In our line of work, we have to be terriers. We have to keep working on cases (whether Heir Hunting, adoption, family history or whatever) until we know that there is no stone we have left unturned. That is perhaps what makes FWL researchers different. Doing what we do is not for everyone. Outstanding family historians do not necessarily enjoy tracing living people in intestate cases. It takes someone with a special character and mind set.
It is very difficult to teach someone the ‘tricks of the trade’ of a family historian and it is even harder to train someone to be an Heir Hunter. You either have it or you don’t. And the hardest thing to learn is when to give up….
In the UK, intestacy law only goes back to the grandparents of the deceased. So, if the deceased didn’t marry, had no children, was an only child and so were their parents, the estate goes to the UK Government. That sounds very simple, doesn’t it? Not if the names you are researching give many options for individuals in the family line and you have to track every single individual to work out whether they are the ‘right’ one or not. It’s frustrating sometimes when the case clearly has value but there are no beneficiaries in the matter. So many estates listed on the Bonavacantia list are known to be £250,000+ and the Government get to keep it …. Grr….
But it is also important not to give up too soon. Just because something does not seem to fit the obvious – you can’t connect an appropriate birth with the deceased’s death, no obvious siblings etc. – terriers don’t give up at the first hurdle. If Team FWL gave up without a battle, there are several cases we would have missed out on signing and many more family histories we would not have completed in such depth for clients.
The key is to give up when you know you have had enough. Wise advice for all genealogists.