Wouldn't you want to know if a relative of yours died without making a will? Because if this person leaves money - and if no living relative comes forward to claim it - it goes to the state. For years, brothers Steven and Kit Smyrl have been tracking down the heirs to unclaimed estates and giving them their inheritances. This new six-part RTÉ series follows their quest to find the rightful owners of Dead Money.
The series is presented by two of Ireland's leading genealogical legal researchers brothers Steven and Kit Smyrl. They are the driving force behind the leading genealogy firm Massey and King. For almost twenty years they've specialised in tracing missing beneficiaries, not only in Ireland but throughout the world. With offices in Dublin and a network of researchers and agents across the globe, they can trace next-of-kin no matter where they reside.
In the course of each programme, the Smyrl brothers search and uncover fascinating information about the lives of the deceased's ancestors and relatives. While the brothers search for facts, it's who they find that makes these stories come to life. Personal histories unfold with a link to the present day when we meet the living relatives. We hear tales of mysterious disappearances, tragic bereavements, abandonment and reunion, set in some of the most fascinating periods in history, from the bitter conflict of Ireland's Land War to the chaos of the Russian Revolution. The beneficiaries, or long lost relatives have stories of their own to tell - some harrowing, some entertaining - fractured families linked together once more by the brothers' findings.
Steven's deep interest in family history came at an early age, when his mother and grandmother would tell him stories of distant relatives' lives and loves, and family events, illustrated by evocative black and white photographs. The more he asked the more he wanted to know and the more he learnt about how others had lived their lives decades before.
Kit spent his youth in Scotland with his father, tracking wildlife across the vast glens of the northwest Highlands or chasing sea life of the west coast. He brought this experience with him years later when he joined Steven in the genealogy business and became an expert in tracking people. It soon became clear that the patience and tenacity and cunning shown on the sides of Scottish mountains would be just as useful on the streets hunting down missing beneficiaries.
Together, the brothers make up a formidable investigative duo. Steven is the researcher par excellence - he trawls old bound volumes, dusty documents and online databases to find the vital clues that will move the quest forward. Steven sees each new case as an exciting challenge, a riddle to be solved and an investigation that could lead him anywhere. Meanwhile, Kit hits the street to do hands-on research, talking to friends and neighbours of the deceased, as well as experts and specialists - anyone who can guide him along the trail that leads to the living relatives who are entitled to the estate.
In Programme One, Steven and Kit's efforts to find the relatives of Dublin woman Maura Byrne reveal a tale of horror and tragedy, from the squalor of the inner city tenements in the 1910s to the sad abandonment of a young boy in an industrial school.
Programme Two leads the brothers to America in search of the relatives who are entitled to a Galway estate worth €500,000. We discover how a family overcame poverty and emigration to build new lives in the New World, and the programme culminates in the reunion of long-lost Irish and American cousins in Boston.
In programme three, Kit travels to the Dordogne where he hears the unhappy tale of Frenchwoman Yvette Gebhard and her 'black sheep' Irish grandfather. He and Steven pick up the quest for Yvette's relatives in Ireland. A fascinating story unfolds, involving a mysterious drowning, life in a mental institution, and an Irishwoman who worked for a Russian Tsar.
This week the brothers visit London to uncover the tale of an illegitimate child and a single mother cut adrift in the dark and insalubrious Victorian East End. The trail leads them back to Ireland via colonial India, and culminates in Gloucester where the beneficiaries come to terms with a hitherto unsuspected Irish heritage.
This week the brothers look into the case of Alan Murray, who died in Sligo in 2004 leaving an estate but no known relatives. After undertaking a marathon search for Alan's cousins, Steven and Kit are hit by a bombshell: it turns out that the deceased had a daughter who never knew him. She becomes the sole beneficiary of his estate.
This week the brothers search for living relatives of Anna May Watt, a Scottish variety performer admired by everyone from Terry Wogan to Johnnie Beattie. After they uncover the striking circumstances surrounding the birth of Anna's mother in Ireland, Kit and Steven travel to a haunted castle in Carlow where their quest comes to an unexpected conclusion.