August 2014

“9.15 am Heir Hunters The probate researchers reunite a family separated by wartime evacuation”.

We were pleased to read this description in the TV listings a couple of weeks ago because we feared that our role as probate researchers had been buried beneath the programme title in the public consciousness. It is understandable for the public to know us as heir hunters because of the BBC series and the show has certainly raised the profile of our profession (most people have an idea about what we do now, which was not the case when we started in the profession in the early ‘90s).

So, why are we Martlets, Probate Genealogists and not Martlets, Heir Hunters? It is for two main reasons. Firstly, prior to the TV show, we considered ‘heir hunters’ to be a title generally used by American research companies rather than British firms. Secondly, ‘heir hunters’ does not adequately encompass all that we do. Resolving intestate estates is not just about finding beneficiaries (‘hunting heirs’). It is also about thorough genealogical research and the diligent reporting of our findings; it is about proving as far as possible that the deceased had no closer kin than those claiming the estate; it is about undertaking the requisite searches and obtaining the necessary documentation to demonstrate that a line of the family has died out. It is also about a sensitive and professional approach to our cases, which we never forget concerns a person who has recently passed away.

Catchy title for a programme though it undoubtedly is, we do not think that the phrase heir hunters sufficiently describes us. And, in the same way, we trust that architects won’t start calling themselves ‘grand designers’ and restaurants continue to advertise simply for chefs and not ‘masterchefs’.

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