How to Find Lost Relatives

Wouldn’t it be great if your children knew your family history and saw your family tree? Keep reading to find out…

Currently, there are over 8 billion people in the world. We are all very different in our unique backgrounds, goals, and values. There is one thing that we all share – we treasure family relationships. This feeling grows stronger the older that we get. We tend to reassess the meaning of life, start cherishing moments and spend more precious days with those bonded with us by family ties.

After all, our heritage is the only thing left after us — our unique footprint in this world.

There may be multiple reasons why family members or relatives are separated – wars, immigration, divorces, conflicts, relocation, and this list can go on and on. Some distant relatives may not even know of each other’s existence. Wouldn’t it be great if your children knew your family history and saw your family tree? We live in an age where you can pick up the missing pieces of information online and make that small step to reunite with your lost family no matter what the circumstances were of the initial divide.

Trust us – this will pay off.

Finding Lost Family

Family cooking together

The first step to finding something is remembering where you left off. What kind of information do you have on your hands right now? The basic set of data that you will need is the name, last name, approximate age, and the state where they lived when you last heard of them. Ask around if you don’t have the information; maybe some of your other family members can help you obtain this.

Once you have the basic information, you can do the following:

1. Use a Search Engine

Thousands of new records are added daily to search engines like Google or Bing. There is a good chance that you will stumble across a business website, profile, blog, or any other type of webpage that contains valuable information about your lost relatives or friends.

Here are a few tips if you’re using Google:

  1. Include the person’s name in quote marks – this will provide only the exact word matches in the results. Google tends to guess user intents and quote marks specify that you need an exact match. For example: “John Doe”.
  2. Try using alternative names or nicknames – “Jonathan, Johnny, Jon”.
  3. Run a search with the last name first, some public records may list people by surnames. For example: Doe, John. Also, try using an initial – “J. Doe” or “Doe, J”.
  4. Find out if your search subject could be married as people may change their last name after marriage.
  5. Ensure you have the correct spelling of the name and the full name of the person as “John Doe” could easily be “Martin John Doe”. If you are unsure about the official spelling, try searching “John” “Doe” or “John * Doe” – this request will return the name and last name and everything in between (i.e., John R. Doe, John Walter Doe).
  6. If you know the city or state this person may be living in, include that in the search request, for example: “John Doe Cleveland, OH”.
  7. If you know the person’s occupation or hobby, try including that also in the search request. For example, “John Doe Basketball” or “John Doe Photographer”.
  8. You can also use Google’s reverse picture search if you have a photo of the person you are looking for to find websites with the image or similar images. Just go to Google Images, click on “upload photo” and view the results. As an alternative, Yandex has a similar service with an astonishingly good facial recognition search engine.
  9. If you are still not getting results, you can try signing up for Google alerts. This way, Google will notify you if something new is published related to your search.

To sum up the difference:

  • John Doe – 183,000,000 results
  • “John Doe” – 20,700,000 results
  • “Doe, John” – 560,000 results
  • “Jonathan Doe” – 161,000 results
  • “Martin John Doe” – 31,000 results
  • “John Doe Photographer” – 1,050 results
Bonus tip: Try using alternative search engines if you want more flexibility while performing your search to get some really deep search results. Search engines like Millionshort would allow you to remove the top 1,000,000 websites and get results on pages that otherwise would show up on Google on page 154.

2. Search for Them on Social Media

Almost all adults in the US have interacted with social media at least once in their lifetime. The most popular social network sites in the US are Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Snapchat, Tumblr & TikTok. Keep in mind that you may have to register on each of these sites to access search results, and sometimes the profiles may be hidden, private, or use a nickname instead of the given name.

If that doesn’t work, then try using the social aspect of social media – send a shout-out about your search. There are dedicated Facebook pages such as “Finding Long Lost Family” or “Relative Finder” that are created specifically for users to help each other reunite with lost families by spreading the word and sharing information if they know anything.

You can also use Twitter as a lost relative finder by sending a tweet about your missing family member. Make sure that you attach a picture and the last known location (or any other useful details you could provide) to increase your chances of people getting in touch with you to share valuable information on your relative or friend’s whereabouts. Tweets and Facebook posts that are liked, shared, and retweeted can generate an astonishing amount of views, so this definitely is a great tool to find lost family members for free.

Bonus tip: You can combine traditional search engine & social media search requests by specifying the site you want to search:

- “John Doe”
- “John Doe”
- “John Doe”
- “John Doe”

3. Look Through Directory Books

Yes, we all know that directory books are a thing of the past, but sometimes they provide just the right information, especially if you are looking for an older person who hasn’t changed addresses often. Directory books are a hit or miss for younger people who change homes more often than once in a few years.

There are also online phonebook sites like or White Pages that provide a good amount of fresh contact information on people in the US. Just note that if your lost friend or relative has a common name, you may have to call multiple random people with the same full name, which could be annoying and inconvenient.

4. Try the Archives

Ok, so this option isn’t always accessible online, and its availability is heavily dependent on the state where you’re looking. Still, you can try government records that may give you all the required information on your lost relative’s address or phone number. is another place where you can get historical records on any web pages captured back a long time ago that are already removed from search engines. This may shed light on some background of your search subject from 10 or more years ago.

If you suspect that your relative or friend was ever mentioned in a newspaper, you can try that holds a record of 700+ million old newspaper pages and clippings.

5. Contact The Red Cross

If you are looking for a missing family member that was separated from you due to an event like war, natural disaster, or is a refugee, then you may want to try contacting the local office of the Red Cross foundation. The Red Cross is an international organization with one of its purposes being finding lost loved ones and connecting lost family members.

If your relative is currently serving on active duty with the military or is a civilian employed by or under contract to the Department of Defense and stationed outside the Continental United States, the Red Cross also has an emergency message service that allows people to communicate with their family members. Just be sure to have their full legal name, rank, branch of service, SSN or date of birth, and the military unit address. You can do this through the Red Cross emergency message center.

6. Use Online People Search Directories

Websites like Names and Facts provide all of the information you would otherwise have to look for by yourself on each person combined from various sources. You instantly get addresses, phone numbers, emails, location history, marriage information, and relatives of that person. This means that you see all people related to your lost family member even if you don’t know of other family members you might have.

People directory sites gather a tremendous number of public records on a frequent basis to stay up to date with the everchanging circumstances in people’s lives. This data can then be easily accessed simply by entering a name and submitting a search.

Think of people search sites as search engines (similar to Google or Bing) but without the need to guess user intents. This means that the results are much more precise and do not contain any unnecessary topics except data on people.

7. Hire a Private Investigator

As a last resort, you can hire a professional to do the work for you. Private investigators are experienced in tracking down individuals as any job they are hired for (be it surveillance or fraud investigation) requires locating the person first. They also have access to a broad range of tools and resources that otherwise may not be accessible to other people. The downside is that hiring a professional investigator is not the cheapest option and if you have multiple people that you may need to locate this can quickly become a very costly endeavor.

Discover Your Family Tree


Finding unknown family members you never knew you had or gathering missing information on distant relatives can be enjoyable and fascinating. It is not a very straightforward process to trace your genealogy, but it definitely pays off. You will be surprised at how many interesting things you will find out!

The difference between looking for lost relatives and constructing your family tree is that some family members from an older generation in the family tree, unfortunately, already may not be alive. Another obstacle would be that their records may not be digitized – modern recordkeeping has been around for only a few generations, and the data could be scattered in government archives across the country (and even outside the United States).

Luckily, we have compiled a few tips on where to look for if your older relative could not be found online:

1. Establish Your Connection

Before you start diving deep into record archives and scouring every corner of census and birth records, it is critical that you draft down the target of your search. For this, you need to understand the following:

  • Who exactly do you want to locate
  • What is your relation to them
  • What other people you may know in common
  • Whether they are most likely dead or alive
Please note: If you are looking for your biological parents, there are many legal aspects associated with this. Try reaching out to the Independent Adoption Center that specializes in such matters, but you may want to contact a legal expert first to help guide you through this process.

2. Interview Other Relatives

Most likely, you have already tried this, but your closest relatives may have more information on your family tree than anyone else. Work your way through to more distant relatives while concentrating on one search subject at a time.

Asking your family to share memories would allow you to reveal more insights about the relative’s full names or nicknames, date of birth, spouse name, kids’ or parents’ names, education, occupation, and hobbies. Listen to stories carefully as they may reveal valuable clues on where to look. For example, your grandmother may remember that your father always wanted to move to Florida. Your next step would be to include Florida as the primary location of the search.

You may also stumble upon photo albums, diaries, letters, books, birth or marriage certificates, personal belongings, and antiques which are a priceless addition to your family tree. Be sure to note everything down in one place, attaching pictures wherever possible. This approach is best if you would then want to share your findings with other relatives and pass down your family heritage to future generations.

3. Start Gathering Data

Once you have collected all knowledge from firsthand sources, now is the time to gather all your patience and start your ancestry research in archives. Your best bet would be to look in census, birth record, marriage, electoral, obituary, and newspaper archives. That may be a lot of work, but, unfortunately, no one can do it for you. Every bit of information has to be verified by you personally based on the input of the data you already have in order to ensure that you get relevant results that can be relied upon when building your family tree and sharing it with other family members.

Finding Relatives on Names and Facts

Phone and laptop

We do our best to make people search as simple and straightforward as possible. This means removing all unnecessary and confusing steps to turn the cumbersome and tiring process of relative search into a fast, precise, and enjoyable journey. It all comes down to 3 simple steps:

  1. Search for a name
  2. Refine the results using age & state filters
  3. Open the profile of your relative and view information

Simple as that. And the great thing that we forgot to mention is that our relative search is entirely 100% free. Seriously, give it a try.

If you need more data like detailed contact information, relative details, marriages, friends, neighbors, workplaces, addresses, locations, etc., you can get access to view full reports on our website and run full searches on people of interest.

The best time to reunite with your lost family and friends is today.


Woman looking through photo album

While it may be very easy to find your lost family members or friends from the past one or two generations using the methods above, there is still some manual work related to getting information on your genealogy to build a family tree. We wish there was a silver bullet for finding people from older generations but, unfortunately, you would have to compile bits and pieces of data yourself to make the puzzle complete. On the upside – this may be a very exciting process, and no matter how much information you will find, your children will thank you in the future.


What is the best way to find a long lost relative?

By far, the easiest and most convenient way to find a lost friend or relative is to use people search sites. With Names and Facts you can find a lost relative for free simply by searching their name. You will get a list of their current and previous locations as well as a list of people that are related or associated with them. You also have the option to get access to full reports on any relative to get their full list of addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, marriage information, assets, criminal and arrest records for a fixed price of $19.95 per month with absolutely no hidden fees.

Is there a 100% guarantee that I will find my relative?

Unfortunately, no database in the world can guarantee that your friends or relatives are still around at that exact place where their report states. If it was that easy, then there would be no missing people in the world (or any wanted criminals for that matter). What we can guarantee is that by using a combination of the methods in this article, you have a better chance to find estranged relatives than any conventional methods.

Names and Facts is a website to find lost relatives in the USA that contains one of the biggest databases across the country with 300+ million records combined from multiple sources. That means that we have at least the same amount of data (if not more) than competing services at a fraction of the cost.

What if I didn’t find what I was looking for?

We strive to update our data on a daily basis and provide you with any information possible in our people directory. If you haven’t found the person you were looking for on Names and Facts, then most likely, there are no digitized records available anywhere else. If you were looking for a missing family member and have purchased a full report from Names and Facts but for some reason didn’t find it useful – we have a 100% refund policy with no questions asked.

Do genealogy services work?

Yes, most of them do. A genealogy site is basically a long lost family finder that focuses mainly on data from older generations. The difference between people search sites like Names and Facts and genealogy services is that people search sites aim to get as much fresh information on people from the past two generations from digitized records while genealogy services collect data on ancestors and their life at that time.

Can I use Names and Facts to build my family tree?

You most definitely can. You can discover your own relatives or relatives of your ancestors simply by browsing our people search directory. Accessing full reports will make the picture clearer by providing you with information on the relative’s background.

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