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You may already be a millionaire

 

IF TERRY HOWES CALLS you up, you're going to get some money. If you call Terry Howes up, you're going to get a story.

Terry Howes founded Locator (sic) of Missing Heirs Inc. 11 years ago. He has repeatedly lived the fantasy of tracking down small and large sums of money owing to others and informing them of it. He normally asks a fee of 30 per cent.

"You must have done well," we offered. "I'm not missing any meals," the youthful 64-year-old replied.

His family cottage industry requires equal parts sleuthing skills, knowledge of financial institutions, corporate law and psychology.

The story angles are plentiful.

Part of the psychology is applied to convincing people he's on the level. He's failed in this several times. Convinced it's a scam, some have simply refused to communicate back.

There are those who understand the money's there but who don't want it. "It's not that uncommon," Howes said. "I attribute that to their getting on in years and they have all they need and they know they will just be making trouble in the family to have more money."

He's seen family members who were quite close before a death at each other's throats when it comes to dividing the estate.

Howes was in mining most of his life. He got into his hobby business—he does it mainly "for the sheer fun of it"—when the price of gold went to $800 an ounce in the early 80s. Suddenly old gold mines were worth something, which meant that the old stocks in those mines were suddenly also worth something ... often a great deal.

In one case, featured on the U.S. TV program Unsolved Mysteries, Howes identified a prospector who disappeared in the bush in 1935 owning gold mine stocks worth one million of those 1935 dollars. That mine is going back into production. The value of the stocks is $10-million in today's dollars. But no heirs have yet been found.

From locating the heirs of the original owners of mining stocks Howes went on to track down missing shareholders of every company listed with the Toronto Stock Exchange. "To the companies these stocks are just notations in a computer," he told us. To the heirs they're a sometimes major pleasant surprise.

Howes has favourite researchers. He cannot take the time to track down all the leads of all the cases he has going at any given time.

The day we talked with him one of his researchers, Janice Woods, had succeeded in a typical case. A Maybelle Maclntyre had died in the United States in 1899, leaving a pile of money. Initial letters to potential heirs went unanswered. Sometimes Howes will send a press release to papers in an area where he's fishing. "Small weeklies almost invariable run my releases; larger papers seldom do," he reports. "I'll use whatever resources are available."

Janice dug into faded census rolls. Work ground on. A trace of Maybelle at age one year was found. This led to identifying her siblings, four girls and a boy, John D. A 1928 directory of PEI showed a John D. Maclntyre, farmer. "We got on the phone to farmers in that area last Saturday. They remembered 'Old John D' and that he had a great grand-daughter. She turned out to have a sister living near Boston who had a Christmas card list of cousins.

In the end Howes and his colleagues tracked down 12 of Maybelle's heirs who will share $190,000.

And how do you track down Terry Howes? Normally we provide L-page numbers in the Publisher's Newsletter. In this case we think it appropriate to suggest you sleuth the Subject Index.

 

Published in SOURCES Summer 1993

 



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