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Service reconnects Irish living people abroad with family

Irish people living abroad, who have lost touch with their families, can get help finding their relatives thanks to a new service called Erin’s Call.

The project was inspired by the case of Irish man John Joseph Gill, whose death in England in 2022 prompted a search for his family.

The 86-year-old had been living in various nursing homes and had lost touch with his family but a call from Birmingham City Council led to the discovery of some of Mr Gill’s family.

The man who helped track down his relatives, CEO of Erin’s Call Padraic Grennan, said the case gained public prominence at the time.

Mr Grennan said he noticed that despite appeals by Birmingham City Council at the time, no next-of-kin seemed to be coming forward to claim Mr Gill’s remains, prompting Erin’s Call to get involved.

He said the information the council had was incorrect, his county of birth was wrong and date of birth was out by one day.

Through a “process of elimination”, Erin’s Call was able to find who the correct Mr Gill was and the correct birth certificate, and pieced the puzzle together to find his relations.

He said Erin’s Call operates a professional, albeit free, service rather than being genealogy enthusiasts, mainly with solicitors who are administering estates, for example with someone named in a will who they cannot find or somebody with no known next-of-kin.

It then pieces together a family tree and gives a report to lawyers who can then distribute the estate.

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Mr Grennan said with his backgound in Safe Home Ireland, an organisation dedicated to supporting the disapora who are looking to return home, it was felt Erin’s Call could be of “real benefit” to the disapora who lack the links or means to either find their family or make their way back home in the latter stages of their life.

He said the organisation hopes to link in with the Irish emigrant support services in Ireland and overseas to raise awareness that the free service exists.

He stressed that Erin’s Call “respects everybody’s privacy” in cases in which someone “may not want to be found”.

“When or if we find that individual, obviously we would explain why we’re making contact and ask them if they’re happy for us then to provide that person’s contact details to our client.

“But our clients are made aware at the outset. If it’s a no-no that’s the end of the process as far as we’re concerned – we don’t pass over the information.”

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