Genealogists Uncover 10 Heirs of Famed Chicago Street Photographer Vivian Maier

Not all genealogists are researching their own family trees. Some are “heir searchers:” those who attempt to find missing or unknown heirs, entitled to deceased people’s estates before the tax authorities lawfully seize the money. One recent article describes the search for heirs of the celebrated Chicago street photographer, Vivian Maier. The challenge was to find any viable heirs to come forward to claim a piece of the former nanny’s lucrative estate.

Now, after an exhaustive genealogical investigation, lawyers representing potential heirs have filed a lengthy report in Cook County (Illinois) Probate Court that, for the first time, puts the entire Maier family tree into focus.

Details may be found in an article by Jason Meisner in the Chicago Tribune web site at:


“Maier’s case was extremely unusual because she not only didn’t have any children but also had no known nieces, nephews or other close relatives.”

Not unusual at all. In fact, probably closer to a majority of unknown heir cases.


This is reminiscent of The Howland Heirs by William Morrell Emery published in 1919 about the extended family of Hetty H.R. Green. Beyond a fascinating read about The Witch of Wall Street and her relations, the book is an invaluable source of information on her close and distant relatives for many genealogists. The work going into the development of her heirs is also worth studying.


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