It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for your grandfather who lost touch with everyone when he moved away a few years ago, a distant aunt removed on your mom’s side, or a parent who left long ago; locating them can feel overwhelming.
After all, how do you begin to start looking for someone that seemingly disappeared?
What used to be a cumbersome and challenging process before technology took over has now become simplified. No more having to look through newspaper records or old letters. No more hiring expensive detectives to locate an individual. In fact, you can likely take the role of a detective from the comfort of home and search for people online.
Free Search Methods to Locate Family Members
Contacting Family Members
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While you may not know where an estranged family member has disappeared, it’s not to say that no one knows where they might be. Consider contacting any immediate family members that have had close relationships with the individual in question. Explain who you are (on the off chance they don’t recall your name or your connection to the family member) and why you’re interested in locating your family member. Although this method may work for those who forgot to keep in contact, individuals who separated themselves may want to remain hidden.
Try Searching Social Media Websites
Social media platforms are great for finding old friends and distant family, partially due to the recommended friends list. If you have a contact that is connected to an estranged family member, reaching out may not be too difficult. Keep in mind that many older generations struggle with technology, including social media. As such, this may not work well for that age bracket. Additionally, if an individual uses a nickname or maiden name you are unfamiliar with, it’s not going to show up in search results.
Check out LinkedIn
Although LinkedIn is technically a social media platform, its primary use is employment and networking purposes. Users can search the website according to name (where it’s more likely to be the first and last name) and location. Likewise, you can search through post-secondary alumni and company pages too. A major downfall to the LinkedIn site is the requirement to pay to message contacts not connected to your profile. If you locate the individual, you could try initiating the connection on the site or pay a membership fee to send them a direct message.
Paid Methods of Searching
Background Check Websites
If you’re tired of trying to locate people, consider a website that does the hard work for you. Background checks compile information from massive online databases into one easy-to-read PDF file. You’ll see direct contact information, employment, address, and social media profiles of the individual. Although these websites typically charge per search, they’re often much less than a genealogy membership. If you’re considering a background check site, always make sure to choose a reputable website with decent reviews. There’s no point in using a service that doesn’t deliver accurate results.
Once you receive your report, you’ll have physical addresses, phone numbers, employment history, and more to attempt future contact with the estranged family member. Likewise, immediate and distant family members are also linked to the individual – meaning you’ll be able to see any additional contact names for that family member.
Genealogy Websites for Family Mapping
Sometimes the easiest method of finding an estranged family member is to create a family tree with a genealogy website. These websites will collect your registration information, complete with your name, address, and email. Most of these websites will charge an annual or monthly fee to use the services and will only notify you if it finds a direct contact of your family lineage. Unfortunately, this leaves the discovery of family members primarily up to individuals.
A word of Caution: Although trying to find an estranged family member may seem like a positive and uplifting event, there’s always a chance that the individual in question is not going to reciprocate in a friendly manner. It’s always a wise idea to try and uncover the history behind the family member’s disappearance before making contact. If the individual is not receptive to your communication, it’s best to leave them alone moving forward. Never try to coerce or threaten a relationship into forming, particularly with estranged children or parents. Sometimes the well-meaning dialogue is taken out of context, so speak clearly and with purpose.