Priddy/Groombridge Heir Hunters


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Priddy/Groombridge

Series following the work of probate researchers. The house clearance of a retired lathe operator uncovers a large family, but surname changes don't add up.


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Today, the heir hunters are investigating a case

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when it suddenly goes cold...

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Both marry in Dartford, all coming out fine,

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but after that, they both disappear.

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..and the very large family tree they discover...

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-51, 52, 53...

-..reaches out across the globe.

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On your stem alone, we have the US, Australia and Canada.

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Another team are working hard on a case but it could all be in vain.

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The firm of solicitors who were appointed actually found

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a will on this case.

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-Take a seat.

-But for the families...

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It's crazy!

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I think this is my favourite.

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..a transatlantic love story is uncovered.

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British wives demand space on boats!

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In the UK, when a person with no known relatives dies without

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making a will, any proceeds from the sale of their home

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and possessions can end up going to the state.

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-Have you got her death certificate yet?

-No.

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Probate genealogists Finders have taken on the case

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of a 90-year-old lady who passed away just four days ago.

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Her name is Doreen May Priddy,

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and her details aren't yet on the government list

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of unclaimed estates.

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Researcher Suzanne Rowley has been working on it for about an hour

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and has already made some progress.

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I found that Doreen was married to a Priddy.

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So her maiden name was actually Lowen.

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She was born in Leicester but she passed away in the Barnet area,

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and her parents both passed away in Hendon,

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so they all seemed to move down to sort of the Hendon-Barnet area.

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The case was referred privately to the heir hunters.

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We're hopeful that there's no competition but,

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of course, you can't be too sure.

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It's one of those ones where we hope it's privately referred,

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but we don't know if anyone else may have come across the information,

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so we're going to work on it very quickly.

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Spending her final years in a nursing home in Mill Hill,

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north London, Doreen spent most of her life in this leafy suburb.

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There were few people locally who knew her well.

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Doreen's house is situated up quite a steep hill.

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We're about a ten-minute walk to shops. It's not far.

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It's a lovely suburb of London, cos it's very green,

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and leafy, horses and fields, and it's very village-like.

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It's within easy reach of London,

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but you feel as if you're in the countryside.

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It's going to take a little bit more digging.

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With limited information to go on,

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the office have to work step by step through the tree.

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If her husband is still alive, he would be the first to inherit

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then any children they may have had.

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I checked and it looks as though there's no issue,

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and her husband, Kenneth, actually passed away back in 1987.

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The next heirs entitled would be any siblings that Doreen may have had

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or their descendants.

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Doreen's birth certificate gives the team her parents' names -

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James MacDonald Lowen and Doris Ada Hammersley.

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With these, they are able to do a birth index search to see

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if they had any other children.

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She actually had one brother named James.

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Um... Looking into James,

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it looks as though he passed away as an infant in the same year.

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I did another check,

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and it just looked like it was the two of them, so it looks as

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though Doreen was sort of an only child after her brother passed away.

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This means the team will have to enlarge their search to find

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any cousins of Doreen who may still be alive

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or, if they've passed away, any of their descendants.

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To do this, they need to go back one generation to Doreen's grandparents

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and they begin with her mother's side.

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-I can now focus on this one. I just wanted to check.

-Yes.

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Doreen's mother was Doris Hammersley

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and the census records gave the team her parents' names.

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A search of the birth index records with both their names

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will tell them if Doris had any siblings.

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Now, it looks as though Doris was actually an only child, so

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there'll be no further research into the maternal side of the family.

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So then, our entire focus will now be on the paternal family

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in the hope that we can find some next of kin there.

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The deceased's father was a James MacDonald Lowen,

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the surname, quite an unusual surname, and he was

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the son of James and Dorothy, who married in 1892 in Leicester.

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The 1881 and 1891 census records show that Doris' mother,

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Dorothy, was working as a cigar maker in Leicester.

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At that time, Leicester was a thriving industrial town.

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Records show around the 1800...end of the 1800s,

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almost 500 cigar factories across the whole of the UK,

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and in 1893, we can see

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records of around 19 factories in Leicester alone.

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Almost exclusively, you'd find women working in the cigar factories.

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There's no machinery involved at any stage of this process.

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So right from the initial processing of the tobacco

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through to the final finishing of the cigar,

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everything's done by hand.

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Back at the office, Suzanne is checking the census records

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to see if Doreen's grandparents,

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cigar maker Dorothy and her husband, James, had any other children.

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The deceased's grandparents married in 1892,

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so the next census available was the 1901 census,

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where we can see that they had five children.

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And to check if they had any more children after 1901,

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the team's next port of call is the 1911 census,

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but this record can't always be relied on for complete accuracy.

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On the census records prior to 1911,

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the information was input by a professional enumerator.

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This information was provided by the family

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and they could make sure that it was correct

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when they presented it to the Crown.

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Now, the 1911 census was actually completed by

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the head of the household and that does open us up

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to many more mistakes in the details that have been input.

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The 1911 census showed that Doreen's grandparents' brood had

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grown from five children in those ten years.

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There was actually 12 in total.

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Um... Nine of them were still living in 1911,

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so three of them had actually passed away as infants.

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Suzanne decides to enlist some help.

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So, if you look into the two stems of Nelly and Kenneth Lowen.

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Yeah.

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They are siblings of the deceased's father.

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-Is that James?

-So James.

-Yeah.

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I need you to look at Donald and Eric Lowen.

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Amy Cox is given the task of looking into Donald Lowen,

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who appears on one of the census records, but not all.

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And he's not proving easy to track down.

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There's June quarter 1900, there's James MacDonald Lowen, and

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then there's Eric, born in December 1901, so when is Donald born?

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There's meant to be a Donald Lowen being born

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but there isn't a record for it,

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so I think it's probably been transcribed incorrectly somewhere.

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Camilla's hoping to have more luck with Doreen's aunt, Vera.

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-This stem has completely died out. Can't find any issue.

-OK.

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She passed away after him, so she left a will.

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So we've ordered that to see who she left it to.

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Amy seems to have worked out the mystery of the possible

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eighth uncle, Donald Lowen.

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Now I've looked at the actual census, there isn't...

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The deceased father isn't actually listed on this one,

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so we're going to assume that because he's James MacDonald, he's

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down as Donald because that would put him at the right age as well.

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I can't see a James on there so I think that...

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Cos there's meant to be 12?

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And there's only...

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-Oh, yeah.

-So I think it may be missing someone.

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-Cos I think James would...

-Donald... Yeah, Donald would probably...

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-James MacDonald, yeah.

-Cos MacDonald...

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-Yeah.

-Yeah.

-So I think you're just missing a stem.

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Yeah, that would make sense as well.

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Yeah, but there wouldn't be enough time for another kid to be born.

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-No.

-OK, there we go. I'll carry on with Eric, then.

-OK.

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The change on one census from a James MacDonald to just a Donald

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is something you'd have to go with your gut instinct on.

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But one would assume that it was probably just a familiar name

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for him or a nickname that his family gave him,

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but can easily be missed for somebody who isn't prepared

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to consider that as an option.

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Holly's looking at one of Doreen's aunts, Monica.

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I found that she was married to a John Wordel in 1935 and

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I found two potential children as well, so I'm just drawing it up at

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the moment and then I'm going to have a look to see if I can find her sons.

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And Camilla thinks she's found the descendants of another aunt, Nellie.

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I can't find these two. At all.

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She'd found three cousins, once removed, of the deceased.

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She couldn't seem to find addresses for any of the three children.

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The team have found that Doreen's Uncle Eric died

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when he was 42, but they need to check thoroughly that

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he didn't have any children who could inherit.

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It looks as though he's a bachelor, never married,

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and most likely never had any children,

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so what we'll do for that one is, we had a look and there was no will.

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So we'll probably order his death certificate to see who the informant

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is on that one, and then again speak to family members

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to see if they remember Eric and can confirm that for us.

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Family information, you know, is as important if not more important than

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the indexes we have access to. For instance, if someone's born overseas

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or someone's adopted into the family,

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someone's adopted out of the family,

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there's all of these changes that could take place.

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If someone's changed their name, there's a whole host of reasons why

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people may not be picked up in the searches we can only do

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in the office. The only way we would locate them is by,

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like I say, speaking to everyone.

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But, understandably, some people don't like being cold called.

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Hello, is that Michael...?

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He hung up on me.

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So I'm going to leave it and try and speak to his brother later on today

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and hope that that's got some more luck there.

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Suzanne is busy striking the dead ends

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from her list of possible heirs.

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So we've started with 11 potential siblings of the deceased's father.

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We're actually now down to five

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that will have potential beneficiaries on.

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With five stems to go and only a few hours in the day left,

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Suzanne's team are keen to get this wrapped up today.

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Three possible beneficiaries, um...

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..but I can't find addresses for them.

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I'll keep looking now that I know this one's completely died out.

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Now it's just a matter of getting the representatives

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round to the people's houses,

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and to double check everything we've done and make sure it's all correct.

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Travelling researcher Palmjit has been on the road,

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hoping to speak to some of the beneficiaries the team has found.

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He's meeting one of the descendants of Doreen's Aunt Elsie,

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Valerie Sharp.

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-Hello.

-Hello, is it Valerie Sharp?

-That's right.

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Related to the matter that I spoke to you about yesterday.

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-Can I come in, please?

-Yeah, certainly.

-Thank you very much.

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Doreen is my cousin, once removed -

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she was my mother's cousin.

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So the name was always familiar,

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but I don't remember ever meeting her.

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Valerie signed up that day

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as one of the beneficiaries with the heir hunters.

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What was really interesting at this address

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was that she was able to help us with our family tree,

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as they've already researched a lot of the background.

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And she was able to fill in a lot of the details

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that we were missing, which is really helpful.

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My grandmother, Elsie, died... Well, my mum was only 12.

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So therefore their contact lost at that level years ago.

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So I know nothing of what went on when they got married,

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or even when Doreen got married -

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the link had been lost by that point.

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In total, the heir hunters found 14 heirs

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who would be entitled to Doreen Priddy's estate.

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But, a month later,

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Suzanne has some news that could change everything.

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The firm of solicitors who were appointed

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actually found a will on this case.

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We're just in the process of receiving a copy of the will

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to find out exactly what the will says.

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Whether it still goes to some of the heirs or whether it's invalid,

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um, we're not sure.

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One of the most rewarding parts

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is to be able to provide them with a family tree,

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and maybe some personal mementoes connected to the deceased,

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and therefore connected to their family as well.

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And it can sometimes inspire them

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to look further into their family history.

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The financial side is a benefit,

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but actually finding all this family

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would actually be equally beneficial to me.

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I was aware that my grandma, Elsie, had a large...

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Well, there was a lot of brothers and sisters.

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So this was quite nice, actually, to be able to see.

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Cos we did the family tree,

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and saw all these names that just mean nothing to me at all.

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So it was nice to be able to put them all together again.

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When someone dies and leaves a property behind,

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the sale of a house and its contents will become

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part of their estate that will be distributed among any heirs.

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In Chatham, Kent, professional house clearer Rufus Hirsch has just

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arrived at a property that needs to be cleared before being sold.

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You do get a very good idea of the type of person

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when you're clearing their house.

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Obviously, it's a very intimate space

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with all their personal possessions.

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You just tell from the sort of books they read,

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and the things they collected.

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The house belonged to a William Arthur Groombridge,

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a retired lathe engineer, known to his friends as Bill.

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In this case, there are lots of tools.

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There seems to be tinkering about with watches and clocks.

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But he obviously liked working with his hands,

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and was quite talented at it,

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and you start building the picture up from there.

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Bill lived in this house for most of his life,

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and Glenys Barker was a neighbour for 60 years.

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Most of the time that I would have seen Bill

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was when he was in the garden. And even up until he was in his 90s,

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he still had a push lawnmower, not an electric one, a hand push,

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and his garden was always, always immaculate.

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Sadly, on 2nd November 2014, Bill passed away.

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Without a will or next of kin,

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Bill's estate was placed on the Government's bona vacantia list.

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In London, heir-hunting firm Fraser & Fraser has taken it on...

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They're not any part of this family, are they?

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..and Ben Cornish is the case manager.

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So when we initially looked at the sort of case,

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we realised quite quickly that Mr Groombridge owned his own property.

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Groombridge is a good name to work, so we knew it was going to be

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competitive and we knew we had to start the case quickly.

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The purpose of the house clearance really is

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to find out as much as can about the deceased, so we're looking for

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any financial documents, any personal documents, letters that

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may give us some clue about family,

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and also, most importantly, to see if there's a will there.

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So I've just found some paperwork,

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and in amongst it there's a copy of an old will.

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Doesn't seem to be anything to do with the deceased in this case,

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but you never know.

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All the paperwork and photographs will be taken to the office

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for the heir hunters to sort through.

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The property's now nice and clear and ready to go on the market.

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Back in the office, the team have made some progress with the case.

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We found a marriage for William in 1944 and that obviously means

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that he could have had children. Even though he lived alone for many

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years, it may be the fact that they would be the next of kin,

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and they've just sort of lost contact,

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but we later confirmed that he was divorced from his wife,

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and that there were no issue.

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The next in line to inherit Bill's estate would be any siblings

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that may still be alive.

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Neighbours remember he had a sister, Joan.

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She was always dressed to the height of fashion.

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Always immaculately turned out,

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and I think she was the envy of all the women along here.

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To confirm this information,

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the team look at Bill's birth record which gives his parents' names -

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Arthur George Groombridge and Emma Groombridge, formerly Williams.

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We conducted a search of Groombridge's mother's maiden name

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Williams and found one sister, a Joan Emma Groombridge,

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being born in 1927.

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She later married, but died in 2013 without children.

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With no more close relatives,

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the team needed to look for cousins of Bill and their descendants.

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Research manager Isha Adams kicks off this line of inquiry with

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Bill's parents' marriage certificate.

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Because Groombridge is a good name, it's not that bad,

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so on the whole, from 1906 to 2005, Groombridge to Williams marriages,

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there's only six, although none of them are ours,

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so we knew there might be something tricky going on here.

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The heir hunters' system only covers marriages in England and Wales,

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so Isha decides to broaden the search and starts in Scotland.

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Right. So there's only one match, so if we look at that.

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Yeah, so we've got an Arthur George Groombridge,

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although she's calling herself Mary Emma Williams.

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But what we'll have to do is get that certificate

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in order to see whether or not it matches up with the other stuff that

0:18:440:18:47

we've found, so we can prove it or disprove it.

0:18:470:18:51

If we can't find the marriage record,

0:18:510:18:53

it does cause a bit of a problem, because there's so much information

0:18:530:18:57

tied up with the marriage record, it gives both parties' names,

0:18:570:19:01

which really is crucial for our investigations.

0:19:010:19:04

So I've got the marriage certificate and we have...

0:19:040:19:09

They married on 13th December 1916 in Greenock.

0:19:090:19:14

The marriage certificate gave the ages of both parents,

0:19:140:19:18

so the team could now look for their births.

0:19:180:19:20

So starting off with Emma,

0:19:200:19:24

we need to look for a birth of an Emma Williams about 1892, 1893.

0:19:240:19:30

Well, there's quite a few, because Williams is a very common name,

0:19:300:19:36

but I don't like any of them, they don't seem to be in area.

0:19:360:19:42

It's a bit of a mystery, because we couldn't really find a good birth

0:19:420:19:46

for an Emma Williams, so what we've done is we've done the trick of any

0:19:460:19:50

Emmas born that year, living in the area and we've come up with one,

0:19:500:19:54

which is an Emma Bacon.

0:19:540:19:56

With Arthur's mother appearing to be using two surnames,

0:19:560:19:58

Bacon and Williams, the team check the census records to see

0:19:580:20:02

if they had in fact found the right Emma.

0:20:020:20:05

We found her mother living with David Henry Bacon and then

0:20:070:20:11

through the later census records, she assumed the name Williams

0:20:110:20:14

from her mother's partner.

0:20:140:20:16

She was actually born under the name of Bacon.

0:20:160:20:19

Emma's mother was called Emma Hunter.

0:20:190:20:22

During her marriage to David Henry Bacon, she had nine children,

0:20:220:20:27

but only six of them had David Bacon

0:20:270:20:29

listed on their birth certificates as their father.

0:20:290:20:32

Three - Ellen, Lily and James - had no father listed,

0:20:320:20:37

so although they took the Bacon name,

0:20:370:20:39

as half-blood relations they were not entitled to Bill's estate.

0:20:390:20:43

Sometimes we have to think outside the box to try and find

0:20:450:20:48

the right family and this is particularly tricky,

0:20:480:20:50

because obviously we're looking at Williams.

0:20:500:20:53

When they looked into his uncle David Bacon,

0:20:530:20:56

another mystery emerged.

0:20:560:20:58

David's marriage to Nora Sawyer had produced five children,

0:20:580:21:02

but the records for two of them, Joan and Vera, seemed to be missing.

0:21:020:21:07

Both born in Dartford, both marry in Dartford - all coming out fine.

0:21:070:21:12

But after that, they both disappear,

0:21:120:21:14

so we don't know what's happened to them.

0:21:140:21:16

On some cases, people just disappear,

0:21:160:21:19

and we have to really approach those with quite an open mind,

0:21:190:21:22

and start thinking outside the box.

0:21:220:21:24

The first thing that comes to mind is maybe they've gone overseas,

0:21:240:21:28

so, you know, our first question is where did they go?

0:21:280:21:31

So when they disappear, one of the best things to do is get

0:21:310:21:34

the marriage certificate, because they might be in the Army,

0:21:340:21:37

or the Navy, so then, we can extend our search from there.

0:21:370:21:39

Now, on Joan's marriage certificate to John Darling,

0:21:390:21:45

actually we've got some good news here,

0:21:450:21:48

because his profession is a gunman in the Canadian army.

0:21:480:21:53

We know this is definitely correct,

0:21:530:21:54

because her father is David Henry Bacon,

0:21:540:21:57

and now we need to extend our search to Canada

0:21:570:22:00

to try and find some heirs.

0:22:000:22:02

And it turns out that the man Vera married was a GI.

0:22:040:22:08

The lack of records for both Joan and Vera after their marriages

0:22:080:22:11

pointed to the fact that, as war brides, they left the UK

0:22:110:22:14

at the end of the war to begin a new life with their husbands

0:22:140:22:18

in Canada and the United States.

0:22:180:22:21

Vera and Lewis married in 1945 and for Vera, really,

0:22:210:22:24

going over to America after the war,

0:22:240:22:26

it would've been a difficult transition.

0:22:260:22:29

For Joan, who was already pregnant when her Canadian husband

0:22:290:22:32

John Darling was sent home at the end of the war,

0:22:320:22:35

it was a long and difficult wait before she could join him.

0:22:350:22:38

Their men had gone back home,

0:22:380:22:40

and were settling back in with their families,

0:22:400:22:42

and yet they were still waiting for passage to go and join them,

0:22:420:22:45

and for many months it wasn't really clear what was going to happen.

0:22:450:22:49

he US administration started saying it could be 10 or 12 months

0:22:490:22:52

before anything happened,

0:22:520:22:54

and for a lot of these women, they were getting desperate.

0:22:540:22:56

-NEWSREEL:

-British wives eager to join GI husbands in America

0:22:560:23:00

demand space on boats.

0:23:000:23:02

They began to stage demonstrations.

0:23:020:23:05

WOMEN CHANT

0:23:050:23:07

They would picket the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, in London,

0:23:070:23:10

with women carrying placards that read, "We want our ships,"

0:23:100:23:14

and little children on their shoulders with smaller

0:23:140:23:17

placards saying, "We want our dads."

0:23:170:23:19

My husband is Lieutenant Ned Cole from Santa Monica, California.

0:23:190:23:22

We don't want to go to America

0:23:220:23:23

for all the glamour that we see on the movies,

0:23:230:23:25

we want to go to be with them because we love them.

0:23:250:23:28

And then in December of 1945, finally the US Congress passed

0:23:280:23:32

the War Brides Act acknowledging their responsibility to deal

0:23:320:23:35

with these women, offering them non-quota immigration status,

0:23:350:23:39

and agreeing that they would be transported

0:23:390:23:42

at the US military's expense.

0:23:420:23:44

Joan, who married a Canadian serviceman, passed away in 2011,

0:23:440:23:49

so her three children will become heirs to Bill's estate.

0:23:490:23:53

Joan's great granddaughter, Caitlyn,

0:23:530:23:55

on a work placement in London,

0:23:550:23:57

is keen to find out more about her English roots.

0:23:570:24:00

Take a seat, I can go through the family with you.

0:24:010:24:05

Great - I'm looking forward to it.

0:24:050:24:07

As you can see, the tree is very large.

0:24:080:24:12

So large, in fact, that I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to...

0:24:120:24:14

get it all on the table at once, but we'll give it a go.

0:24:140:24:17

Wow.

0:24:190:24:20

And this is the stem

0:24:200:24:23

where your particular branch of the family descends from.

0:24:230:24:25

David Henry Bacon was a maternal uncle of the deceased.

0:24:250:24:31

He married Nora Sawyer in 1905 in Sevenoaks.

0:24:310:24:34

A number of children, one of them being your great-grandmother,

0:24:340:24:37

Joan Nora Bacon, who married John William Darling.

0:24:370:24:41

It's really interesting.

0:24:410:24:43

I can't believe how big the family tree is,

0:24:430:24:45

because my family, as I know it, is tiny.

0:24:450:24:48

Like, just me and my grandparents, and a few distant cousins.

0:24:480:24:51

On your stem alone, we have, you know...

0:24:510:24:53

US, Australia and Canada.

0:24:530:24:56

I didn't think that it would be this big of a family tree.

0:24:560:24:59

I think I was expecting, like, a piece of paper -

0:24:590:25:01

like, "Here's your grandmother, there's you."

0:25:010:25:04

It's crazy, absolutely crazy.

0:25:040:25:07

The team found that another sister of the GI brides, Miriam,

0:25:080:25:11

had married Archie Jordan in 1932.

0:25:110:25:15

They'd gone on to have two daughters, Diane and Christine.

0:25:150:25:20

These cousins once removed of Bill's are both heirs.

0:25:200:25:24

When I first heard from the heir hunters,

0:25:250:25:28

I was really shocked hearing about William Groombridge,

0:25:280:25:31

because I'd never heard of him before.

0:25:310:25:33

You do feel a certain type of sadness

0:25:330:25:38

that this person has not been in your life,

0:25:380:25:42

and I must be honest, it would have been nice to have known him.

0:25:420:25:47

-Doesn't seem true that it was 51 years ago, does it?

-No, it doesn't.

0:25:470:25:52

Look at that ugly little...!

0:25:530:25:55

Thank you.

0:25:550:25:56

I'm afraid we didn't know anything about that side of the family.

0:25:560:26:00

We didn't even know that my grandfather had a sister.

0:26:000:26:03

But we do now.

0:26:030:26:04

It's so unfortunate that...

0:26:040:26:07

they didn't know us, because perhaps they might have enjoyed

0:26:070:26:10

being part of a bigger family.

0:26:100:26:12

SHE CHUCKLES

0:26:120:26:13

We've got one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine...

0:26:160:26:22

The team in London have managed to track down

0:26:220:26:25

all the heirs on the maternal side.

0:26:250:26:27

..50, 51, 52, 53...

0:26:270:26:31

54.

0:26:310:26:33

As you can see, it's a very big tree this side.

0:26:330:26:35

But there were still more to uncover on Bill's father's side.

0:26:360:26:41

So, on the paternal side, um...

0:26:410:26:44

we know that his parents are Arthur Samuel Groombridge,

0:26:440:26:49

and Elizabeth Huckstep.

0:26:490:26:50

They married on the 3rd of February, 1889, in Strood.

0:26:500:26:55

From this, we had to see whether or not Arthur had any siblings.

0:26:550:26:59

The team found out that Bill's father had just one brother,

0:27:000:27:04

William, who married and went on to have three daughters.

0:27:040:27:08

All three had passed away,

0:27:080:27:10

but all seven grandchildren were traced,

0:27:100:27:12

and became heirs to Bill's estate.

0:27:120:27:15

It was quite a challenging case, which makes it enjoyable to work.

0:27:150:27:18

It's quite nice to sometimes have a case

0:27:180:27:21

that's not quite as it seems.

0:27:210:27:23

So it was quite good.

0:27:230:27:25

And that's my special favourite.

0:27:250:27:28

In total, on both sides of Bill's family, the team found 61 heirs.

0:27:280:27:33

Well, it is a surprise and I don't expect too much,

0:27:330:27:37

because I'd have rather have known the person.

0:27:370:27:41

It's sad that he hasn't got any children

0:27:410:27:43

who he could have left it to.

0:27:430:27:45

I'd like a nice recliner chair.

0:27:450:27:49

And, if there is the money there for a recliner chair,

0:27:490:27:53

I could sit in it and recline and think, "Thank you, William."

0:27:530:27:57

In Kent, the house clearance of a retired lathe operator uncovers a large family, but surname changes don't add up and illegitimate births mean many won't be entitled. Delving deeper into the family tree, missing family records reveal two sister war brides who married their GI sweethearts but had a fight on their hands to be reunited with them on the other side of the Atlantic.

Another team working a Midlands case uncover a grandmother who made cigars for a living in the thriving tobacco industry. Struggling to locate any heirs on one side of the family, a possible writing error on a census leads them up the wrong track before an eventual breakthrough reveals a large family. But just as the case is turning into a winner, a chance find might see it slip through the Heir Hunter's fingers.