Aleksander Olesen was known as a bit of a loner; a man who kept himself to himself and who seemed in no hurry to make many friends in the Californian town where he lived.

Those few people with whom he did pass the time of day knew little or nothing about Aleksander’s family. They could guess from his accent that he had grown up somewhere in northern Europe and they knew from his occasional stories that he had travelled the world, but that was about all the light they could throw on the life of this softly spoken bachelor.

When he died Aleksander left an estate worth more than $120,000, but no will. In was at this point that international probate researchers Fraser and Fraser were called in see if they could discover any heirs who might be entitled to a share of the proceedings.

Our international team discovered that Aleksander had been born in 1924 in Nysted on the Danish coast, 150km south of Copenhagen.

The only boy among seven siblings, he was drawn to the sea from an early age, preferring to go exploring on small boats than spending time at home with his sisters.

In his mid-teens he took a job as a merchant seaman, sailing on both British and Norwegian ships during the Second World War. It was dangerous work and many Danish sailors never returned home when hostilities ended in 1945. Among them was Aleksander. His family made enquiries as far as they could, but shipping records for the period were confusing or incomplete and they had to accept that their son and brother had been lost at sea.

Of course, that wasn’t the case, and Aleksander had in fact begun a new life in America.

And, 70 years after he had seemingly vanished without trace, he had a large extended family back in Denmark. Indeed, Fraser and Fraser’s researchers discovered that not only were two of his sisters still alive, but that he had nine nieces and nephews, with a total of 19 family members entitled to a share of his estate.

This was a complicated case that spanned two continents and a lengthy time period, made more complicated by spelling mistakes on certificates and Danish parish records that switched frustratingly between maiden and married names. The biggest challenge, however, was convincing Aleksander’s sisters that their long-lost brother had been alive for all those years without once getting in touch.

Had it not been for Fraser and Fraser’s dedicated team and international expertise, these heirs might never have been found. With offices in seven countries and working relationships with numerous other leading genealogists worldwide, the firm is recognised as a leader in international probate research, in addition to our UK-based work.

Our extensive and varied experience means that irrespective of who you are looking for or where they might be, we can provide a solution.

If you are having trouble locating next-of-kin, then get in touch and we will be happy to help. Contact us at or call 020 7832 1400.

Names, dates and places in this article have been changed to preserve client confidentiality.