Changes in the season and holidays can often be a reminder of people who are no longer part of your circle – not just people who have passed away, but also family and friends who have fallen out of touch for a wide variety of reason. Maybe someone moved away, maybe there was an argument that had lasting effects, maybe time and distance just got in the way, or maybe you are trying to fill in a family tree. It’s normal to wonder where people have ended up and how to find them in order to reconnect, but it can be a daunting prospect to track someone down if you don’t know where to start.
Depending on the circumstances, you may want to consider whether or not you really want to find the person (and whether or not they want to be found). If they haven’t been in touch due to a long-running family dispute, it may be possible that they would rather not reconnect or even that other members of your family may not want you to reach out. Consider what happened and possible reactions. If you decide to proceed, be prepared that not everyone may be as happy about your quest as you.
The first step to finding someone is to gather the information that you already know. Perhaps you know a general location for them, their birthday, immediate family members, etc. The easiest step is to reach out to family and friends who also know the person you are trying to find. Maybe someone can extend an overture for you or provide you with current contact information. At the very least, other family and friends may be able to give you some direction and leads to follow up on.
If no one is able to help you, try the power of the internet. Searching for a person’s name (keeping nicknames in mind too) can often find links to the person’s social media presence. Try using an e-mail address as a search term. Run a white pages search or a reverse phone look up.
Try free online people search tools, such as yoname.com, that searches online profiles based on the information you provide. Sites like ancestry.com or familysearch.org can help you find leads for expanding your family tree.
If a person is a licensed professional, you can often find a professional listing with the licensing or certification board. Look at professional sites like LinkedIn and alumni information from the person’s alma mater.
Depending on how far back you are looking to find someone, it is also important to remember that their name may have changed, particularly if they are a woman. Sometimes finding the closest male relative is the easiest path since a woman may have changed her name due to marriage and/or divorce (sometimes even more than once).
If you are still having a hard time locating someone, or you don’t have enough information to go on, there are paid search firms or investigators you can hire. You can also hire a genealogist who can comb through family and public records to locate someone. The more information that you can provide these individuals, the greater likelihood of success (and the least cost).
If you are looking to reconnect with someone or to add another layer of branches to your family tree, good luck!