How to find a long lost family member online 


Whether you’re trying to find a long-lost cousin or you want to figure out where your twice-removed grandfather wound up living, tracking down a family member isn’t the most straightforward task. This is particularly true if the person in question doesn’t want to be found. There are free and paid methods of tackling your detective work; deciding which option is best for you is the first step. 

Free Methods of Searching 

Search Engines can Help Locate Lost Family Members 

With the age of the internet, it seems like everything is recorded online. From marriage certificates to obituaries, online records contain a host of information. If you want to avoid paying for services, the first place you need to start is with a search engine. Enter the first and last name of the person you’re trying to find. If you happen to know the state or country of residence, include that too. Less popular names are more likely to be successful, as familiar names will bring thousands of results.  

Pros of Search Engines: 

 - Free method of finding someone online 

– Can potentially locate lost family members through online databases 

– Multiple search engines can bring in multiple results for your search 

Cons of Search Engines: 

– Name commonality impacts search results; more popular names will bring irrelevant results 

– Data is limited to search keywords 

– Indexing is dependent on the website’s popularity; if a family member isn’t listed on popular sites, it may not show at all 

– Searches may be time-consuming and repetitive for specific search terms 

 Social Media Profiles 

Almost everyone and their dog has a social media profile, which makes this method of search a popular outlet. Social media platforms often have built-in searching functionality; users can search by name, location, and employer. Some of the more popular platforms will also show users people they may know, which can help connect missing pieces along the way. You’ll need as much information as possible when trying to search through social media, although just a first and last name may be enough.  

Pros of Social Media Profiles: 

– Low-cost way to search for people online  

– Increasingly popular platforms are home to millions of subscribers 

– Easy-to-use search functionality  

Cons of Social Media Profiles: 

– Users need exact profile names to discover family members. 

– Millions of users can bring multiple, irrelevant results 

– Constantly evolving social media networks can mean hundreds of platforms to search 

– Most social media accounts require registration to search profiles 

– If a family member doesn’t have a profile, results will be meaningless 

Paid Methods of Searching 

Hiring a Private Investigator 

We’ve all seen the movies of a private investigator following someone around, but the reality isn’t quite as glamorous. Hiring an individual to find your family member may make sense if other methods have failed. They may also make sense if you’d like someone else to run your search efforts or if you’ve turned up empty-handed after trying all options. Typically speaking, an investigator will work through public and private records, accessing hundreds of databases. They work to find the specific person through online and offline searches, documents and certificates, and more.  

Pros of Hiring a Private Investigator: 

– Investigator has hands-on experience locating individuals professionally 

– Access to databases and records that are difficult to navigate 

– Ability to find a person without committing time or effort 

Cons to Hiring a Private Investigator: 

– Costs associated with hiring can prove expensive; especially if international travel is required 

– Can occasionally fail to find or locate the individual 

– Success is dependent on the individual’s capacity to interpret records 

Purchasing a Background Check 

Background checks work by searching through large databases to compile lists of accurate information about a person. This information can include their residence, employment, social media, and education. After data collection, results are produced in an easy-to-read pdf file. Additionally, some companies also include close relatives, which is an easy way to cross-reference the current information they provide. Although these companies will typically charge fees, they’re significantly less than hiring a private investigator. The automation will save users time and energy trying to find their long-lost relative almost instantaneously.  

Pros of Using a Background Check Website  

 - Automated service collects information from databases in real-time 

– Ability to cross-reference family members, education, and employment history 

– All details are organized and compiled in a PDF file 

– Includes social media profiles, personal information, education, and more. 

– Companies will often offer a discounted rate for new subscriptions. 

– Can locate individuals with minimal information (for example, name and state) 

Cons of Using a Background Check Website 

– Charges a fee per person or monthly, depending on the website 

– Will require ongoing membership if you’d like updates on the file 

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