How to Find Long-Lost Relatives

The Internet makes finding people easier than ever, but it still takes some legwork.

By FamilyTime


Life gets busy and years may slip by before you realize you have lost touch with a favorite cousin or aunt, or a good friend from high school. These days, with everyone moving around so freely, it’s harder and harder to locate someone. Or is it?

With the Internet, this is not as true as it once was. There are specific search engines and services that will help you f ind a long-lost relative or friend.

Where to Start

The obvious place to start is with the information you have. A street address, phone number, or email address may reap instant rewards. Also, when you try to contact people through out-of-date addresses or phone numbers, there is always the chance someone at the other end will know something about the person you seek.

You can also try Googling your relative. If you find him, you may not get direct contact information, but you may get an idea of the region of country where he or she now lives, or the industry he or she works in. You can then start with directory assistance for phone numbers or the white pages for an address.

The more data you can enter in a search engine, the better. For instance, if John Smith used to live in the Dallas metropolitan region, type “John Smith, Dallas, Texas” into the search line. If Jane Jones is a lawyer, enter that information, too.

You could also try sending a blanket email to all the search engines you know with various combinations of the person’s name: JSmith@yahoo, or janejones@gmail. Your efforts might be rewarded — or you might find someone who knows John Smith or Jane Jones.

More Intense Searches

Some experts recommend beginning the search by logging onto the Social Security death index. This will let you know if your relative is still alive and, if not, will save you a lot of time.

Once you have established that your relative or friend is living, try one of the many people directories online, most of which are free. These literally have millions of entries that often include telephone numbers and email addresses.

Again, the more you know about someone, the better: their first, middle and last names; date of birth; place of birth; last known address; profession; names of sisters and brothers, parents, children; high school and/or college; military service.

If you don’t know a relative’s married name, finding her might be tough. When this happens, try a high school or college directory (you may have to go through a service to access these) or a veteran’s organization’s directory.

You can also find online services that will, for a fee, locate someone for you.

Easy Avenues

Sometimes the best way to find a long-lost relative or friend is through MySpace, Facebook, or another social network. When you use the “friend” function you may be surprised who pops up! Don’t neglect mutual contacts. A friend of a friend may be your best source.

Depending on the age of your relative or friend, you might want to contact his or her parents. As people get older, they are more apt to stay in one place and so someone’s folks may still be in the town you remember. Give them a call!

Happy hunting.