3 ways to trace living relatives

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13 July 2015
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As you trace your family history, there are likely to be times when you wish to make contact with living relatives. This is somet

As you trace your family history, there are likely to be times when you wish to make contact with living relatives. This is something we are keen to inspire you to do in the August issue of Family Tree, as connecting with your cousins worldwide can truly boost your research. Finders International, of BBC 'Heir Hunters' fame, is no stranger to the art of tracing living relatives, as Daniel Curran, Finders International managing director, explains.

As you may have experienced with your own family, people have a tendency to move around, which means that families can often be divided among numerous countries.

As a provider of international probate genealogy services, this is an issue that comes up for us time and time again here at Finders International Probate genealogy services (we are more commonly referred to as 'heir hunting' services, thanks to the popularity of the BBC daytime programme 'Heir Hunters', which features our work). Heir hunting is about finding next of kin when a person has died without leaving a will and when they appear to have no known immediate relatives. It is our job to find the rightful beneficiaries and this often involves using our network of international partners to find people overseas.

There are many contributing factors to migration. Decades ago, a significant number of Brits moved to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA (and still do), and recent years have also been a large number of expatriates retiring to countries such as Spain looking for that place in the sun.

Nowadays, there are also many people who are choosing to make the UK their home. EU law has encouraged people from countries such as Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland and Romania to immigrate to countries with higher prevailing wage levels, such as France, Germany, Italy and the UK.

In the not too distant past, it was virtually impossible to conclude research successfully if you were trying to trace next of kin or family in a number of European countries, but efforts have now been made to rebuild records that had previously been destroyed.

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An example of far-flung relative tracing came up for us recently, when we traced beneficiaries of a UK estate to family members in the Ukraine. The money involved was life-changing for those Ukrainians.

3 top tips for tracing living relatives

  1. Search for the will or probate of any person in the UK who died in or after 1996 using the online Find a will service. Wills can reveal a great deal about other family members.
  2. Electoral rolls and phone books can be a means to trace living relatives. Many people choose to opt out of being listed nowadays, but they can still be a useful resource.
  3. Use social media! While fewer people are choosing to be in the phone book, more and more now have an online profile. You can use Google to search for names, or join Facebook or other social networks. Find out more about using Facebook for family history with this blog post: family-tree.co.uk/2013/12/how-to-use-facebook-for-family-history.
If you think you might be the beneficiary to an estate (estates where someone has died without leaving a will are listed on the Bona Vacantia list) or if you would like help to trace missing next of kin, or to verify your family tree, Finders can help. Please contact us on +44 (0)20 7490 4935 or email [email protected].

Image © Shutterstock/Digital Storm.