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The opening of the estate starts in a Notary’s office. By sending the “Rose” case to the Probate Genealogist, the Notary is entrusting him with a research mission to trace one or more heirs.
Rose is an octogenarian who died in Nice a few months ago alone in her home with no will or known heirs, just a photo of her and some administrative documents like her birth certificate and death certificate submitted by the Notary. These documents will only represent 10% of the Genealogist’s search and are the first pieces of an enormous jigsaw.
Sometimes the tracing process can take months or even years, especially when you have to search worldwide. This applies to one in three cases.
To complete his jigsaw, there is an important place to which the Probate Genealogist is one of the very few to be granted access: the archives of the Town Hall registry office. Several times a week, the Genealogist climbs the stairs to the archives room where all of the registers of births, marriages and deaths that have taken place in the town are kept. After spending a day searching through the town hall’s records and departmental archives, the Genealogist is able to confirm that Rose has not left any children and that she is an only child.
The investigation, which takes the form of searching for clues, can now begin. To find Rose's heirs, the Genealogist needs to reconstruct her Family tree, which in this case stops at 4th-degree relatives.
In the paternal line, Rose’s birth certificate shows that her father was born in Paris. After a few hours, the Genealogist finds his first clue in one of the many birth registers at the Parisian registry office - the birth certificate of Rose's father, born on 23 November 1910. A search in the departmental archives provides access to his service number register which reveals that after Paris, he lived in Lille. A train journey to this town helps the Genealogist track down an uncle of the deceased born in 1912. His birth certificate does not include any mention of marriage but indicates that he died in New York.
The death of the deceased's paternal grandfather is found in France’s record of those who died in the First World War. On her father’s side, Rose therefore only had one uncle who had left for the United States.
The search has now become international. After several long weeks scouring the press and death registers of New York, the Genealogist discovers that when this “American uncle” died, he left his wife, born in Montreal, and, most significantly, a son aged 10.
The Genealogist now needs to catch a plane to Montreal.
After analyzing and cross-referencing various sources in great detail, the Genealogist finds “Paul” in Canada. Paul was born in 1940 and is the only German cousin in the paternal line of the deceased whom he did not know existed. The heir confirms that his father emigrated to the United States when he was young and did not maintain any ties with his French family.
At the same time, we were searching for heirs on the Rose’s maternal side. Our research has helped us establish that she was born to a single mother who was placed under welfare services. After verifying that Rose’s mother was an only child, there will not be any heirs in the maternal line. Ben has therefore been identified as the only Heir in this enormous puzzle.
with the heirs
Once the search has been completed, the Genealogist will contact the beneficiary, Ben, to inform him that he is the heir of someone who died without a will or any other known heirs and offer to disclose the identity of the deceased. After 10 months of fastidious searching, the inheritance process can finally commence.
Once the case has been resolved, the heir will receive his net share after deductions, but most importantly, the history of his past as well as any symbolic items that might be found at Rose’s home, like her photographs.