By in Movies & TV

Heir Hunters, BBC 1 - Barrie William Hassnip, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, 1937-2012

Today's episode of Heir Hunters was looking into the estate of Barrie William Hassnip, who lived in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England. Barrie had died suddenly, aged 75, on 28 July 2012 and had left no will and had no immediate family. He'd spent his life working as a Signalman on the Railways, his railway signal box had been Sleaford East, a signal box that has been preserved and retained as it was given Listed Building status in 1986. Barrie had retired from British Rail in his 60s.

He had lived in his house for many years, so the Heir Hunters had to go to the house to search for clues as to the size of the estate and whether he owned the house he lived in. Heir Hunters work on a commission basis, bearing all the costs of tracing heirs, so if there is no estate then they can't put the work in. Once they've traced heirs to any unclaimed estates, they then get the heirs to sign a contract giving them the permission to put forward a claim to the Treasury.

If you are ever contacted by an heir hunting company, who refer to themselves as Probate Researchers, they are most likely legitimate, but there are two things to consider:

  • Never pay them money, they wouldn't be the type of organisation that is wholly legitimate
  • They will expect to receive a commission from the successful claim they put in, so check the contract you sign carefully. Many heir hunting firms charge up to 30% of the value of the estate!

It is very costly for the heir hunters to track down and prove any claim. To make a claim there has to be proof of the whole family tree, with the documented evidence and all the certificates. In some instances though, a claim might be straight forward - e.g. if a long long brother/sister had died. In other cases it's more complex, e.g. if it turned out to be the grandchild of one of your grandfather's long lost brother who you never even knew existed!

Barrie William Hassnip was born on 30 May 1937 at Laundon Nursing Home, Sleaford and died on 28 July 2012. He lived at 25 King Edward Street, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, NG34 7NN.

In the end, he did turn out to own the house he'd lived in - and it was sold to settle the claims of 28 heirs. One of them was his cousin and remembered Barrie, who had been much older than him, as he'd been taken to the signal box one day and had been allowed to pull the levers! As with all these things, he wished he'd kept in touch, but we're all like that really aren't we, losing touch.

Barrie's parents were Constance May Hankey Roper (born in 1911) and Leslie George Hassnip, they had married in the Church of St Thomas on 20 September 1933 at Whatton cum Aslockton in Nottinghamshire, where his mother had lived; his father's address was 21 Boston Road, Sleaford at the time of the marriage. Barrie was then proven to be an only child by the heir hunting company.

Barrie's mother was born in 1911 when her parents were both working as domestic servants at Whatton Manor, Lanchester, Nottinghamshire, where his grandfather had worked as a gardener. The grandparents on his mother's side had been John William Roper and Sarah Emily Hankey.

I do find these programmes fascinating - and their use of various resources to trace relatives is an education in itself if you're interested in genealogy at all! If the heir hunters didn't find any heirs, then the Treasury (the Government) would get all the money, so it's better that they've made a living out of tracing heirs. Also, the heirs they find do get the full family tree produced for them - and those interviewed on the programme also get daytrips out to places of relevance to their long lost family member, or to meet people who knew them!

Other Episodes of Heir Hunters:



Image Credit » by Nemo

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maxeen wrote on February 25, 2015, 10:21 AM

Another enjoyable tale from you,I think you are good the way you tell us about our missed programmes--

UK_Writer wrote on February 25, 2015, 10:32 AM

Well, I get fascinated by them - and do all the background, additional, research before I post, rather than creating a short post saying "Just watched this, blah blah"


I'd love to work for an heir hunting company, but they're mostly in London as they need fast access to the records offices.

Last Edited: February 25, 2015, 10:33 AM

lookatdesktop wrote on February 25, 2015, 10:43 AM

Is this show available on American Cable television? I think this would be fun to watch if I could see it. I have other sources, like Amazon Prime Instant Video and Hulu Plus, both are internet television. My brother has local cable T.V. and maybe he can get it recorded on his DVR.

UK_Writer wrote on February 25, 2015, 11:21 AM

I've no idea. It's BBC1 so you could Google it. I don't know about cable/satellite and prime service TV programmes, so clueless at answering. It is interesting, although some are boring.
They cover two stories/day. Yesterday they traced a German Jewish family - the man who'd died's family were all gone (most in Auschwitz) and the firm of heir hunters found the last, only, surviving grandson of his grandfather's brother, who had no idea this chap even existed.
The only sad part in stories like that is that they never got round to having their family history properly researched, but it wouldn't have been cheap/easy until recent years when it got easier - and he'd assumed all families had died in the concentration camps so wouldn't have ever thought of doing any research