How do I find long lost relatives?

I’ve been building my family tree. In the course of my research I discovered that my grandfather’s family moved from the Midwest to the west coast when he was 16. He stayed behind and lost contact with his parents and siblings. Being the curious sort I’ve decided to track down that side of the family.

I have the names and birth dates of his parents and siblings but that’s all the information I have. The move took place in the early 1930s so Federal census records won’t be any help. My dad never met that part of the family so he can’t help. Are there any tools available that would help with this search? I would prefer to do this in my spare time as inexpensively as possible.

The move may have taken place in the thirties, but your grandparents and maybe an aunt or uncle would have been alive in 1920. have you checked that census? How about a newspaper for a death date so you could send for a death certificate? Do you have any idea where in California they went? Were they members of an organized religion? If you can get on during one of their free periods, you might find California relatives looking for your branch and you can combine your trees. or might be a good start. I found some cousins I had never met using one of them.

I’ve helped a few people with similar things, and the idea is for THEM TO FIND YOU.

Do you have any information. The best way is to start with Facebook and MySpace and anywhere else you can think of. FLICKR also is good as it gets spidered by Google.

The idea is most people at some time in their life will Google about themselves and when they do that, you want your site to come up in the Google search.

So start to think like THESE people, not like you.

Ask yourself, if anyone was looking for me or my dad what things might they type into a Google search. Then get a Facebook, MySpace and Flickr account and put those search terms into it

You can also go to places like 1and1 or GoDaddy and you can very cheaply get a website of your own with your own domain name, like CellGuyFamily.Com or whatever.

Then put down this is a website for my relatives. And leave an email so people can FIND YOU. 1and1 is pretty cheap for a domain name you can get a simple web package for under $5.00 a month

I’ve done this for people and it does work. You don’t always get what you want, but I’ve never set up a page where I didn’t get one or two people say, “Oh I used to know so-and-so.”

But whatever you do, remember the idea is to think like someone else would if they were looking for you

Winning the lottery seems to work for some people…

Most of my research has been on and I keep running into the same roadblock. After the 1930 census there is just no information to be found. I’ve been unable to find marriage or death records for any of them. I tried looking for information on my grandfather’s father (like brothers or sisters) and that’s produced a big goose egg as well.

Markxxx, that’s a great idea. I’ll start with Facebook since it’s free and then I’ll look into some sort of website later. Thanks!

Record keeping is different from state to state, but generally vital statistic records are kept at either the county clerk’s office or at the state level, depending on how old they are. If you know the approximate range of year of death, you can request a record search from the appropriate office, which will charge you a fee. If you don’t know where they lived, or a timeframe when they died, it’s going to be a difficult task, and you will likely end up hoping you can find someone who has already done the research. Have you checked to see if the state they moved to has their vital records online? Washington State has done this and it’s a huge help.

On the off-chance that there may have been a written entry (such as a bio) in a book or other publication, go to Google’s home page, select the “books” option, and type in the name with quotation marks. I’ve found a lot of information this way.

When coming forward from a past relative, obits can be a great resource – especially if your family leans towards men (sons) or people who live longer lives (so daughters are listed by married name).

The 1940 census will be released in April 2012. I’m hoping that will help me, because I’m in the same position as you are.

Do you know the towns where they moved to? Most non-tiny towns had city directories through most of the 20th century with names and addresses of all the residents. A few local libraries have scanned these and put them online, most haven’t, but I’m willing to bet the local history section of the library still has the volumes on a shelf. You’d either have to call and see if a librarian will do the look up for you or make the visit yourself.

If they were farmers out in the country, they might not have fallen under the scope of the local directories though, depending on how thorough they were.

That’s not a done deal yet. We can hope.

Have you tried the Social Security Death Index?

I have but the problem I’m running into is that the names are so common it would be like sorting through 3,000 John Smiths. For instance, with my grandfather’s brother, there are more than 100 people with his name, born in the same state in the same year, on the index. I’m having the same issue with his sister and parents.

It turns out that my dad has a box of my grandfather’s stuff in the basement that I’m going to go through this weekend. Hopefully there’s something in there that will help.

NOW I’m frustrated. I went through and added every record I could confirm for my grandfather’s siblings on hoping that it would pull up a hint. It didn’t. Then I went to view the profile for his sister and saw a button for “Member Connect.” I clicked it and got this message:

If she was alive she would be 92. I feel like I’m so close!

But that “Member Connect” implies that she, or someone researching her, is a member. Doesn’t it give you an option to send an e-mail through You wouldn’t know the person’s identity, so his/her privacy would be protected, and he could choose not to answer, but you never know! I haven’t had this option but my husband has found people this way.

Aside from city directories there are WWII Military records. If he served in WWII, or was merely drafted, there is likely an available record.

Like another poster said, the Social Security Death Indexes might help.

California deaths, 1940-1997, is at

I have lots of genealogy subscriptions. If you can’t find him in SSDI or CA deaths, PM the info to me I’ll be glad to see if I can find him.

As a longshot, you might try If you search in west coast states, you might find something. Volunteers visit cemeteries and enter tombstone info on the website.

Go back to Ancestry. If your great-aunt has a profile, someone put it there. You have the option to contact the person who posted it. You can send and receive messages through Ancestry. You may find some information.