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An unknown son named as executor

Discussion in 'Wills and probate' started by Puddles, May 25, 2021.

  1. Puddles

    Puddles LostCousins Member

    I have received a copy of the will of my first cousin three times removed (Violet who as far as we knew lived her whole life in and around Manchester) Her executor, James S, is named as her son. Nothing unusual in that but this son is completely unknown to the family - not even to the grandson of the testatrix with whom I am in correspondence.

    It appears that James S had his birth registered in London in 1918 and his mother's maiden name is given as "S" in the older index and "-" in the new index so I am assuming he was illegitimate. By 1939 James S was in Manchester where he married in 1940 and died in 1976. The dates on the 1939 Register and the death index agree the day of the month and the year for James S's dob but the month is June on one and "7" on the other. Not enough of a discrepancy to worry me unduly.

    We know Violet married twice - her first husband (Fred W) died in France in 1918 and they had two children. The grandson is the son of one of these children. There are no children to the second marriage although Violet's second husband was a widower and she had a step-son who looked after her for several years ("whilst I have been so ill") and he inherited her house. Her biological children had emigrated to Australia by then.

    I don't think the will was a fake as neither James S nor his wife were beneficiaries although Violet's step-son and biological children were - as was a hospital and a church and there are other very minor bequests. So who is James S?

    I am thinking he may have been adopted or an illegitimate son we knew nothing about. I think I will have to get a copy of his birth certificate to ascertain his mother's first name and take it from there.

    Luckily James S has an unusual combination of second forename and surname which has made things easier (only one in the index!) and I have also (I think) managed to trace his children and grandchildren and have an address to which I will write in the hope it is still current.
  2. Sue_3

    Sue_3 LostCousins Member

    I have recently found something similar where an unexpected son popped up in his (adopted?) father's will. I then managed to identify him on two census returns. On one he was actually listed as an 'adopted son' but because he was listed below a married couple who were servants in the household I had taken him to be the servants' adopted son. On the other census his relationship to the head of the family was omitted. Obviously this was all prior to the introduction of formal adoption in England. I then found that one of his adopted parents' daughters had left him quite a lot in her will. However his adoptive mother didn't mention him at all in her will. I wonder if he was actually adopted into his natural father's family, being the result of an extra-marital relationship?
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  3. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Be very careful what you put in the letter. Most people are easily offended by any hint of illegitimacy.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  4. Puddles

    Puddles LostCousins Member

    I totally agree Peter. I was thinking about keeping it very short, reassuring the person I am writing to that I am not after any financial gain but am trying to solve a family history research mystery ... which might pique a bit of interest. Maybe then say that Violet's executor was James S (and that I think he is James's direct descendant) and asking if he knows anything about Violet / James and how Violet and James may be connected. I won't even say that the will states James was her son.

    Violet's Grandson (who never met her) said Violet had very little to do with anyone else in the family after her first husband died, except for one sister. Her family didn't keep in touch with her - not even her own daughters who refused to speak about her - and whom she appears to have abandoned either after her first husband died or after her second marriage. The Grandson said his Mum remained bitter towards her own mother all her life so James may be an illegitimate son or perhaps Violet regarded James's wife as a more of a daughter than her own children (who I think went to Australia as soon as they were able to).

    I have found that James's wife was living in the same street (but not the same house) as Violet in 1939 which may have a bearing but I still can't find a blood connection between Violet, James or James's wife. I have ordered a pdf of James's birth registration but don't really expect to find much more from that - unless his Mum was Violet or the sister who stayed in touch. Luckily that sister has an unusual forename. The information on the registration may be false or it maybe a dead end but at least I will have tried that avenue.

    I've had a quick look at James's wife's parents but nothing looks familiar and they are not uncommon names. I will have a go at tracing back a further generation or two but I don't have a lot of hope of finding anything.

    My real problem is that 1918 is too recent for much information to be available but without someone who knows something and is willing to talk it's all a bit murky.
  5. Puddles

    Puddles LostCousins Member

    And yet I have never researched a family where there wasn't illegitimacy :) But I agree that people are very touchy about it even today.

    One of my female forebears took the father of her illegitimate child to court for maintenance and the father did not contest her claims. That must have taken some courage back in 1857 - but perhaps the father had a lot more to lose if details came to light.

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