How do I Find a Long Lost Family Member?

Researching descendants is a good way to start if you’re looking for a long-lost family member or loved one. When you find an ancestor, check who their descendants are. Identify all their offspring until the present day. Keep at it until you get to someone who might be your family member. Talk to existing relatives, adoptive parents, and institutions. Adoption documents might help. Use obituaries, online directories, and ancestry trees in your search for people online. This might reveal previously unknown family lines. A background check service can prove indispensable in the process.

Contact Living Relatives

Even the vaguest information from existing relatives can help further your search. If you’re having problems, get in touch with a professional researcher. Using a special service to take a DNA test is a good way to locate biological family members. This will work if your long-lost family member also took a test and you get a match in the database. If they haven’t, you obviously won’t get very far. Still, there is hope. Another relative may have taken the test. Services that offer DNA testing have reunited siblings as well as children with parents.

Gather Information

Collecting as much information as you can about the family member is a critical step. Write down anything you know, such as their place and date of birth, hobbies or favorite pastimes, or a company they once worked for. Even things like likes and dislikes can help. Don’t put the search off once you’ve taken this step.

Genealogy Sites and Search Engines

Online genealogy services like Ancestry and Family Search can help you discover a lost family member or even reveal you had one you never knew about. Smaller search engines like Bing and Yahoo should not be overlooked. Use Google as well to maximize your chances of success. Type in anything you know about the lost relative, like their city, state, age, or occupation. The University of Buffalo has a very useful list of the best search engines for people.

Keep trying, and don’t give up until you get results. Searching for a long-lost family member or friend can be exhausting and frustrating. You might not find anything on your second or even third and fourth try. If you get tired, take a break and try again a few days later.

Social Media

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other media can help you track someone down based on their hometown, through friends or relatives, high school, current location, or workplace. check facebook groups of people from colleges, religious organizations, or high schools.

Access Public Records

All you need is the person’s name to search public records for information. You’ll find a bit of additional information in the process. The more information you have, the more you’ll find. You just need to get the ball rolling. If you have a hometown, you might get a current address. There are lots of things you can look for: divorces, name changes, deaths, even a criminal record.

To access public records, contact the National Center for Health Statistics, which is the main US health statistics service. Alternatively, you might find your state’s health statistics service has those types of records.

Networking Sites

Check out niche sites for businesspersons, friends, relatives, and other groups. You never know what might pop up. You must have some idea about the kind of person they are and the sort of place they could be at. Batchmate is a good example of a niche site for networking with members from across the globe. You can search for people by name, city, state, company, and more. If you find someone who you think could be your family member, the site will let you send them a free message.

Words of Warning

You might find your lost family member only to discover they didn’t want to be contacted. If you take a DNA test and get a match, it won’t necessarily give you closure. There really are plenty of things to consider when you think you’re ready to find a lost family member. You might have a disappointing or even painful experience.

Any message you send to someone who might be a family member will come as a surprise, perhaps even a shock to them. Last but not least, check for replies on a regular basis when you message people. Don’t rely on the recipients checking their inbox constantly like you are.


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