Monday, 21 July 2014
One of my guilty pleasures is the TV programme Heir Hunters. I watch it on IPlayer whilst catching up with the ironing... sad but true. I do switch off from research ideas sometimes, I promise.
For the uninitiated, Heir Hunters is about the companies that make their livings from specific genealogical research - usually in pursuit of the beneficiaries of unclaimed estates left by those who have died without leaving a will.
I am always fascinated by how possible it is, even in our modern world, for someone to be almost anonymous. Today I watched an episode where the researchers had been unable even to find a photo of the deceased person. Nothing. How different to today's Instagram/Facebook/Twitter generation.
A couple of months ago, my aunt called my mother to say that she had had a call from an heir hunter. It was to do with a relative of my grandmother's but the caller had given very few details on that first call and my aunt wanted to know if it was even possible that what they had said was true.
Well, far from being demoralised that I had not found this person myself, I was delighted with the challenge! I haven't watched all those episodes for nothing, I told myself. I do family trees but this was my chance to be a "proper" heir hunter - against the clock, unknown cash at the end. Let's go! Excitement for a Saturday morning instead of son's football and daughter's gym!
It turned out that the tree I had created for my mother and her siblings - of their mother's maternal line of Tiller - was the answer and that I had come very close to at least finding out about the existence of the deceased person when I first did the tree. I had concentrated on working backwards and had not yet pursued the possibility of cousins for my grandmother.
Anyway, my grandma Lily apparently had a first cousin called Constance, the existence of whom we were blissfully unaware. My uncle believe that the name jogged a memory of someone named Connie being mentioned but no-one else had a clue.
One of the biggest puzzles is that they all appear to have grown up in the same area of North London - Lily and her siblings, Constance and hers. My grandmother even appears to have been named after her aunt Lillian - her mother's sister and Constance's mother.
Of course, people move on and grow up and, even within families, lose touch. However, my grandmother lost her brother whilst he was very young and they had already lost their parents. Her remaining sibling, a sister, also died relatively young. So it seems sad that she and Constance were not in touch.
My mother and her three siblings will be sharing a small amount of money from Constance. My grandmother died ten year ago and it appears that Constance did not long survive her. Hopefully, by adding Constance to our family tree, we can preserve some small memory of her. And I got to be a sort of Heir Hunter, even if only for a day! A new string to the research bow?