If you need to trace a family member or relative to resolve a legal, property or inheritance issue and speed is of the essence, hiring a private investigator is a good option. Experienced investigators often work with solicitors to find beneficiaries in the UK and overseas. It can be time consuming and meticulous work and is not really a job for amateurs. As well as helping to trace a family member, however, skilled investigators can also produce a family tree on request with the appropriate documentary evidence.
Genealogy can be addictive
The search for a long lost loved one or distant relative can often spark an interest in finding out more in general about your family. This can be true for third or fourth generation immigrants to the UK, who may have lost contact with their roots and have no clear idea of their family background. It can also be the case for those whose UK roots go way back in time.
So, if you do hire an investigator to reunite you with a relative, don’t be surprised if along the way you discover you’ve also acquired a brand new hobby – genealogy. Television programmes like the BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, where celebrities search for their families’ forgotten past, have helped to fuel our appetite for finding out more about where we come from and who we are; and the more you discover, the more you want to know.
Where to start?
Once you start to jot down all you know, including dates, place names – everything you can remember – you may already be able to sketch out a rough family tree. Speaking to family helps of course, and that aged aunt you haven’t met up with in a while may be a rich source of information. She may have some old photographs that are relevant, or some certificates, commendations, or other kind of document that could lead to further discoveries.
As well as being an important source of accurate information, official documents can also be very revealing. A relative’s marriage or birth certificate can reveal his or her occupation, for instance; a death certificate may suggest that the cause of death was linked to the type of work a great-grandfather did. All births, marriages, and deaths in England and Wales have been registered since 1837; in Scotland records started in 1855, and in Ireland in 1864, although full compliance with what was a legal requirement, took a few decades. Prior to 1837, records of births, deaths, and marriages were mainly recorded in parish registers. Census records are another good source of data and can lead to discovering relatives you never knew you had. The first UK census was taken in 1801 and one has been done every ten years since then, apart from in 1941.
The boom in the popularity of genealogy means there are a number of resources that can help you fill out your family history, including local family history societies, online services, books, magazines, and more. Checking back issues of your local newspaper can be a great way of getting a feel for the issues of the day, and you may come across a name, place, or other detail that is significant.
Given how time-consuming, and absorbing, tracing your family story can be, you may decide to carry out some of the research yourself and ask a professional to follow up other lines of enquiry that you can’t manage. Well briefed about who you want to trace, and any other information you need, an experienced private investigator can help to add some vital pieces to your family history jigsaw!