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Inheritance: the power of genealogy in a real Massachusetts case

It sounds like something that would happen only in an old-fashioned board game. A long-last relative dies, leaving you a big bequest that solves all of your money problems.

In a recent Massachusetts case, however, two women did inherit money from a long-lost relative. The case spanned two continents, as the relative was from Ireland. But a genealogist helped make the connection. And the Massachusetts women - cousins who had not previously met - will be receiving part of a large estate on the other side of the Atlantic.

In fact, even more than an old-fashioned board game, the case sounds like a reality-TV series. And indeed, in a way it is. When the two Massachusetts cousins met to discuss their good fortune, a TV film crew was there. The crew was from a series called "Dead Money," a documentary about genealogists who search out heirs to unclaimed estates.

The series has an Irish twist. The unclaimed estates that it searches out are all in Ireland.

So how did the two American women get in on the Irish bounty? Not surprisingly, the family ties go back to the epic Irish immigration to American in the nineteenth century.

An Irish family that had ten children saw and six of them left Galway bound for Massachusetts. From there, the family tree gets pretty complicated. As the generations unfolded, many family members lost touch with each other. And so, when the genealogist brought them together, the two Massachusetts cousins who will now inherit were meeting for the first time - even though they lived only miles apart.

Source: "Residents find family and fortune," The Boston Globe, Kathleen Conti, 3-14-13

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