Series following the work of probate researchers. When an NHS pathologist passes away, the search leads to a family torn apart by tuberculosis.
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-Do you want to find parents?
I'll try and find marriage information.
..heir hunters race to find family
on one of their most valuable cases ever.
It's going to be a highly competitive case,
with a large family tree to be looking into.
It's going to be a lot of work.
Heirs receive potentially life-changing sums of cash.
To find that you're part of an inheritance is quite a shock.
And the bravery of unsung heroes in wartime Britain is discovered.
The men up in the front line
were doing a dangerous job in a dangerous place.
In London, heir-hunting firm Finders have been working
on a new case worth hundreds of thousands of pounds
from the government's Bona Vacantia list.
There was quite a high value to the estate.
Could you just give them a call just to confirm?
A property in London, sort of the Holy Grail of cases,
you've always got a lot of competition on these ones.
We've got to make sure that we work really quickly, really accurately.
-Could you just give us one and let me know?
When we picked up on the case, we didn't look at the surname
and think it would pose us many problems.
But Ryan soon learnt he was being overconfident.
We were left scratching our heads
because we couldn't find any record of them.
The estate was that of Barbara Lillian Irene Kirk,
who was born in 1929 and passed away in London in June 2015.
She lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb, an area she loved,
having lived there for over two decades.
I understand Barbara Kirk was here for over 20 years.
To live in Hampstead Garden Suburb is regarded by most of the people
who live here as something special.
People do tend to stop and have a chat.
It is a friendlier area
than most, I think, in London.
So, from that point of view, it's a good place to live.
Barbara also worked as a pathologist
at a Central London hospital for over 40 years.
She would have had a wide range of roles,
helping in the diagnosis and maintenance of the patient.
Barbara is likely to have started her job at the very foundation
of the NHS in 1948,
where openings for women in the workplace were expanding rapidly.
This was not somebody who just went in as a young girl
and sort of stayed doing the same job.
MLSOs - medical laboratory scientific officers -
began to have a career progression.
There would have been training courses.
Barbara appears to have taken hold of these new opportunities
with both hands,
but it would have taken a certain type of character
to perform her crucial work.
Well, I think you have to be methodical
because it's really important.
People's lives depend on getting the right blood, for example,
in a blood transfusion.
Barbara played a vital role in patient care in the NHS,
but she appeared to have passed away without a will
or any close relatives.
Do you mind just pulling this up?
Case manager Holly Jones was tasked with finding her heirs.
It appears that she wasn't married,
so we'll probably be looking for a wider family.
It's not going to be a close kin tree.
A large family tree to be looking into.
It's going to be a lot of work.
Cheers. Thanks a lot. Bye-bye.
The area Barbara lived in meant her case was a priority.
So we valued Barbara's estate at roughly £800,000.
Quite a large estate.
This is definitely up with some of the larger ones that we work on.
With such a large amount of money at stake,
the team sent a travelling representative out.
Peter doesn't seem to have much luck.
Often, people are very suspicious of cold callers.
But people are right to be suspicious
cos there are a lot of people out there to...to con people.
Obviously, that's not what we're about.
We are genuine and we're merely trying to trace relatives
that can inherit from the estate.
Having gleaned no helpful information about Barbara's family,
the pressure is on the office team to unlock the case themselves.
Having established she never married or had children,
the first step is to find Barbara's parents
to see if she had any brothers and sisters.
And to do this, they need Barbara's birth record.
From Barbara's birth certificate,
we can also see her mother's name - Helen Kirk.
It has her profession as a housemaid, or a nursemaid.
Thanks so much, Jean. Cheers. Bye-bye.
But there's something missing.
Barbara's birth certificate didn't have any father entered on it,
and she was illegitimate.
It changes the way that we would do our research
compared to if she were born within a marriage.
Typically, when a person is born out of wedlock,
there'd be no father's name on the birth certificate.
So you then have to consider that the mother,
single at the time of birth,
may then have married and had further children.
With only one side of the family able to be researched,
the office team face an uphill struggle.
They concentrate their efforts to see if Barbara's mother, Helen,
had any more children.
We knew from research of the marriage indexes
that Helen never married,
therefore there wouldn't be any half-blood siblings to Barbara,
who were born in wedlock.
Once we'd established that Barbara was an only child,
we then needed to go back a generation and focus on
any brothers and sisters that her mother might have had.
Once located, Barbara's family's listing contained a surprise.
It appeared her family were from Beverley in Yorkshire.
Here we have Helen's parents as well as her brothers and sister,
so we have an instant family tree.
The records showed Barbara's grandparents -
Robert Kirk and Mary Smith -
had four children other than Barbara's mother, Helen.
So there were aunts and uncles whose children,
if found, could be heirs.
But when the team received Robert and Mary's death certificates,
they could see that fate had taken a terrible toll on the family.
We actually found out that tragedy struck the family in 1903
with Robert passing away,
followed by his wife the year afterwards,
due to complications with tuberculosis,
and that left Helen and her brothers and sisters as orphans.
Annie was only 13,
her brother Robert was ten,
Leonard was five.
And then Helen, Barbara's mother,
was actually only aged two when she lost her parents.
In reality, the only option available
was for them to be fostered.
But without an effective welfare state to re-home them,
the children could have been abandoned on the streets.
If you were homeless and a young child,
your ability to feed yourself would have been,
you know, almost impossible.
You would've had to beg on the streets.
Life would've been terrible
for a child out on the streets at that time.
But help was at hand,
and records show that the four youngest Kirk children
appeared to have been helped by the Barnardo's charity.
For the Kirk family, coming into Barnardo's would have been,
you know, that would've been the best thing for them,
especially after their parents had died.
They would've been looked after, they would've been well fed,
they would've been educated, they would've had a warm bed
and they were safe.
Dr Thomas Barnardo had set up the charity in 1866.
Barnardo wanted to make sure that children were kept safe
and that they were away from harm.
So by bringing them in, offering them employment,
offering them training,
providing them with a skill so that they could go out,
earn money and support themselves, that was his main goal.
Back in the office,
the team need to find exactly what happened to the Kirk children
after they were taken in by Barnardo's
in order to track down any heirs.
Holly uses the census records to trace their movements
and discovers why Barbara ended up living in the south of England.
From the 1911 census, we can find Barbara's mother, Helen,
living down in Hertfordshire.
It appears that she'd been moved from Yorkshire,
in a foster home, in a Barnardo's children's home.
Previously, if we thought they stayed in Yorkshire,
we might have restricted our searches to that area.
So being able to track their movements
through these later censuses is really important.
But despite working out what became of Barbara's mother, Helen,
the whereabouts of Barbara's uncles,
the two boys - Robert and Leonard - remained a mystery.
We were left scratching our heads
because we couldn't find any record of Robert and Leonard.
We couldn't find them on the 1911 census. But beyond that,
we couldn't locate a marriage which looked likely for either of them.
The death search was proving negative as well.
It could be that they've ended up in another part of the country.
If their surname has changed,
then they would've been almost impossible to find.
But we needed to go through the processes in order to ascertain
whether got married and whether they had children
because, potentially, any children they did have
would be entitled to inherit from Barbara's estate.
With two sources of potential heirs mysteriously disappearing,
the team were stumped,
until they discovered Robert Kirk on shipping records from 1904.
We found out that the reason why he wasn't tuning up
on the 1911 census records here was because he actually went to Canada
with Dr Barnardo's, the children's home,
along with around 200 other children.
In 1907, Robert's brother Leonard also went to Canada with Barnardo's,
but it wasn't a holiday they were being treated to.
The child migration scheme was actually a government initiative
set up by both the British and Canadian government
to basically populate Canada,
which before then was very much a dying society
of old men and railroad workers.
So it was an opportunity for the governments to, one,
provide somewhere for the vast, growing number of children
who were homeless in the UK,
but also give them an opportunity to have a different life.
For Robert and Leonard, it would have been
quite an adventure going to Canada.
They probably would have put their hand up and volunteered to go,
been told a little bit about life in Canada,
about the snow and about the summers
and, you know, life working on a farm.
The migration scheme in Canada ran till 1939,
and 100,000 children were actually sent to Canada,
the vast majority of which went prior to the First World War.
And by the time Britain declared war on Germany in 1914,
Robert and Leonard were 21 and 16.
They both responded to the call to arms from their motherland
and joined Canadian forces
who were sent to the Western Front in France.
But Ryan uncovered a tragic end
to Robert and Leonard's great adventure.
Robert Kirk was actually killed in action in France in 1916,
and his brother Leonard sadly passed away a year later,
but back in Canada, in a military hospital.
Both never married and therefore our research was focused
onto the other lines of the family.
So have you got his address?
With no heirs from Robert and Leonard,
the team were running out of options,
so they focused on their two surviving sisters -
Barbara's aunties, Annie and Ethel.
Helen's sister, Annie Kirk,
actually died in 1910,
unmarried and without children,
and from tuberculosis.
Again, it's quite sad that she didn't have any children of her own
after she came out of Barnardo's.
We were running out of options
if we were going to find any beneficiaries,
so all our hopes were really pinned on the line of Ethel Kirk.
That is... That's great.
And the team were in luck this time.
Ethel Kirk, Helen's sister,
married in 1904 to a George William Gillyon.
Because they married in 1904, it meant we could look for them
on the 1911 census, and we found them.
They were living together
and they'd already had several children.
Ethel Kirk and George Gillyon had six children,
four of whom survived to adulthood.
And the team were able to track down all of their descendants,
finding a total of 17 heirs to Barbara's estate.
John Maw is the great grandson of Ethel Kirk
and is Barbara's cousin twice removed.
He still lives in the same town of Beverley in Yorkshire,
that Barbara's grandparents lived in at the turn of the 20th century.
It was a knock on the door,
and there was a chap there...
John remembers the moment he found out he would be inheriting
from Barbara Kirk - a name he'd never heard of before.
Well, to find that you're part of an inheritance is quite a shock.
The name Barbara Kirk means absolutely nothing to me at all,
and it doesn't mean anything to the family either.
I think when you first find that you've got a relative
who's left something,
it does make you wonder,
what's the story behind that particular person?
But the windfall will also be of some practical use for John.
If I got a reasonable inheritance,
I do need a new roof on my bathroom.
So it will certainly come in handy there
because roofs are not...cheap.
But it's also quite sad that this person has obviously
left...left money and I don't know that person.
For all concerned, it's been a satisfying and interesting case
to be a part of.
As much as there are some things we'll never know about Barbara Kirk,
looking at her family tree, we can build a picture
and really see how she rose through adversity.
She'd lost both her mother and her grandparents at a very young age,
and she didn't seem to let that dampen her spirits.
She went on to have a very successful career,
and this was something that we could see as we developed
the story of the family tree but also on our journey
to find the heirs to Barbara's estate.
And for heir John,
his newly enlarged family tree is a welcome surprise.
We've got a story there that I didn't know existed.
That, to me, is probably as important,
more so, than money.
Sometimes the cases the heir hunters work can reveal
unsung heroes hidden in family trees,
with stories that cross continents and decades.
One such case was that of Philip Charles Horseman.
He was born on the 25th January, 1940
in Islington in North London,
and spent much of his life living in Kent.
I would say he was a friendly sort of a person, you know.
If you happened to be out in the front when he went out,
you know, he'd say hello.
When I did have a chat to him, it was mostly about the garden.
Philip had worked most of his life in the building trade,
and in retirement, he was famous for his love of routine
and enjoyed the company in his local community pub every day.
He used to virtually go to the pub 12 o'clock.
Half-past two to three o'clock, he'd be back.
But one lunchtime, Philip didn't make it to his local.
On the day, I look at my watch and think,
"Hello. Phil's a bit late going round to the pub." You know.
You know, that was it. He was gone.
It is sad. Very, very sad, yes.
Yeah, very, very sad.
Philip passed away at home on 22nd of August, 2014,
without a will or any obvious close family.
His case was picked up in London
by senior assistant case manager Amy Cox.
The case of Philip Charles Horseman came to us via a referral.
We receive a number of these throughout the year.
And so while we didn't have an exact value,
we knew that it's likely that there were going to be funds there
to be distributed to beneficiaries.
Amy's team quickly got to work on the case.
Thank you so much for letting me know. Thanks. Bye.
-Shall we find out parents, first of all?
And then try and find a marriage for them.
-Do you want to find parents and I'll try and find marriage information?
-Yeah, that's fine.
Having established that Philip definitely had no close family,
Amy needed to expand the search.
Using his death certificate, we could find a birth entry for him.
His birth entry gave us his father's surname
and also his mother's maiden name.
These are absolutely crucial information that you need
in order to get the case off the ground.
Starting with the paternal side of the family,
the deceased's father was a Thomas Charles Horseman.
He was born on the 6th of February, 1905.
His parents are a Frank Horseman and a Ruth Carbis.
And on Thomas's birth certificate,
his father, Frank, is listed as a coal miner.
But when we started doing our research online,
we came across a photo of Frank and it looks as though,
at one point, he had quite a different career.
Records showed that Philip's paternal grandfather, Frank,
was a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps
during World War I.
Frank Horseman was a really interesting soldier.
His original service number
was number 60. Six, zero.
That's an incredibly low number.
And what that says to me
is that Frank was probably in the volunteer force before 1908,
so gave up some time in the evenings and at weekends
to learn those skills.
The Royal Army Medical Corps weren't armed.
Specifically, they wore the Red Cross armband,
the Cross of Geneva.
As part of that, they agree not to bear arms.
So the job of the infantrymen around them was to protect them
while they went onto battlefields
and get the wounded from the battlefield
and evacuate them as quickly as they could.
But during World War I,
Frank wasn't sent to the trenches and mud of Western France.
He was part of a huge British and Commonwealth army in Egypt
that invaded Palestine in 1916,
then held by the Ottoman Turks, allies of Germany.
The scorching deserts of the Middle East made
Frank's job of helping the injured even tougher.
It was very dry, it was very dusty.
Men wounded on the battlefield would very often lie out
for several days with no water,
and they were very, very dehydrated when they were finally brought in.
The campaign to invade Palestine, which Frank was part of,
was overshadowed by the mass slaughter of the Western Front.
But it was vitally important to the war effort.
It was one of the most successful campaigns of the entire war.
It was fairly long, drawn out.
They'd been fighting right the way from 1915 onwards.
But the final year of the war, through 1917 and 1918,
saw a lot of advances through the desert.
They were building pipes for water.
They were building railways, roads
to transport this massive army forward,
to take on the Turks.
In 1919, Frank Horseman's war ended and he returned home to his family.
Back in the office, Amy had discovered
how many children Frank and Ruth had had together.
With the mother's maiden name, we could do a birth search,
and there were five other births.
After Frank and Ruth had married in August 1902,
they'd had six children.
But Amy discovered another child who almost fitted in with the family,
but who had been born before Frank and Ruth got married.
Ruth Carbis had given birth to a daughter.
And when we got the birth certificate for that daughter,
there's no father listed,
so it would appear that she's illegitimate.
We later discovered that Edith was using the maiden name Horseman
when she married David Morgan in 1919.
She also then uses the Horseman surname
on the birth of her three children.
And it also then appears later on her death certificate.
So, for us, that was enough to prove entitlement
and her children and grandchildren were the heirs to that stem.
With Edith's children's entitlement confirmed,
the team had found their first heirs.
But with another five aunts and uncles still to investigate,
the hunt was on to find more.
Both William Henry Horseman
and Annie Mary Horseman, they never had any children,
so with regard to those two stems, they've died out.
Laura married twice and she had one child,
but unfortunately, he passed away as an infant.
It looks like the paternal side of Philip's tree
was going to have only a handful of heirs,
despite there being at least six aunts and uncles to look at.
But the final few branches of the family tree were to bear more fruit.
Alice Doreen Horseman, she married a John Morris Howard in 1934,
and they had one child who's a beneficiary.
That left the youngest of Philip's uncles,
Albert Vernon Horseman.
And when the team looked into Uncle Albert,
they discovered something interesting.
On this marriage certificate,
we can see that Albert Vernon Horseman
married Ruby May Boakes in 1945.
It lists that he was in the RAF.
However, it says that he was not a pilot.
Records show that Albert was listed as an ambulance driver
in the RAF in 1945.
But he'd already performed this role in a civilian capacity
earlier in the war,
during one of the most dangerous and destructive periods
of World War II on mainland UK - the London Blitz.
He was later drafted into the RAF
and given a dual role of ambulance driver
and plane mechanic on an airfield in Kent.
Albert would have been frantically busy -
repairing aircraft engines,
maintaining aircraft engines,
keeping the squadrons operational
at a time when Britain really was fighting for its life
against the enemy.
The way it tended to work, if you were on ambulance duty,
was that you would continue
with your normal, day-to-day occupation -
perhaps maintaining aircraft engines -
and if the crash alarm went off on the airfield,
you then dropped everything,
sprinted to your ambulance, jumped in
and got to where the problem was.
Although he was a driver, he would no doubt have had to do
whatever was required of him in order to recover aircrew
from wrecked airplanes, get them to hospital,
look after them on the way.
Working on an airfield would have been no respite
from the horrors Albert would have seen in Central London
during the Blitz.
He would've witnessed some horrendous sights
of badly burned aircrew crashing back on airfields.
It would've been quite a harrowing experience
for anybody involved in the whole medical emergency services
at that time.
Like his father Frank before him,
Albert served on a lesser known, unconventional battlefield.
And he also wasn't trying to kill.
He was trying to help and to heal.
Both as a ground crew and as an ambulance driver,
Albert was one of those unsung heroes of the war effort.
I think Albert's family can be very proud
of what he did in World War II.
He wasn't a fighter pilot or a bomber pilot,
but his role in the RAF was an important one.
He made a real contribution.
Back in the office, Amy's team were busy piecing together
the family Albert Horseman and his wife Ruby Boakes had after the war.
The team discovered Albert and Ruby had four children after the war.
One of them is Stephanie Ives,
who remembers meeting Philip several decades ago.
My one meeting with Philip, I was about 17.
He was, I think, about 35.
He wasn't there initially,
and he came back from work, and we met and we spoke.
He seemed very laid-back,
very sort of...nothing seemed to bother him a great deal.
In fact, his mother and stepfather's nickname for him was Unconscious
because he was just so laid-back and horizontal.
That was the one and only time I ever met him.
Hearing about Philip after so many years
came like a bolt from the blue for Stephanie.
The first contact from the heir hunters
was a knock on the door on a weekday night, about five o'clock.
So we took it from there, really.
It is surreal to find you're, you know, coming into an inheritance
from someone you didn't have a lot of contact with,
even though they're part of the family.
And the experience has reignited her interest in her own close family,
especially her father Albert,
and the memories he shared about his wartime experiences
as an ambulance driver.
I know he saw lots of awful things during the Blitz.
He delivered lots of babies during the Blitz.
And I've still got his scissors that he used
when he was an ambulance driver during the Blitz.
Finding Stephanie and her siblings
had tied up Philip's father's side of the family.
But heir hunters now needed to try and find any surviving heirs
on his mother's side.
The first step was to locate Philip's maternal grandparents
through his mother Ellen.
We looked into Ellen's parents,
who were John Hayes and Catherine Costello.
The team did find eight births
which came after John and Catherine's marriage in 1902...
OK, will do. Thank you. Thanks, bye.
..and were able to prove they were all correct,
leading to a further 19 heirs to Philip's estate.
The team did a fantastic job in identifying the heirs,
and in total, there were 26 heirs identified
across the maternal and paternal sides of the family.
And for Philip's cousin Stephanie,
it's been an opportunity to think more about her family.
I think any of the family history, I'd be interested in,
simply because I think you get to an age
where you do wonder about other parts of the family
that you just sort of don't deliberately neglect,
but you just sort of imperceptibly drift away from.
And you often wonder what happened to them
and where they are now and what they're doing.
That's probably more interesting
than any small inheritance we might get.
Heir Hunters race to find family on one of their most valuable ever cases. When an NHS pathologist passes away, the search leads to a family torn apart by tuberculosis. As the hunt for heirs hits a dead end, records eventually lead half way around the world and reveal that the family's youngest members were forced to embark on an adventure of a lifetime.
In a second hunt, medical matters are also at the forefront with a grandfather who served in the Royal Army Medical corps, helping the wounded on the front line of battle. As the search unfolds the team learns his son, an ambulance driver, played his part during another great war, this time on the home front during the blitz. With heirs receiving potentially life changing sums of cash, they learn about the bravery of their unsung wartime heroes.