Open Source Research:
What is it? Why we do it!
As Heir Hunters, we have an array of research tools at our disposal to locate and contact those entitled to inherit from an estate. These stretch from genealogy resources to general contact websites providing names, addresses and phone numbers.
However, in some cases we need to go about finding people in a different, far more extensive manner. This is called open source research. We use open source research when we have stretched our usual databases and genealogy tools as far as we can without any results. It’s also used in cases where the beneficiaries to an estate may be living abroad; therefore, our usual contact databases are of no use. It is at this point our probate researchers need to use other tools that are open to the public to try and track down the right heir.
Primarily, we will begin looking for the intestate (person who passed away without a will) or the beneficiaries on Google. In most cases, there’s not much information that is of use to us, if any information comes up at all. However, there are instances where we have looked for the intestate on Google and found their obituary online by searching for their full name and their birth or death date. With an obituary, it may give information on other family members as in most cases, these are the ones who wrote the obituary. With this new information, it may give a lead to the records you will need (Birth, marriage certificates etc.) to build the tree and get it started.
When our Heir Hunters are looking for a beneficiary but cannot locate them within the normal research methods, advanced Google searching can be of use as well. Recently, we had to locate the Brother of an intestate who was living abroad. Through searching his name and the country we knew he was in, the company he managed came up. This was because they had an information page with his name as well as an email address and phone number. From here we contacted him explaining the situation with his brother, solving the case.
In another case, our Intestate was very active on social media, posting a lot of blogs and had left traces on family finding forums. Here we found him writing about how he had a sister in the USA he had been trying to locate before his passing. This post included various details on the Sister which aided us in tracking her down. Another tool we used was Facebook. With this, we found his account which he was frequently on. After absorbing all the useful information we could from his friends lists, photos and his information page, we reached out to some of his friends that we deduced were close from posts and photos. This proved fruitful, with them providing more information on his family and the fact he was in the military, leading to us finding his military records that had next of kin and other information we were able to use for solving the case.
In conclusion, looking on contact databases and genealogy websites will sometimes not be enough and you’ll need these sources to solve a case. Open source research has offered many advantages for us and been imperative in many instances; leading us to find beneficiaries which would have otherwise remained unfound meaning they wouldn’t have received their entitlement. Although it is used somewhat rarely, open source research is a crucial part of our business.