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8 Tips to Help You Find Family Members
Our family tree can be filled with interesting characters, brave ancestors, and loving relatives. But what about when one of the branches falls into obscurity? Long lost relatives can hold the key to a treasure trove of cherished family memories, but only if you can establish contact. Luckily, the information age offers a variety of ways to reconnect with the family you’re searching for.
How to Find a Long Lost Relative
1. Public Records
In many states birth records are public and you can use online search engines to find birth certificates for relatives you want to locate. In some areas there are certain restrictions to be aware of when searching birth records. Some states have completely open records, others restrict certain elements like medical information, and others require a number of years to pass before the record is opened.
While it casts a bit of a wide net, googling the name of your long lost relative can help you find any traces of their online presence. News articles, social media accounts, profiles on company directories; it isn’t the most efficient tactic, but Google can give you a good foundation for your search. This can also be a good option later on once you have more details. Narrowing your search with locations, and known addresses can be especially helpful, particularly if you want to locate relatives with more common names.
3. Genealogy Websites
One industry that’s been growing in recent years is genealogical research companies. These for-profit organizations have access to billions of historical records, searching through them to help connect customers with their ancestors. Genealogical websites can help you narrow down where in the family tree your lost relative is, making finding them a much easier task. Once you know what side of the family they are located on, you can contact relatives that are not estranged and get essential details to aid your search. This may offer information not found on other websites, like:
- Local restaurants and bars they like to frequent
- Churches they regularly attend
- Sport teams they follow and possible venues they go to
Overall, your best shot at finding a lost relative may be to draw on the wisdom and knowledge of the relatives already in your life. Don’t be afraid to approach family members with your questions, and who knows, they may join you in your quest!
4. Talking to Family
A great free resource many don’t consider is to talk to close family members about the lost relative you want to find. Family will likely have some information about an estranged relative and can help point you in the right direction to expand your search. Talk to those most closely related to the relative you seek; the closer you can get in your family tree, the better.
5. DNA Kits
Usually when you use a genealogical research company, they offer an option for a more indepth search using a DNA kit. This allows you to send in a sample of your DNA (which in most cases requires your saliva) which they will analyze. After their analysis is concluded you will receive a report containing numerous valuable family details, including an estimate of your genetic ethnicity and potential relatives from hundreds of regions around the world.
6. Social Media:
With millions of active users across a variety of platforms, social media is a great way to connect with co-workers, friends, and even long lost relatives. Facebook has several features that can help you locate an individual, like:
- Location Information
- Facebook Groups
- Occupation Information
Finding a relative's social media profile can not only narrow down the areas you should search in, people you should talk to, or businesses you should visit, but there's always a chance you’ll be able to contact them directly. If possible, send them a direct message through whatever site you locate them on and see if they respond. If they do, maybe they would be open to meeting up!
7. Hire a Private Investigator
Private investigators specialize in tracking down specific individuals; while it can cost you a bit more money than many other options, getting a professional on the job can yield quick results. Private investigators have access to higher-level databases and an array of tools that can make finding a lost relative much easier. If you have the budget for it, it's definitely an excellent service to consider. Be warned though, this may be a bit intrusive. If you believe a family member doesn’t want to be found and you use this method, you may create a situation where they don’t want to meet you at all.
8. Background Check
For a less expensive but still comprehensive method of finding an individual, you could conduct a background check. These tools will give you a full report on a person including information like:
- Current and Past Addresses
- Phone Number
- Full Legal Name
- Known Associates
- Criminal Record
These searches will require a bit of information about the person depending on what tool you use. Once you’ve entered your info, background check services will comb through thousands of databases to pull relevant details about your lost relative. They likely won’t receive a notification about the search either, so if you end up not wanting to connect after finding out more that isn’t a problem.
Finding a Lost Relative Can Be a Difficult but Rewarding Process
Once you’ve learned how to find a long lost relative, it can be daunting to start the actual journey to locating them. Sometimes you find information during your search that makes you not want to find them at all, or you simply can’t get enough details to get anywhere close to locating them. Despite the ups and downs that come with looking for an estranged member of your extended family, the process is usually well worth it. Long lost relatives can add a lot of value to your life, giving you insight into your family’s history, connecting broken branches of your family tree, and even connecting you with loved ones you never knew you had.