A probate genealogist? Huh? This could be one of the most unusual jobs List for Life has come across so far.
We spoke to Amy Cox, 25, who works as a Senior assistant case manager at probate genealogist company Finders International. Amy also works on BBC show Heir Hunters. We met her to talk about her super unusual job. Go on, let your curiosity fly!
1. First things first: probate genealogist? Huh?
That’s what most people ask, it sounds very technical but then I say ‘if you’ve seen the programme Heir Hunters it’s that, I do that’.
2. BBC’s daytime show ‘Heir Hunters’ will be familiar to the funemployed, but to those who haven’t seen it, what does your job involve?
We trace missing beneficiaries from unpaid estates; when people die without leaving a will and have no apparent heirs we find who the money and assets should go to. It’s a competitive industry where you have to work several cases at a time and evaluate and prioritise the most valuable. I work out of our office in London but we are also supported by travelling reps that we can dispatch around the country to do more specific location research or sign up heirs when they’ve been traced.
3. What does an average day look like for you?
As I work urgent cases along with one other colleague, one of us has to be in the office to cover all operating hours, which means I alternate my start and finish time week by week. Early starts are 8:30 and late starts are 10:30. I check the Bona Vacantia list issued by the Treasury every day as that cites new cases that we can pick up. I then assist case managers, conducting family tree research and arranging visits.
4. How did you get in to such a niche job?
I graduated from Goldsmiths University with a history degree and thought I wanted to work for a museum or library in archiving. I did an unpaid internship with the Museum of Everything on an exhibition of outsider art – art not created for an art market- which was exhibited in the Wonder Room at Selfridges. After that I had the all too familiar dark period that many graduates experience where I was unemployed and had to move back in with my parents in Reading. I had to take a job as a ‘lunch time controller’ (dinner lady) which I did for almost 6 months while applying for jobs. That’s when I started watching ‘Heir Hunters’ and liked the look of that job, so I applied to all of the London probate genealogy firms and landed a paid internship at Finders – the rest (as they fittingly say in this case) is history.
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5. So, you actually have a career that is related to your degree subject? That has to be rarer than a steak tartare
It’s true, most probate genealogists have history or law degrees, although it is by no means essential. As an interest in lineage is vital to the job it is perfect for history geeks. You have to be so precise, a perfectionist really; if you didn’t have a genuine interest in this type of research you would be bored.
6. Finders are now one of the firms featured on the programme ‘Heir Hunters’?
Yes, we joined in 2013. They come to us for retrospective cases that have an interesting social history side, and 3 times a week they come in to film us working on live cases.
7. Any amusing work-related anecdotes you’d care to share?
I get frequent lolz looking at people’s names in the marriages, births and deaths registries – you’d be amazed at some of them!
8. You’ve touched on what you love about your work, but what is the hardest part about it?
I have to call relatives of the deceased and while you’re often letting them know they stand to inherit money, you are also bearing the bad news that one of their relatives has passed away. On the flip side, we do also reunite people, which always feels great.
9. What are your #lifegoals?
I’m lucky that this job has offered me quite swift career progression, but one day I’d still like to work in a museum or archive, perhaps in a learning department working on getting kids interested in history. It may sound sad but history really is my passion! And wine. I’ve really gotten really in to learning more about wine through wine tasting with a woman called Annabel who Instagrams under @yourwinept
10. And finally, what advice would you give your 15 year old self?
Pay attention in IT class and worry less what people think of you.
Words: Lucy Cox