The catalyst for my book Seeking John Campbell was my attempt to trace the living heirs of an unclaimed estate. The breakthrough came because I had a hunch that the final piece of the jigsaw would be found in a document at the The National Archives in Kew. Now five years later a hunch has solved another case.
Recently after watching an episode of the latest series of Heir Hunters I was drawn to a name that the programme broadcast, asking viewers if they may be related. The only information given was the name Oswald Warry, the date of birth 4 December 1909, and the date of death 26 June 2004.
I started to search for Warry family members at the turn of the century but there was no evidence of an Oswald being born in 1909. I then turned to the remarkable and searchable British Newspaper Archive a joint venture between the British Library and FindMyPast.com to digitise 40 million pages of old newspapers. The process has only reached 10.7 million pages so far but Oswald Warry threw up an interesting, if disturbing, entry.
In 1930 a 21 year old man, Oswald Hannay Warry, was charged with attempted murder. He had taken a four and a half month old baby from a pram and dashed it to the ground. When his case came before the court in 1931 the judge decided that he was unfit to plead and ordered him to be detained at His Majesty’s pleasure. It is possible that he remained institutionalised for the remainder of his life.
In my search for Warry family members I had unearthed a link to the name Hannay and believed that the Oswald Warry featured on Heir Hunters and Oswald Hannay Warry were one and the same. But, I was unable to find a link to his father and therefore trace any heirs to his estate through his paternal or maternal relations, as living heirs would have to come from the decendants of his aunts and uncles.
Then my lateral thinking came up with another hunch that The National Archives would provide the answer. It did, and now armed with confirmation of his father and his birth certificate I could trace living heirs. I reached over ten on the paternal side and hadn’t started on the maternal side when I was informed that the estate was less than £5000 in value. As with the first heirhunting case my drive is to solve the problem rather than to pursue a claim to the estate which in this latest case was not worthwhile and so the estate will remain in the UK government’s coffers.
I doubt that the Heir Hunters production team was aware of the attempted murder charge when they broadcast the name of Oswald Warry.