It happened again.
As many of you know, I help out on the Unclaimed Persons Facebook Group. We are given cases from coroners where they cannot find the next of kin for persons who have died. Usually these cases are a few months to a few years old. We all spend hours on these cases for free in order to help these "lost souls" be reunited with their family.
It is the Coroner's job to make a "good faith effort" to find the family. When that fails, they turn the case over to us as we have a different skill set.
According to the youtube video introducing the problem, a death investigator will go through the deceased's dwelling, mail, personal property, computer to look for names and relatives, and get a copy of his phone records. They will then call the people they've been calling to see if they're related. They talk to neighbors, mailmen, and call area hospitals. If the coroner has to go through a court process to get that person buried, they sometimes sit in the morgue for two, sometimes three months.
We just got a new case where the person died on 27 Aug 2008. That was Wednesday, less than a week ago. Thursday and Friday were the only working days that they had to go through the deceased's things. I doubt they could get the phone records that fast.
I feel as if my fellow genealogists and I are being taken advantage of. This is the third time it's happened. The first time it happened, I raised the issue, but was told that "It'd be nice to reunite the deceased with his family sooner rather than later."
I hear that the Coroner's offices are understaffed and have a lot of cases. I think that we should not help until a month has passed. They should not rely on us immediately. If they cannot handle this, they need to take issue with the persons in charge or the taxpayers and lobby for more staff. This problem is not going to go away and they're going to turn off kind volunteers like myself who will spend hours coming through newspaper articles and ancestry.com looking for the next of kin.
I like helping out and I think we do a great service, but I want us to be the last option, not the first. It makes me feel as if our generosity is being taken advantage of and I don't like that.