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Tracing family – a step by step guide

by Josef Kafka

Looking for a long lost loved one, relative, or someone you believe you are related to, can be a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, with highs and lows along the way. Before you even start your journey, however, it’s worth considering that the person you are looking for may not share your enthusiasm for a reunion.  Family relationships break down for all sorts of reasons and for some people, there’s no way back, and no desire to pick up the pieces again. That said, there can be few occasions more joyous or fulfilling than two relatives who willingly meet again after years apart.  As the saying goes, blood is thicker than water and if you’ve lost touch with a brother, sister, parent, or other close relative, it’s never too late to try and find them again.


Do your homework

It may sound obvious, but make sure you speak to as many existing family members as possible and pick their brains for information, suggestions, or any other kind of help about your relative. Make specific notes of relevant dates, places and other known contacts of the one you’re searching for. The wider you cast your net, the greater chance you have of success.


Official records

If you have your relative’s  name and date of birth, you can search public records online, such as birth and death records. Depending on the circumstances and what you know of your missing relative, another resource worth checking is (http://missingpersons.police.uk/en/about/our-website-1). Again, it sounds obvious but ruling out the possibility that your relative is deceased, is a good place to start, before you invest a lot of emotional energy in trying to find them.


Online resources

We’re all savvy online searchers these days, and there are a number of useful organisations who offer free help with tracing lost family, such as the Salvation Army (http://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/i-need-find-someone). Charities such as these can be ideal if you’re in no great hurry but, as they tend to have limited resources,  they can take many months, or longer, to produce results.  


Social media

Check for your relative’s profile on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as any known place of work. Most companies have their own websites and often publish details, including photographs, of staff members. If you know of any sporting interests, club membership, or other organisation your relative belongs to or has an interest in, search online and make enquiries through the contacts’ form.


Go public with your appeal

Advertising the fact that you’re looking for someone can and does work – but it can be risky.  Putting it out there that you want to get in touch with a long lost relative may produce results, but, sadly, it can also bring all sorts of opportunists out of the woodwork, everything from cruel hoaxers to would-be fraudsters. The risk of this happening is higher, if you’re advertising overseas, when someone posing as your relative can contact you online to see if they can set up a scam. 


Get professional help

Hiring a private investigator to find a lost loved one can be a cost-effective way of producing concrete results in the shortest possible time. This is the way to go if finding a relative is important to resolve an outstanding business, property or inheritance matter, or if time is of the essence due to an illness, or some other pressing circumstances. Even if you just want to re-establish contact after years of being apart, a private investigator will have the expertise, the experience, and the contacts, for tracing your family, both here in the UK and overseas.

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