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Irish estate seeks heir in New Jersey

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

Somewhere in New Jersey, a blood relative of an Irish immigrant may have come into part of a small fortune. And he doesn’t even know about it.

In 1998, New York attorney Peter Redmond was asked to probate the will of Mary Austin, the daughter of Irish immigrants who arrived in New York at the beginning of the century. Austin had left almost $500,000 to the family of friends with whom she had lived, and who she considered family.

But Redmond still legally had to search for blood relatives who may have been eligible to take part in the probate proceedings about the inheritance. And so started a genealogical hunt that took Redmond from New York to a small island of the Kerry coast and back to New Jersey.

During his initial search, Redmond discovered Austin was formerly Mary O’Connell, whose roots were in Beginish Island.

"It seems that three different strains of O’Connells, at least distantly related, lived in close proximity on an island. And there were only four families living there," he said.

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Visiting the registrar’s office at Joyce House in Dublin, Redmond discovered Austin’s mother, Bridget O’Connell, named in a 1901 census as living in Kerry. Redmond has already tracked several relatives to Dublin. But with 11 children in Bridget’s family, relatives of the O’Connells may have settled in New Jersey or another part of the East Coast, Redmond said.

Austin’s uncle, Jeremiah O’Connell may have settled in Massachusetts. And his son Lawrence, or one of Jeremiah’s two daughters — or at least their children — could be living in New Jersey or in Massachusetts, Redmond said.

"Lawrence may not be alive, but he may have had children," he said.

Already the lawyer has had 40 to 50 calls from Ireland and England with people who think they may be related to the Beginish family. He has already tracked down eight blood relatives, one of whom was living in Japan.

"They are all people who have an O’Connell name in their background," Redmond said.

Redmond said he could not say whether these people will be eligible for any of the money but they may be eligible to appeal the proceedings.

Anyone with information about Austin’s relatives should write Peter Redmond, PC, 213-05 39th Ave., Bayside, NY 11361-2044 or call him at (718) 225-1710.

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