There are a few reasons for needing to track down a long-lost family member. Weddings, reunions, or finding out information about a distant leg of the family are all valid.
Phoning another family member to get the details is one way, but getting stuck on a call that could last hours isn’t a productive use of time.
The internet provides a convenient way to search for people online quickly and conveniently. Here are some ways to do it.
Before getting started with the online search, gather as much information as possible about the missing relative.
The internet has options where you can do searches based on all sorts of information.
Nothing about the person is irrelevant. Middle names, maiden names, places of work, property, motor vehicles, unusual hobbies or collections, and any known associates make excellent starting points.
For example: “Mildred Pearce” could return millions of results. On the other hand, “Mildred Ruby Pearce, nee Frazer, 1920s Beatrix Potter tea set” could find the right person in seconds.
If fewer details are known, then the search needs to be broadened.
Social media apps, especially Facebook, are perfect ways of keeping families connected. To make it easier, a person can list family members separately from friends.
To look for family members, go to a relative’s page, click on about, and scroll down past basic info and other names. Family members, if listed, will appear. If check-ins are the next heading, then no data is being reflected.
Use this as a springboard to go to other relatives’ sites until the one being looked for appears. Be patient; getting to one with a direct connection may take many pages.
Finding a sibling or direct relative, a parent, or a child is key. The chance of them having a page to link to is much stronger.
If this relative’s line of work is known, a business-oriented site like LinkedIn can help.
Search for the name of the person and the industry. You can filter the search by location and job titles (if known).
Alternatively, perform a candidate search. For example, typing in a job position in a city and a database of people matching those criteria may produce the desired result.
LinkedIn works on the principle of connections. A person can get the contact details of another if introduced by a mutual acquaintance.
Family Tree Sites
Several sites are built around family trees that can be added to by other family members. If the relative being looked for comes from a distant family branch, a site like this is an excellent starting point.
Boasting the most extensive collection of online family tree history, Ancestry.com claims to go back generations.
Ancestry.com also has a DNA feature where a DNA sample gets supplied, and the site links any matches.
One downside is that Ancestry.com costs to do more than a basic family search. There are free alternatives.
Unlike Ancestry.com, FamilySearch is an international nonprofit organization providing completely free family trees.
Online help is available 24/7, 365 days a year, via the online community.
Depending on the location of the family, other sites with a more extensive database in those regions could help. For example:
- FindMyPast: has a large UK database
- MyHeritage: has extensive European family trees
If social media, business, and family tree sites bring up no results, the search doesn’t need to end there.
Use whatever information is available to search deeper. For example, search sites like FreePeopleSearch.com scan the internet for information based on marriage and other civil records. It can even go deeper and look for assets lists, court records, or other legal documents.
A search can take around a minute, and the user may get prompted for more information during the process.
Long-Lost No More
A missing relative that hasn’t been contactable in years is, in theory, only an internet search away.
Based on the information available on the person, start with Facebook. However, if it’s only business data known, LinkedIn is an excellent choice.
Family tree sites go back generations and stretch broadly. Choose one based on the location of the long-lost relative.
Websites are dedicated to searching for people based on all criteria. It’s a task that requires a great deal of patience and out-of-the-box thinking, but persistence often pays off.