The search for heirs to a relative’s estate revealed a flamboyant family history with links to the daredevil circus performers of the 1800s. Professional probate genealogists, Finders International, were brought in to search for potential heirs after Pamela Smithers, 89, from Sussex, died with no will and no known next of kin. Finders International soon discovered potential heirs, including Mallory, who is Pamela’s second cousin. Research confirmed that Pamela was an only child, and had no children. Pamela’s family had moved around the country a lot, so locating birth, marriage and death records proved difficult. It emerged that Pamela’s paternal grandfather, Henry Julius Newbold, was the reason for this peripatetic lifestyle. In 1880 Henry Newbold performed with the circus as a ‘Bon Bon’ – a comedic gymnast, famous for tightrope walking. In November 1881, Henry hit the headlines when he had a nasty fall and broke his leg. Henry’s father, Henry Bellini (Pamela’s great grandfather) had also been a tightrope walker but took it to the extreme. In one stunt he walked a tightrope across Niagra Falls and sadly in 1888 he tragically fell to this death in London. Pamela’s father Henry had been a wartime radio personality on ‘The Old Town Hall Variety Show’ with the stage name Clay Keys. Pamela’s aunt, Lillian Newbold had been a variety artist and her engineer son Kenneth (Pamela’s cousin) worked on the Bluebird jet propelled car that broke the world land speed record in 1964. Kenneth sadly died in an accident. One of Kenneth’s children is Mallory Henson. Mallory said: “I’d never heard of Pamela before this, although the name Clay Keys rang a bell as he was my great uncle. “It’s important for the next generation to learn about our intriguing family history and to pass it on for generations to come.” To its surprise, Finders International also discovered that Pamela had been an heir to an estate that the team had worked on only a few years before. She had died whilst the solicitors were administering that estate. Daniel Curran of Finders International said: “It’s very rare for the same family to benefit through two separate intestacies. “It was wonderful to make contact with them again to tell them about this second windfall, and uncover an exceptionally vibrant family history.” The story of Pamela Smithers is to feature in the BBC’s new Heir Hunters series on Wednesday, March 8.

Source material: MiltonKeynes