How to Search for a Lost Family Member

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Whether you wonder what happened to that cousin you knew as a child or are aching to reunite with your father, who has been gone for years, finding a lost family member can be challenging. When you develop a carefully planned strategy, you will increase the odds of finding that person.

Step 1

Collect information. You want to have as much information as you can about the lost family member before you begin the search. Ask other family members what they know about the lost member. His name, birthday, city of birth, Social Security number, high school and college attended and any past employers are valuable pieces of information. Ask for it all and take what is available. Record it on a spreadsheet or notebook for future reference.

Step 2

Use online registry sites, such as Reunion.com. Enter as much information as you can on the site to increase the chance that someone else on the site will recognize the party you are looking for. Participate in forum opportunities to discuss your lost family member in more detail. This also increases your chances of running into someone who knows of him.

Step 3

Check with the Social Security index of deaths. If your relative has died, it should be listed there. If your relative is old enough to be retired, send a letter to the Social Security office and ask that it be forwarded with the next Social Security check sent to that person. The Social Security office workers will not tell you if your relative has retired, is collecting benefits or where she lives; however, the agency will usually forward one correspondence with the next check. It is then up to your relative to decide whether to respond. Include your name, address, email and phone number with the letter to give your missing relative several contact methods to choose from.

Step 4

Place advertisements in newspapers. List the lost relative’s name, last known city of residence and an inquiry to anyone who knows her. Include your name so if a message gets passed to the lost relative, she will know who it is looking for her. Place the ads in newspapers locally as well any towns you have heard she has lived in.

Step 5

Hire private help. Trained, licensed investigators are experts at searching for lost relatives. Before hiring a private eye, request references and check them to be sure you are working with a reputable one.

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