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How to Find Distant Relatives

by Oubria Tronshaw

One of the most exciting aspects of family life is making contact with long-lost relatives and putting together a family tree. It can be difficult, as relatives are often scattered across countries and continents with no clue how to reach one another. By using personal ingenuity and accessing a few resources, a joyful reunion can be in your future.

Interview older family members. Elderly relatives are often a wealth of untapped knowledge regarding family history. Even if they don't know the exact current whereabouts of the relative in question, they may be able to give you a jump start on your search. If the person or people in question have married, elderly relatives may know their maiden as well as married name. They may know the relative's middle name, or the names of their children. They may also be able to tell you the last known city where the relative lived, and might also have pictures, documents and other invaluable records.

Utilize the Internet. The Internet is a goldmine when it comes to researching genealogy and your family tree. There are numerous sites with search engines devoted specifically to helping people find their long-lost relatives. Search for your distant relatives' names; try variations, such as their maiden name, married name or different spellings. If you're searching for a married couple, start with the person who has the most unique name. You can also search for the last-known location where the person lived. Seek out birth, death, divorce or other personal records, or zero in on a specific date or time period.

Start a family genealogy website. This may help long-lost relatives find you. If you have family members searching for answers the same way you are, by posting yourself in a highly visible Internet location, chances are they'll find you.

Search social network sites like Myspace or Facebook. Today people of all ages, races, cultures and religions are involved in social networking, regardless of their location. If your relatives are online, you'll find them. If you don't find them right away, keep checking back since new members join every day.

Hire a private investigator. If all else fails, hire a professional who makes his livelihood finding people who are difficult to find. Services aren't free, but hopefully you'll be happy with the results.

About the Author

Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.

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