is to find the rightful heirs to an estate when people die intestate and appear to have no known next of kin. This is rarely the case. Finding them can be challenging and a global effort, but we can locate them wherever they are and however distantly related to the deceased they maybe.

Often, we’ve discovered heirs to an estate who did not know the deceased. Or they may recall a cousin from their childhood they saw a few times and then lost touch with as everyone grew up.

Fascinating stories

Much of our time is spent in archives—census and parish records, old newspapers and more. This means we often find out a great deal about the deceased’s family, which makes our job such a fascinating one and provides the attention-grabbing stories you will see on the BBC show we feature in, Heir Hunters.

But records and newspaper reports can often paint a sad picture too. You will read of couples where all their children died in infancy, or people forced to emigrate to the New World and never seeing their parents or siblings ever again.

Recently, we got involved in a case where we traced the family of the crew members of a Lancaster bomber that had been shot down right before the end of World War Two just as it returned from a successful sortie over Germany. All crew members were killed.

Among the dead was the plane’s wireless operator, Sergeant Harry Birch. We helped find his niece and nephew, so they were then able to attend a memorial event in honour of the occasion 75 years later.

When we get the chance to help in such rewarding work, we jump at the chance. It meant a great deal to me that we were able to find Sergeant Harry Birch’s niece and nephew, so they were able to attend this deeply moving event.

In recent months, we were saddened to hear of the death of Jimmy O’Donnell, who we’d helped reunite with his long-lost brother, Fred.

The brothers grew up believing they were only children. When Fred’s daughter researched her family tree, she discovered her father had an older brother. She appealed through a newspaper for help to find Jimmy and Finders spotted it and located him.

Following a lovely reunion, the two brothers met each other regularly from then on. But tragically, Jimmy contracted coronavirus earlier this year and subsequently died.

It was an absolute pleasure being able to reunite the O’Donnell brothers and I send my condolences to Jimmy’s family and friends – I will never forget the wonderful O’Donnell family.

See more of our reunion stories here.

Finders International finds missing beneficiaries to estates, properties and assets, and locates missing documents, overseas assets and more. Please visit our website to find out about all the services we offer. Alternatively, you can email [email protected] or telephone +44(0) 20 7490 4935

This article was submitted to be published by Finders International as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Wills and Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills and Probate.

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