Unclaimed Persons receives cases from medical examiners, coroners or investigators. The cases are assigned to case administrators who post each case, notify researchers and oversee the research effort. Researchers use their skills to find the decedents’ next of kin (without making contact). When enough information is believed to have been found, the case administrator reviews the research, writes a report, and the report is submitted to the requesting organization. Case outcome and feedback information is later shared with the researchers once it is received from the sponsoring agency.
HOW MUCH INFORMATION ARE YOU GIVEN BY MEDICAL EXAMINERS, CORONERS AND INVESTIGATORS?
The information given varies from office to office and even from case to case. Certain information, such as cause of death, is usually not provided for legal reasons.
We have created a Request for Assistance Submission Form for medical examiners, coroners and investigators, although they are free to submit cases in other ways.
DO THE SUBMITTING AGENCIES TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THEY CONTACT THE NEXT OF KIN?
Usually, and we strongly encourage this. Most offices are kind enough to tell us the outcome of each case, although the amount of detail varies widely. We like to share what we can (without invading anyone’s privacy) because it’s very motivating to learn the results of one’s research efforts. Having said that, we do not receive feedback on every single case, which is why some remain in pending for a long time or are eventually shifted to closed status.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN IF A CASE HAS BEEN RESOLVED?
Response time varies. Sometimes the submitting agencies are overwhelmed with current case loads and take a while to update the Unclaimed Persons team. On other occasions, feedback has come within hours.
While it is not common, cases can be returned for a second attempt. It may be that the contact information provided has not panned out, or that the relatives contacted have expressed no interest or have provided information for closer next of kin. This is why we stress the importance of being as certain as possible as we can of all details provided, and trying our best to submit information for several relatives and associates of the deceased to the submitting agency. This way, if one family member does not work out, another may.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE NEXT OF KIN IS CONTACTED?
There is no pat answer because it varies from county to county. In many cases, the deceased will have already been cremated and/or buried. In others, the next of kin will have the option to make those decisions. If the deceased has already been cremated/buried, the family members usually have the option to disinter, but there are some counties that scatter ashes at sea or use other such procedures that may prevent this. It should also be mentioned that many counties will make the appropriate arrangements if they are able to determine that the deceased was a Veteran, and have them interred in National Cemeteries.
DO YOU WORK WITH INTERNATIONAL CASES?
We currently handle only USA cases (although several of our cases have involved foreign-born individuals). We are not pursuing international cases at this time beyond the scope of what information is needed to work our current cases.