Trying to establish your family’s history is an experience filled with joy, investigation, laughter, and at times, frustration. You want to build your family line, learn of the past, and uncover the secrets that established your roots. For some, the history is clear and transparent. For others, it seems dead ends continue to pop up, regardless of how hard you try. Before giving up completely, try these helpful tricks to finding your long-lost relative online.
Uncover who you’re genuinely looking for
While you may have lovingly referred to someone as Auntie Tia, the rest of the world likely knows your aunt as her formal name. Whenever possible, make sure to confirm their name (including spelling), city of suspected residence, and any other family connections. These family connections can include siblings, children, parents, or close friends. The idea is to build as many identification pieces as you can to find them successfully.
Use a Background Check Website
Although the websites aren’t necessarily free, they can connect you to the personal information you wouldn’t find through Google or social media. Performing a background check starts with a basic people search, often using a first and last name. If you know additional information about the general location or contact details, please enter it into the site. Not only will the background check offer you personal verification of their details, but it will also provide you with a list of close and distant relatives, personal addresses and phone numbers, and any social media accounts online.
Talk to close friends or family members.
Although they may not know where to find your family member, they may know essential details. Try to gather things like full name, nicknames, date of birth, occupations, and any known photos of the estranged family member. The more information you have to search with, the higher the probability will be for success.
Access information through search engines
While finding specific people using search engines isn’t easy, it may offer pieces of information you were unaware of before searching. Consider looking through newspapers, census records, marriage records, birth records, or obituaries. If you believe the individual has passed away, you may need to look through newspaper archives to find information.
Search Through Social Media Websites
Should the person you’re looking for be living, social media platforms can provide a host of information relating to your long-lost relative. Make sure to check popular social media platforms popular with their age group. Universal social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are relatively simple to search without financial investment. Alternatively, you could post a photo and any information about the individual on the platform and ask for help finding her. Many viral photos have connected people to their loved ones, birth families, or childhood friends.
Contact Their Close Relatives
Children, siblings, and parents may help connect you with the long-lost family member you’re trying to find. If possible, search online and social media accounts for close contacts if their information isn’t bringing up any results. Always remain courteous and respectful to any family member you contact, as they likely don’t know who you are if it’s been a while.
It’s always a good idea to start with a personal introduction, including any connection to the family they may share. Before asking about the long-lost family member, try to determine their openness to hearing from you. In the event of a birth parent, many children may not know you exist and may struggle with that disclosure.
Follow Up with Results from your Search
While all three of these methods can help you connect with a long-lost family member, the information is only as detailed as the person’s digital footprint. Follow up any data you uncover diligently, whether that means messaging likely results online or contacting the lead by telephone. Avoid making in-person visits until the individual has an opportunity to connect with you.
Having someone show up at your door unannounced, demanding to confirm their identity, isn’t a positive experience for anyone involved. Likewise, it’s important to determine whether the family member in question wants to be “found.” Some family members estrange themselves from their biological family for a good reason; disturbing them with memories can be emotionally and mentally challenging. If they refuse to meet, respect their decision and leave your contact information if they change their mind.