What do estates and reunions have in common? by Peggy Rockwell Gleich

I received a call from an estate researcher, telling me he was tracking my ancestors because there was a valuable estate which probably belongs to the family. He located me through my information at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

He wanted all our family information – now – over the phone! I told him to call back in a few days. Then, I asked others if they’d heard of him. To make a long story short, I concluded he was legitimate.

I contacted the relatives involved but no one wanted to give him any current information, including Social Security numbers for tax purposes, which are not necessary until the sale is final. When I contacted him, I gave him only names. He wrote letters to each relative and mailed them to me for distribution.

With the help of two third cousins, we located sixteen living heirs, all second cousins of a Rockwell descendant who died in California and left no family. Most of us knew nothing about this 87-year old man and apparently he didn’t know much about any of us. What a terrible shame and one I wish could be rectified.

The estate included a corner lot near Berkeley, California, on which sat a dilapidated, fallen-down, mouse-infested, broken-into house. The house had to be torn down but the land holds some value. Sadly, no heirlooms, paperwork or other items were salvageable. This cousin had been in a nursing home for a long time. The sale was pending a California court hearing.

When the estate researcher contacted me, neighbors were trying to have the court name them administrator. They were trying to have the house condemned and torn down. An administrator was named to represent all the cousins. The estate researcher, attorneys and administrator all share in a third of the estate.

Maybe this was the reason I was meant to be working on my family history. Keep following your genealogical dreams. Don’t give up, and above all, never say never!

About the author
Peggy Rockwell Gleich, Janesville, Wisconsin, is President of the Walworth County (WI) Genealogical Society; Editor of Cemetery Q’s & A’s (Queries & Anecdotes) and the Wilkinson Connection. She has been doing genealogy for fifteen years is a member in many genealogy societies and a speaker in beginning basic genealogy instructor.