Heir hunters: Philip Turvey, Executive Director at Anglia Research, speaks about the importance of ethical practice and transparency in the highly unregulated probate genealogy industry

Heir hunters: Philip Turvey

Anglia Research prides on self-regulation to ensure assets and wealth of the deceased are distributed fairly 

The investigative side of the probate genealogy sector has always been an interest for me, Philip Turvey tells me. I still, to this day, get a huge rush of adrenaline when I’m trying to crack a case and find a snippet of information which helps trace someone or identifies a particular family member. 

Anglia Research was founded in 1979 by Philip’s father, Peter Turvey, who was adopted at a young age. Peter was raised in Lancashire by his biological mother and adoptive father. He longed to meet his biological father but had no records of him or resources to begin his search. He later moved to the Ipswich area, where he began his hunt and coincidentally, found that his biological family was also based in that area. He then realised there was a need to help other people located their long-lost relatives ‘ and the idea for Anglia Research was born. Anglia Research is a large, well-established probate genealogy company, providing genealogy services for solicitors and several charities including adoption tracing services, asset reunification and probate genealogy. More commonly known as heir hunting, Anglia Research specialises in the practice of professionals tracing next of kin when a person dies without a will. According to Which?, 54% of UK adults don’t have a will and could die intestate, complicating the distribution of their wealth. Probate genealogists are responsible for allocating the correct beneficiaries and distributing the deceased’s assets accordingly. 

Under Philip’s leadership, Anglia Research has now expanded its team to recruit more accredited genealogists, as well as legally qualified and independently regulated staff allowing the firm to extend its services to meet the needs of the masses. Philip has expressed joy in sharing his father’s passion for family tracing, and how his work has made a positive impact on people’s lives.There is also a huge amount of satisfaction from cracking a case and giving a rightful beneficiary a potentially life-changing sum of money, Philip said. I remember one particular case of a lady who was the sole beneficiary of her aunt’s estate. She received a substantial sum from the inheritance and contacted me again after the process was finishing to tell me what she had done with the money. She wanted to thank us for how much the money and our work had improved her family’s life. Her husband had been very ill and using the money she took him abroad for specialist treatment. They had also been able to buy a holiday home abroad to use for the winter months. There are few industries where you can make such a direct, positive impact on people’s lives. 

Probate genealogy is one of the most unregulated industries. With no overarching regulatory body, some genealogy companies resort to adopting unethical practices and drive high prices for their services. Philip has expressed the importance of effective self-regulation ‘ but unfortunately, not all probate genealogists rise to the responsibility. Anglia Research prides itself on transparency and ethical practice as its two core values, building its reputation as a respected and trusted firm in the sector. There was no automatic expectation that the business would be a great success, Philip explained. Instead, we hoped that hard work, perseverance, and ethical practice would pay off in the long run. The latter point is particularly significant when operating in a sector as unregulated as the probate genealogy sector. Without an overarching regulatory body, inexperienced heir hunters sometimes look to scam beneficiaries, resulting in years of legal battles. We saw this issue and quickly established transparency and ethical practice as two of our core values, and have continued to uphold those principles over forty years since our founding. 

However, Anglia Research faced several disruptions during the initial stages of the pandemic earlier in March last year. The majority of their work involves physically sorting through documents, and because of lockdown, they had to shut down offices and were unable to access files. After some time, they were able to streamline their record collection methods and adapt to the climate. Like most businesses, our work was disrupted in the initial stages of the pandemic in March, Philip explained. Our bread and butter is probate genealogy which often involves sifting through a mass of historical records, drawing up the deceased’s family tree, and identifying the next-of-kin. Studying physical records is an area of the sector that we are experts in, and the stay-at-home order together with the closure of repositories limited our ability to source as many documents as we usually have access to in the office. However, we have learnt to adapt throughout the past 12-months. As the pandemic has worn on, we’ve been able to streamline our record collection methods to ensure that we access all the documents we need to conduct a thorough genealogical investigation. 

Speaking about the future of Anglia Research, Philip added: Our main aim is to continue to grow as we emerge from the pandemic. We are proud to have more accredited genealogists than any other UK company and, before COVID-19, we had begun to expand our services overseas through partnerships and offices abroad. We now have a presence in Jamaica, Canada, Australia, and the US, and we’ll be looking to improve our global offering to our clients in the near future.

Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

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