The quest to find a lost family member begins with first talking to your immediate family about them. Often, tales of family lore will yield new information – such as a date, an event, or a name – helping you get farther in your search. Then, you can also obtain relevant documents and expand your research. Here are some more tips you can use to help find a relative that may be missing from your family tree.
Use a People Search Site
People finders can be very useful, as long as you identify the right search term. You need to know how you’re related to the person and to the people who are most likely to know of their whereabouts.
Thanks to modern data and recordkeeping, it’s can be quite easy to find someone who’s one or two generations removed from you. If they are a more distant relative, you’ll need to do more research, but it still won’t be impossible to find information about them, as long as you put your mind to it. If a search of their name doesn’t work, try a location where they might have lived and a name variation.
Talk to Relatives and Friends
To get accurate and current information, talk to your closest family members first. Those near you can help reveal valuable information or important details of the missing person’s history. Specifically, you can talk to aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, cousins, and friends of the family who knew them or of them.
Moreover, you should ask whether this person had any nicknames, their date of birth, if and when they were married, the name of their spouse, and what they did for a living. You can also ask where they worked, as well as for any photos of them, and when their parents, siblings, or children were born. The point is that you need as much information as possible. Without it, your online search may be of little use.
If you cannot get enough facts from your closest relatives, talk to extended family members. They might have been closer to your search target.
Get It in Writing
It is a good idea to write down everything you learn and keep it in one place. Your relatives might have letters, diaries, bibles, records of immigration, birth certificates, scrapbooks, photo albums, or another source of information. Don’t neglect to look at these. A seemingly useless scrapbook might yield a valuable kernel of knowledge.
Do Your Research
Apply the information from first- and second-hand sources together with information from outside resources, such as electoral rolls, census records, and newspaper archives. The latter is typically the best place to start, particularly local papers, because they have recorded important events in our ancestors’ lives. This might include getting a job in the local government, athletic achievements, or another fact that can lead to more information.
Data within marriage records and birth records are publicly available. By all means, you should search for them on Google and Facebook.
Organize and Assess Your Findings
As a final step, you should categorize and analyze findings to help you along your journey to discovery. To find a lost relative, you should be incredibly consistent. Even if you’re not getting anywhere, don’t give up. Keep looking for new routes to explore if your ancestry research didn’t yield anything useful. Even one new piece of information can lead to others. If all else fails, you might consider the possibility that they are no longer alive. In this case, you can check local obituaries and death records.