September 2011

We sometimes receive calls from members of the public asking us to research their family tree or track down their long lost cousin, or an old flame, or their mate from school who they lent money to in 1983.  The best we can do in these situations is to point them in the direction of a relevant website. At Martlets we specialise only in legal matters which are to the potential benefit of the people we trace.

Researching your family tree has never been as popular as it is now.  Whereas in the past it may have required a coach trip to the Family Records Centre (the arrival of which was generally a cue for us professionals to head off for a cuppa), you can now avail yourself of a fantastic array of records on the internet.  This means that you can journey into your family’s past from the comfort of your armchair and for the price of a subscription to a website.  The development of search engines has made the process a lot quicker and the availability of records online has transformed genealogy.  OK, there isn’t the same sense of self congratulation in finding a census return after five minutes on a computer as there used to be trawling for five hours through several enumeration districts on a microfilm reader in the Public Record Office. But then again your chances of finding the entry are now much higher, particularly if the family has moved to a different area.  Unless the entry has been mis-transcribed of course…

One thing that has not changed with the proliferation of the internet is the importance of probate genealogists obtaining birth, marriage and death certificates and copies of probate documents. Unlike an amateur hobbyist, who may gather information by using online indexes or by interviewing their relatives, professionals cannot rely on the memories of beneficiaries or the basic information found in genealogical databases. Certificates are essential documents which prove the entitlement of beneficiaries, confirming that they are indeed related to the deceased and not simply sharers of the same surname.  Certificates also provide vital evidence that a line of the family has terminated without any living heirs. An informant on a death certificate or the witnesses to a marriage can be vital in resolving a line of the family and a will can often be invaluable in confirming the extent of kin on a stem.

The cost of a birth, marriage or death certificate is currently £9.25.  For the amateur this can make for quite an expensive hobby and for the professional quite a substantial expense.  At Martlets, we are experienced in judging which certificates are essential for research and which certificates family members can provide for themselves. This enables us to complete a case without accruing unnecessary costs.  The family tree we produce is complemented by a comprehensive genealogical report, enabling a solicitor or administrator to obtain missing beneficiary indemnity insurance and to distribute the estate with confidence. Our reports always refer to information contained in the wills and certificates that we have obtained during the course of our research.  We feel that without these documents, a family tree and report would lack supporting evidence and would not be suitable for presentation to an insurance provider.

Genealogy is a great hobby, but resolving intestate estates is a serious business.  Martlets employ only experienced probate genealogists, with the expertise to thoroughly research and evidence the family tree of the deceased intestate.


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