Heir hunters and the addiction of ancestry
1. Heir Hunters - what is the price of death
I was recently approached by someone looking for help in proving his wife was the heir to an estate. They had taken on some of the debts already and were renovating a house but had to prove no other relation existed.
I must admit, I didn't know much about 'heir hunting' and was a little reluctant to get involved. I just felt uncomfortable profiting from someone's hopes and grief I suppose. However, I thought about it and decided to give it a try. I looked into what these companies charge and found that it is anywhere from 10% to 50% of the estate!! I couldn't believe it, that is a huge amount. The work is hard in fairness but for me its just not my thing. I can't justify it to myself. Its a job that has to be done but to take advantage of people in this way is horrible, surely there should be a cap on the amount of commission?
I understand that without this work that many would receive nothing at all, I'm not saying that some commission isn't valid.
Simply, is it necessary to strip people of large portions of their money, just because you can?
Must of us would think it will never happen to us anyway, so what's the problem but read on - you never know!
2. The Addiction of ancestry
Great article on the exciting side of researching your family tree. Its all true, and quite inspiring. I feel the same about genealogy and especially about my own family. Its a passion and something I can't stop doing.
However, most people looking at their family tree will not have this excitement. Not everyone has some famous, is related to royalty or has lots of money in their family. That doesn't mean it is any less exciting though.
Most people are related to hard-working, ordinary people. At the end of the day, most of the UK were agricultural labourers until the industrial revolution. It much more likely your ancestor spent their days in a field, enduring back-breaking work for little reward. Yet, they survived. Survived and kept the family going, enough for you to be alive today. After the industrial revolution, jobs were much more varied but with that variety came dangers. The long hours remained but the exposure to fibres in the air, chemicals and extreme heat, to name but a few, were to be found in many roles.
Please don't get hung about royalty and finding famous connections. If you have them, great, but if not, please keep researching. You will find exciting things, I promise.
3. Can anyone be a genealogist?
There has been a lot of discussion recently on who can be a genealogist? Do you need qualifications, should you need them?
My opinion? Firstly, if you have a qualification that's great. I think they are valuable. Necessary? No, sorry.
I believe you either have the skill-set or you don't. If you can research, have attention to detail, a drive for quality, love puzzles and an overall passion for ancestry, you will be fine.
Qualifications look good and for some are very important. However, they always seem to cover things that are so basic. How to use google, how to research, etc.
I think there are better ways to spend you money plus the qualification implies you that 'normal' people can't be genealogists. I say that's how we all started out - did the qualification really change you?
4. How to start a family tree
Here are some simple tips on starting your family tree.
- gather as much information from your living family as possible. Names and dates of birth, marriage an death for as many people as possible.
- put it into a simple family tree - this gives you an idea of what you have done so far and what there is left to do.
- decide if you want to try and research your family tree yourself or ask a professional to do it yourself.
- if you're doing it by yourself, there are plenty of sites that can used to store your tree and start accessing information - ancestry, genes reunited, findmypast, etc. These all cost money of course.
- try googling names. put the exact name into quotation marks and maybe add a location or profession or date (or all of them) and see what comes up. You never know what might be on the internet, or who else might be researching them!
- when you are further back there are lots of free resources that can be used such as familysearch.org.
Try it by yourself first and see how you get on. It doesn't cost much, just your time. If you don't succeed them perhaps contact a professional. This may some strange coming from a professional researcher but I believe firstly in genealogy, then in business.