Genealogists discover Massachusetts strangers are rightful heirs to $1.5 million estate in Ireland
Heirs of Mary Broderick receive stake of her estate, and new knowledge of nearby cousins
When the hunt began for the late Mary Broderick’s nearest relatives, no one imagined that genealogists would find clusters of cousins, who never knew each other, living within miles of each other in Massachusetts.
Boston.com reports on the amazing story that saw the heirs of Mary Broderick claim their rightful stake of her $1.5 million estate she left behind with no will in Galway.
Patricia Fontaine, of West Roxbury, MA was doubly stunned by the news of her unknown cousins and of the inheritance they’d be receiving.
“When we came to find out that I actually have cousins who live in Newton and I live in West Roxbury — I thought it was amazing, the whole thing,” she said in a recent interview.
“The money is one thing, but to trace our family tree, to find out who was here, it was amazing.”
The meeting of the cousins who were otherwise strangers was filmed by an Irish documentary program ‘Dead Money,’ which debuted on RTE last year. The series, which was nominated for an IFTA, follows genealogist brothers Kit and Steven Smyrl in their search for heirs to unclaimed estates in Ireland.
In their search for Mary Broderick’s rightful heirs, they looked to Michael Brophy, a genealogist who specializes in Irish-American ancestry and is based in Massachusetts. Brophy began his own Brophy Professional Genealogy and Heir Tracing in 2004, not soon before getting laid off from his job as a medical salesman.
Mary Broderick, born Mary Shaughnessy, married late in life and had no children or siblings. She moved to her husband’s farm in Galway, where she lived well after her husband’s death.
In 2008, at 78, Broderick died, leaving no will for her estate valued at $1.5 million. Under Irish law, her estate would be inherited by the closest living relatives. In this case, Broderick’s estate would go to her first cousins or their children.
Tracing Broderick’s heirs on her mother’s side was easy, but on the father’s side, not so much. Broderick’s paternal grandparents had 10 children, but in post-famine, late 19th-century Ireland, most of the them had to emigrate to find work.
Six of the Shaughnessy children (who would be Broderick’s aunts and uncles) left Galway for Massachusetts, many of them finding work in an iron foundry in Waltham. William Shaughnessy, Broderick’s father, stayed in Galway, along with three other siblings.
Only three of the Shaughnessy siblings still had living descendants and were entitled to receive a stake of the inheritance - Henry and Edward Shaughnessy and Elizabeth Minihan. They were the three among the six siblings who had emigrated to the US.
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