Banner background texture

Case Study: Tracing a Beneficiary – when “facts” don’t tally!

White curve graphic
Thursday 25th January, 2024 | Author: Nicola Ashby [Member (F1742)] | Filed under: Case studies

My company was instructed to locate a person named as a beneficiary in a historic Will. He was a nephew of the deceased, but only his name was given. Arguably, armed with a copy of the Will and the death certificate, this should be an easy task… find her birth, find her siblings, find their children...


We confirmed the deceased’s date of birth from her death certificate. Knowing she was married at the time of her death, we used the death certificate to confirm her maiden name.  However, a search of the birth index revealed no births in her maiden name in the date range specified. Wondering whether there had been a typo in her surname, we also searched for variations of the name, but with no luck. There was also no record of her on the 1911 census, when she would have been around 7 years of age.


It transpired that the deceased had been living at the same house for most of her life, so having access to the 1939 census data, we were able to locate her record at the house in which she was living when she passed away. The surname matched the maiden name provided on the death certificate… something wasn’t adding up.

Extensive research revealed the maiden name shown on the death certificate was really a former married name, as the deceased had been married previously. We then trawled marriage information, located her first marriage record, and, from this, found her surname at birth.

Perseverance pays off

A fresh check of the 1911 census located one listing under her birth name and critically also found us the name of that person’s sister. However, as the census does not confirm a date of birth, we needed to dig deeper to be certain we had the right person. A significant amount of investigation later, and we located historic school admission records for both the deceased and her sister. The father's name as it appeared on the census signed both. This also confirmed the date of birth for the school admission to be that of our deceased. Now on to the sister…

The Sister

Having the sister’s birth name and the surname of the nephew named in the will (i.e., the surname of her husband) enabled us to locate a marriage record for her. Birth record checks just after the marriage found a record for a birth in the name we were looking for, and confirmed the mother’s maiden name to be that of the deceased sister. A copy of the birth certificate was ordered from the General Register Office.


Using the birth certificate, we confirmed the deceased sister as the mother on the birth record and obtained the date of birth for the beneficiary nephew. Searches on current data sets found the nephew (now 88 years old) to be living in the Blackpool area. Our client was happy to contact the nephew to give him some ‘good news’.

Article submitted by Full Member F1742 Nicola Ashby of ASH (UK) Process Servers Ltd. For further information, see: or contact Nicola: