Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
The decision to try to find a long-lost relative is the first step in an arduous and emotionally charged process that thousands of Americans decide to go through every year. Some websites allow you to potentially uncover the identities of loved ones, living or deceased, who are lost or missing, or even adopted. But trying to locate or get in touch with him or her when you don’t have all the facts can be difficult and time-consuming if you don’t have the right tools or information to start.
So, how do you gather that extra information to narrow your relative finder search?
Using a people search service may require having certain information on hand, particularly the first and last names of the individual. When this data isn’t known, a common practice is to turn to social media. Tools like Facebook can help narrow the results of your search. For example, if you only know the first name of a long-lost relative (we’ll use the name “Jane”) but know the school she attended, you can combine those two factors to find all the people who fit that criteria. Better yet, if you know where “Jane” not only went to school but where she currently lives, you can drastically narrow the results. This information can then be used as a starting point in your relatives search tool.
Of course, this method is not flawless — it’s not uncommon for people to be dishonest about their personal information and details about their lives on social media, and this can be another roadblock in trying to make contact.
Turning to living loved ones is another way to connect the dots of your family’s history. Distant relatives may hold the key to finding the answers you’re looking for. Reaching out to that third cousin in Wisconsin or an estranged elderly uncle may yield more than you think — so don’t be afraid to ask questions, even the very personal ones.
An often overlooked resource for leads is your local public library or town hall. Handwritten accounts and records can paint a comprehensive picture of the families who have resided in the same town for decades, even centuries. Some members may have even contributed to public life in a notable way. It may be worth taking a trip to the hometown of the individual you are searching for to sift through available public records. So be ready to get your hands dirty and riffle through dusty documents — you may just find a gem or two that can assist you in finding a relative. If you’re not up for such a challenge, services do exist to have people query courts for public records on your behalf. A court runner server can yield some interesting documents that will help with your search.
Background checks can yield pertinent and useful information when looking for lost or distant relatives. To collect all the clues necessary to use a relative finder service, you can start by running background checks on known family members — and even on yourself. Often, these services will collect detailed data about an individual, such as other known names, age, current street address, criminal records, social media accounts, and possible relatives. The sometimes surprising information can fill in some of the blanks.
Encountering obstacles when trying to find relatives isn’t uncommon and can be quite discouraging. If you feel that you have done everything in your power to collect data on an individual, but the relative finder yielded no result, it may be time to hire a private investigator. Private investigators have access to sensitive information and databases that are not available to the average civilian. These are also individuals that were trained to effectively piece together the data they find. Their services can be a little pricey, but if reconnecting with a distant relative is a priority, the investment may be worth it.
Log every piece of information you have concerning the relative you are searching for, including facts, phone numbers, addresses, and theories or rumors. Piecing together the whole puzzle may not happen right away, but there’s a good chance that an organized list can help speed up the process. Using a relative finder or a people search service can allow you to manage all the data you’ll receive in a digital format. The internet is a great place to find the tools you need to catalog your findings in a PDF format, for example. Finally meeting that long-lost or distant relative can be a stressful and even risky experience. But getting to know him or her can also be very rewarding!
Ashley, from New Hampshire, writes that BeenVerified.com helped her husband find his birth mother. While she almost didn’t sign up for the service, she’s thrilled that she did: one of the addresses BeenVerified had on file for this individual was the one that allowed a mother and her son to finally reunite over the phone after 20 years.
“I’m so happy I found her using your site. It took a little “detective work” tracking her further but I was determined to find out as many leads as I could and eventually we got to her!” Pamela, who was adopted as a child, was reunited with half-siblings she never knew she had using our people search tool. She had been searching for her family for 23 years after finding out that her biological mother had passed away due to cancer, hoping to discover more about her own health risks. Thanks to BeenVerified, Pamela was able to collect accurate and current information about her family.
“I was able to get updated phone, address and online information to get up the nerve to call or get in touch with them and so far it has been nothing but incredibly positive. My sister and I are so much alike, which is something I have never ever known.” Wesley writes that, using BeenVerified’s information and other data, he was able to locate and call a long-lost relative.
“Thank you for all of your help!! I used [to] your service to help my mother find a cousin who had been lost for over 2 years. Your service is an invaluable tool and I hope it helps as many others as it did me and my family.”