26 February 2014

Heir Hunters and the value of genealogical qualifications

A friend called to say she had been contacted by Finders, a London based heir hunting company, about a recently deceased relative. That's not a situation I ever expect to find myself in, but then neither did she.

The company, which has an informative web site, were very interested to sign her up, and seemed to be in considerable hurry to do so. Their cut would be an industry standard 20% of the inheritance. She asked my advice and, naturally, I was interested so did a little Googling.

A blog post on the Your Family Tree website recounts one person's quite favourable experience with the company.

The Society of Genealogists has a useful brochure, also available online, at What Should You do if Approached by Heir Hunters?

The Finders website provide information on their staff. What struck me as odd is that not one of them have a genealogical accreditation. One is an APG and SOG member, but neither of those require passing any kind of a test. Yet many of the others have had years of experience and success in heir hunting, which means they've proved their expertise to the satisfaction of the legal system.

What's the value of the professional qualification given by AGRA in the UK, and similar organizations elsewhere, if one of the most lucrative jobs calling for genealogical skills has no need for the qualification?


Elizabeth Kipp said...

Interesting that you should bring this subject up John. Actually part of our training at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies was heir searching. I have to admit it did not catch my eye in terms of being something that I would take on. A London based company did an heir search for my father's uncle who died intestate in 1951. My great aunt saw a notice in the local newspaper (perhaps Andover, not sure) regarding the estate of Charles John Blake with enough identifying material that she realized it was her brother. The family actually thought he had died in Africa and had absolutely no idea that he had returned to England not long after World War II and bought what was actually a Blake residence not far from Upper Clatford. He would have been 62 years old when he returned to England but by the time he came back all of the family had left Upper Clatford except for his youngest sister (who noticed the advertisement by the heir searching company) but she had remarried after her first husband was killed in WWI and he would not have known that (he went to Africa before WWI). Their paths simply did not cross. The long and short of it is that his property did have some value along with his savings and my father did receive a portion (I think around 2 thousand dollars which in 1956 was worth a little more than these days!) and he was my grandfather's only child but my grandfather had eleven siblings and most of them had rather more than one child. But I was glancing at Uncle John's (he decided to go by his second name for whatever reason and that was also the forename of the eldest brother) estate report and that was where I discovered a few years back that they had had an elder sister who lived from a young age with her Knight grandparents (they had had 12 children and only three survived infancy so I guess Maria Jane let them have her eldest!). 20% may seem high but they have to do a lot of work to find all the relatives often enough.

Finders said...

Hi John, I am the founder & MD of Finders. Thanks for your comments which seem reasonable to me. 'Heir Hunters' are unregulated in the UK, despite our best efforts in writing to various parliamentary bodies seeking regulation, the UK government are apparently not interested in this. AGRA is a pretty poor organisation in my view, it has our competitors on its board. I recently asked them to expel a member who we had won 2 court actions against and who had been subjecting us to abuse on Twitter (and had their account closed down). To cut a long story short, AGRA refused to get involved, so your friendly local AGRA member could have a criminal record and they seemingly don't care. We have our own professional conduct code online and are highly ethical, so if anyone wishes to discuss our contracts we encourage them to get in touch. We will always do our best to remain fair and reasonable. Best wishes, Daniel Curran, MD findersUK.com. We are on BBC TV heir Hunters from Tuesday 4th March 2014 if anyone wants to see us in action, 9.15am BBC1.

Jacqueline Hunter said...

In terms of Scottish professional genealogists, ASGRA are only interested in having you as a professional member if you are running your company full-time which most business owners such as me who have other responsibilities cannot do initially. ASGRA positively discourages entrepreneurship by professional Scottish genealogists.

Philip Turvey said...

Hi John,
There have recently been some developments in this area with the creation of the Association of Probate Researchers (APR) www.a-p-r.org the first body to introduce truly independent regulation to a previously unregulated industry. The APR is also a recognised body of the Professional Paralegal Register (PPR) and has met their strict criteria. APR members can apply for a Paralegal Practising Certificate and therefore therefore allows consumers to have access to a separate independent complaints procedure and compensation scheme - both of which are essential if we are serious about offering client reassurance and protection.
Kind regards.
Philip Turvey