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CASE STUDY: Tracing heirs when the facts don’t add up

We were recently asked to locate a person named as a beneficiary in a historic Will. He was a nephew of the deceased, but only his name was given. Arguably, armed with a copy of the Will and the death certificate, this should be an easy task………… find her birth, find her siblings, find their children…….

We were able to confirm the date of birth of the deceased from her death certificate, and we also knew she was married at the time of death, so used the death certificate to confirm her maiden name.  However, a search of the birth index revealed no births in her maiden in the date range specified. Wondering whether there had been a typo in her surname, we also searched on variations of the name, but no luck. There was also no record of her on the 1911 census, when she would have been around 7 years of age.

It transpired that the deceased had been living at the same house for most of her life, so having access to the 1939 census data, we were able to locate her record at the house in which she was living when she passed away. The surname matched the maiden name provided on the death certificate………… something wasn’t adding up.

Extensive research showed the maiden name shown on the death certificate was actually a former married name, as the deceased had been married previously. We were able to trawl marriage information, located her first marriage record, and from this found her surname at birth.

A fresh check of the 1911 census located one listing under her birth name, and critically also found us the name of a sister for that person. However, as the census does not confirm a date of birth, we needed to dig deeper to be absolutely sure we had the right person. A significant amount of investigation later, and we located historic school admission records for both the deceased and her sister, both signed by the fathers name as listed on the census, and which also confirmed the date of birth for the school admission to be that of our deceased.

Now on to the sister

Having the sisters birth name, and the surname of the nephew names in the will (i.e. the surname of her husband),  we were able to locate a marriage record for her. Birth record checks just after the marriage found a record for a birth in the name we were looking for, and confirming the mothers maiden name to be that of the deceased sister. A copy of the birth certificate was ordered from the General Register Office.

Birth Certificate obtained

On receipt of the birth certificate we were able to confirm the deceased sister named as the mother on the birth record, and obtain the date of birth for the nephew. Searches on current data sets found the nephew (now 88 years old), to be living in the Blackpool area.

Our client is now able to contact the nephew to deliver him some ‘good news’

If you have a similar case you would like us to investigate, please contact Nicola Ashby on 01543 888434 or

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