Happy Endings Can Come From Sad Beginnings

One of the saddest parts of our jobs is reading the referral form.

I so often see people have passed away with no known close family. As in most of our cases, very little information was known about Alexander, and from my initial read, it seemed he had no family.

Finding Alexander’s Family

Using my forensic research skills, I was able to determine that Alexander had not been born in England. I did find a birth record in Scotland which seemed to be a likely match. I ordered a copy of the birth certificate; which confirmed my suspicions.

Through further research, I was able to establish that he had potentially three brothers; William, Richard and Charles.

When I successfully traced and spoke with William, he told me that he was still in contact with his brother Richard, but they had not heard from Charles in many years.

He gave me an overview of the family’s history and explained to me that the four brothers had lived in an orphanage in their childhood. When they left in their late teens, the brothers went their own way and he and Richard lost touch with both Charles and Alexander.

William told me that they had been looking for Alexander and Charles for some time but had not been able to find any trace of either of them. I explained that I would also be looking to find Charles. William was very happy to learn this; as you can imagine he and his brother Richard were very eager to get back in touch with Charles.

Paying Respects to Alexander

After receiving the necessary authority from William, I was able to start the estate administration and make enquiries about Alexander’s funeral and final resting place. When I contacted the funeral home, to my surprise, they told me they were still holding Alexander’s ashes.

After much thought, William and Richard decided that they felt it would be best that Alexander’s ashes were scattered in London, as this was where he lived. They entrusted me to do this for them. I felt very honoured that the close relationship I had built with the brothers meant they were happy for me to carry out something so important to the family.

Despite the terrible weather that morning, just five minutes prior to scattering the ashes, it suddenly became a beautiful day. My colleague Gemma and I scattered Alexander’s ashes under a cherry tree in the Garden of Remembrance; where his funeral had taken place. We were given a perfect moment for the occasion and were able to take some beautiful pictures for the family.

Finding Charles

The place where the brothers were born was a small town in Scotland. In an effort to try and find out what had happened to Charles, I sent letters to various businesses, care homes and churches in the town. I was determined to see if anyone had heard of, or from him, over the years.

I received a lot of negative responses, but a surprising response came from Ladbrokes (yes, the betting office). They had filled out a response slip on behalf of a one of their customer’s Victor, who seemed to have known Charles and his brother Alexander.

I was able to speak with Victor and he said that his family were distantly related and that both Charles and Alexander had visited his family’s farm some time ago. He was able to tell me that Charles had been a member of the Scots Guards and that he believed that he may have moved to England. Victor told me that he would like to get back in contact with the family and gave me his consent to pass his details onto William.

Sadly, despite the extra information that Victor was able to provide me with, I was still struggling to find Charles. I contacted the orphanage where the brothers grew up to try and see if they had any record of Charles after he left. I made enquiries with Veterans UK, the local Register Office, the DWP and the Pension Service to see if they could provide me with any further leads. As William had mentioned that Charles may have moved overseas, I also searched the overseas Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes at the British Library.

None of my enquiries were producing any leads. I was fast despairing that I was never going to be able to find him. However, an unexpected breakthrough came in the form of a new tracing software that we trialled.

Using this, I was able to find a possible match for Charles. Someone with his exact date of birth was living in London; the very place Alexander was living in when he passed away.

I sent a letter to Charles asking him to contact me, but unfortunately, did not receive a reply. As I felt that I was onto a strong lead, I asked our Commercial Manager Richard to visit the address and see if he could speak with Charles. Charles was not there but Richard was able to speak with Charles’ landlady, who told us that Charles was currently on holiday. She promised to pass on Richard’s details to him when he got back.

Neither Richard or I heard from Charles, so Richard went back to the address the following week and fortunately was able to speak with Charles briefly. He confirmed that he was the Charles who I had been trying to find. As he had no contact with Alexander, Richard gently broke the news to him that Alexander had passed away.

A Happy Ending

Given the relationship that I have built with my clients Richard and William and the amount of time I have invested in locating Charles, I was over the moon when I was finally able to contact them and let the family know that he was still alive.

The brothers were overjoyed when I told them I had found Charles. They both wrote letters for me to pass onto Charles. I am pleased to advise that the family are now back in contact.

Treethorpe and I are proud to have been part of this journey and we all wish the family well for the future.

Caroline Cooper, Senior Cases Manager

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