Heir Hunters exposes family secret hidden for 60 years

The extended family of James Forrest are brought together by the TV show Heir Hunters including half siblings  Maureen Armstrong (second, right), Ian Cunningham (third, right) and Christine Robertson (centre)
The extended family of James Forrest are brought together by the TV show Heir Hunters including half siblings Maureen Armstrong (second, right), Ian Cunningham (third, right) and Christine Robertson (centre)

A routine search for heirs after a man died in Craigneuk care home leaving no will and no known next of kin led to an extraordinary family reunion.

Three half siblings, one from Birmingham, one from Scotland and one from Australia, were reunited thanks to research conducted by professional probate genealogists.

This emotional story started with the death of James Forrest in July 2014 at Beechwood Care Home.

Finders International began researching the family tree of Mr Forrest, who hadn’t maried or had any children. After discovering he was an only child they looked into the maternal and paternal families.

Mr Forrest’s father had six siblings, who had four children between them, one of whom was Christina Moffat.

Christina had married and had one child, Christine Robertson, who was brought up by her father in Scotland, having been told at the age of 14 her mother had passed away when she was young.

In fact, her mother lived for another 26 years and married for a second time in Birmingham, producing three more children.

One of these children, Maureen Armstrong, had no knowledge of Christine or her mother’s previous marriage.

Then a further revelation then came to light, as before between marriages Christina met a Robert Cunningham and had two children with him.

Their relationship broke and their youngest was put up for adoption, while the elder, Ian Cunningham, was sent to Australia at the age of five as part of the Child Migrants Programme.

Later in life Ian heard about The Child Migrants’ Trust, set up to try and reunite people, and in 2004 they were able to locate Maureen.

Ian had previously flown to Birmingham to meet Maureen, and then last year, Ian and Maureen both met their half sister, Christine, for the first time.

Maureen Armstrong, said: “Christine and Ian are lovely, it’s so strange that my siblings and I never even knew about them.

“At the same time though it’s been upsetting to think what my mum must have gone through to give up her children. Especially because I knew her, we lived with her until the end.”

In total Finders International found 35 heirs to Mr Forrest’s estate.

The story will be broadcast on Monday as part of BBC One’s new series of Heir Hunters.