Tracking down a lost relative used to require a large investment of your time and effort. But now, thanks to the internet almost anyone with some spare time and a computer can track down their long lost relatives for free or next to nothing.
Start by trying to gather as much information as possible on your lost relative’s demographics including age, appearance, interests, previous homes and so on. These will provide you with great indicators and clues for when you start your search! Even obscure information that you may deem irrelevant at the time may turn out to be incredibly useful later on.
Here are some of the best ways to get in contact, which you can use separately or collectively depending on your time, resources and how deep you are willing to go!
Talk To Your Known Relatives
You should talk to your other relatives to retrieve as much information as you can to aid you in your search. This will help you get a sense of your family’s history and any underlying tension that may have lead to the loss of contact. You also may find out where your lost relative might have moved to and why.
Beware of any family feuds you could possibly bring up, and you should approach sensitive subjects politely and with caution to avoid upsetting anyone. Loss of contact of a relative in many cases stems from a family dispute, so you may be in line for some potentially awkward phone calls or find that people just don’t want to tell you what they know!
There are a host of genealogical websites that you can use for free. Online family trees and ancestry databases may be a quick and easy way to find a long lost relative, but often don’t provide all of the information you need to get in touch.
However, they are always a good starting point and can help be invaluable in helping you to determine the name of the person you’re looking for if marriage has changed it!
Social Networking Sites
Over one billion people in the world now have a Facebook account, and you can use it as a huge, free database to find your missing relative – our very own editor here in the office found his sister on Facebook! Other social networking sites you can use include LinkedIn, Twitter, and MySpace. Be aware that some people set their profiles to private however, so won’t show up in searches even if they’re on the network.
You can also just try Google to see if any results give you an insight into the person you’re looking for!
Phonebook directories are one of the most effective ways to find missing relatives. There are now a number of phonebook directories online that regularly update their information databases. As long as you have some of the necessary information to enter in the search fields such as name and age for your phone numbers search, you’ll be able to whittle down the possibilities in what may be a trial and error process.
For best results, a combination of all of these methods is undoubtedly more likely to be successful. You will also have to use your own personal imagination to piece together gaps, and judge what information will be of use.
If these methods are really not enough though you can always go deeper for a greater cost. Some of the best methods include commercial DNA tests, birth certificate search sites, talks with neighbours of the relative’s previous addresses, newspaper ads in towns where your relative may be living, or even hiring a tracing agency to do the work for you!
What other methods have you found or heard to be most effective?
Estelle Page is a mother of two and is fascinated with genealogy. She regularly writes blogs for White Pages who are one of the leading online telephone directories in the UK.
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