Whether it's due to a falling out or simply because of distance, many American families have a tough time staying connected. Whether you are looking for a long-lost uncle or a child with whom you've lost touch, the internet can be a great source of information when it comes to reconnecting.
Ask other family members if they've heard from the person you are trying to locate. Even if you haven't kept in contact, other family members may have. If they don't know the person's current whereabouts, ask for information like his last known address, phone number or place of work.
Follow the leads you got in Step 1. Start online at a free directory like WhitePages.com. You can search for a person based on name, city, state or phone number. Keep in mind that if your family member has a common name, you may find multiple results in the same city.
Look for your family member on social networking sites like Facebook or LinkedIn. These sites are both free, and allow users to search for a person by name and even location. You must be a registered member to use all the search tools and access all the information on a person's profile.
Google the person's name. The more specific the name (including first, middle, last and maiden names), the more accurate your search results will be. Remember that you may get hundreds, even thousands of hits, and will have to sort through the results.
Sign up with websites like Ancestry.com and Genealogy Today. Ancestry.com is a fee-based service, but offers a 14-day free trial. Genealogy Today offers free search services, as well as other tools that you can pay to access. These websites will help with your self-guided search.
Don't forget about non-computer based tools. Newspapers--particularly the sections on birth, death and marriage records--can help you find out information on your missing family member. This tool will only work if you have an idea where the person lives, as it is impractical to search every newspaper in the country.
Contact the IRS to see if there are any active records for your missing family member's social security number. While the IRS cannot supply specific information, they may be able to let you know if your missing loved one has passed away.
- In addition to the free sources listed above, there are also many fee-based services that will help you with your search. The fees--and the services--for these companies vary greatly, so be sure to evaluate the cost-benefits of each option before handing over your money.
- If the person you are looking for was adopted, it may be more difficult to find him or her. This is because records for most closed adoptions are sealed by state law. Contact your state's government to see about laws regarding opening adoption records.
- Keep in mind that just because you locate your lost family member, it doesn't mean he or she will want to reconnect.
Elizabeth Falwell has been writing for the TV news industry since 2005. Her work has appeared on WXII 12 News, WMGT 41 News, NewParent.com and multiple parenting blogs. A graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University, Falwell holds a Master of Science in broadcast journalism.
Chris Ted/Lifesize/Getty Images