The Nova Scotia government is sitting on close to $4 million from dozens of estates, but can’t find their long-lost heirs.

George Alexander Getley was a widower with no children and no living siblings, nieces or nephews when he died in 1995 at the age of 86. He left no will.

What he did leave behind was more than a million dollars.

It was left to Nova Scotia's public trustee to search for heirs.

Court records show the public trustee tracked some of Getley’s cousins to England. The officer hired a genealogist, tracked down addresses and even put ads in British papers.

Bessie Goodwin

Related to Bessie Goodwin? You could inherit $35,540.07. (CBC)

One relative was found but five other first cousins, also entitled to money, still haven’t been located.

The Getley account is one of more than 250 estates in Nova Scotia with missing heirs the public trustee or executors have turned over to the department of finance.

“Sometimes I've searched for a year and a half or two for someone, hoping I could find someone, because I was lucky enough to keep getting clues,” trustee Estelle Theriault said.

In some cases the public trustee hasn't been able to find heirs. In other cases they're executors or administrators of estates who have not been able to find a particular heir and turn the money over to the province to be held in a trust.​

There's about $4 million in all waiting to be claimed by long-lost family.

The public trustee's office scans Christmas cards, searches email and old directories, scours birth certificates and talks to friends and neighbours looking for family members.

“Every time you find another clue, your hopes go up that you may have found someone. You get a leap of energy, adrenalin,” said Theriault.

“It’s very much a puzzle as you work through it."

She says in most cases the work succeeds; the missing heirs are found and receive their share of the estate.