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Erin Research’s Managing Director Padraic Grennan. WILDEPHOTOGRAPHY
Erin Research

'Next-of-kin appeals resonate with me': Irish genealogy firm offers 'closure' in sad circumstances

Erin Research worked on a pro bono basis to successfully trace John Joseph Gill’s next-of-kin.

“AS SOON AS I see ‘seeking next-of-kin’, because we’re in the business it would always ring a bell with me.”

In late December, Padraic Grennan, the managing director of Irish probate genealogy firm Erin Research, came across an appeal on social media for information on the next-of-kin of an Irishman who died alone in England.

The appeal related to John Joseph Gill who died in the Orchard House nursing home in Birmingham on 25 November.

He was in residential and nursing homes from the beginning of 2008 until his death last year and a local priest was said to be his only visitor during that time.

That same priest will oversee a ceremony for John Joseph Gill at 3pm this afternoon in Birmingham.

Following a “last opportunity” appeal for information on John Joseph’s next-of-kin, Erin Research were able to discover that he had two living siblings, as well as three nieces and nephews.

Genealogy techniques

Speaking to The Journal, Grennan explained that the “primary business” of Erin Research is “working for lawyers who are dealing with estates where people have passed away”.

“We specialise in a particular type of case,” said Grennan, “where either somebody passes away and a will has been made but the beneficiary has gone missing.

“Or it’s an intestate case where there’s no will and we have to identify who would benefit from an estate.

“So you might have a solicitor whose client has passed away and they’ve no idea who the next of kin are. We have to ascertain who the closest next of kin are and track those people down so that the estate can be distributed.”

It was these genealogy techniques that Grennan was able to put to use to track down John Joseph’s relatives.

However, Grennan said the case of John Joseph Gill was a relatively straight forward one.

He worked on a “purely pro bono basis to see if we could help out”.

While Birmingham City Council believed John Joseph Gill was born in Co Roscommon on 31 August, 1936, Grennan discovered that he was actually born in Devlin in Co Westmeath and that the birth certificate was a day out.

Once the birth certificate has been located, Grennan said he “could unravel the family tree and work on trying to find his next-of-kin.”

But while Grennan was able to quickly track down John Joseph’s next-of-kin, he warns that other circumstances can be more trying.

“It might not have worked out [in other circumstances]. In the end it worked out pretty easily for us, but it could have been a case where there was a mountain of research required that might have taken us months and that often is the case.”

But in the case of John Joseph, Grennan said it “wasn’t a difficult case by our standards”.

Grennan also warned that situations like these are “more common than you would like to think”.

“Especially with the Irish because of the way they emigrated, and lost touch and the whole forgotten Irish piece, particularly in England,” said Grennan.

The managing director of Erin Research adds that it is a “male orientated” issue.

“That’s in my own experience in the cases we work on,” he said.

“We would trace female beneficiaries, but under these circumstances and this type of case, from my experience it has been always been males.”


Grennan told The Journal that work like this offers “closure” as relatives are then given the opportunity to attend the funeral.

“This is just an Irishman abroad that wasn’t getting the send-off he deserves so it’s nice to be able to help out in one of these sad circumstances where we can,” added Grennan.

“It gives him a dignified burial and that’s the reason we would do it, and the least we could do is to give a little bit of our time to this.

“So for the little bit of time we put into it, I think it just gives him a dignified send off.”

However, Grennan notes that he would prefer to do this at a different time, under different circumstances.

“It’s just a pity that we weren’t notified before he passed away,” he told The Journal.

Grennan continued: “You’d have a chance then for people to reconcile or whatever the case may be and for families to get in touch again.

“Unfortunately, we often get the call after people pass away. But we like to help if we can.

“There are just not many companies doing what we do, they don’t have the knowledge of the skillset, so when I see the next-of-kin appeals, it always resonates with me.” 

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