Families can become estranged and lose contact with one another through a whole host of circumstances; there may have been a bereavement which sent shockwaves through the whole extended family unit and caused members to go their own ways; there may have been a disagreement or fall out that led to a separation; maybe there have been family court proceedings that caused family members to have to stop contact; maybe there was a disaster or even war that led to a family being split up or a family member going away; perhaps a physical or mental illness led to a person becoming isolated or moving away; possibly you were just never “that type of family” that remained in touch and something has happened in your life or world that has made you want to change that.
Family separation or losing touch with family members can go on for years if not lifetimes. If you have made the decision to make contact with long lost family members, to reach out to family you have never met, to bury the hatchet with a loved one you fell out with or to rebuild past family links and networks it can be a very emotive and daunting project to undertake and difficult to know where to begin. However, it is a very worthwhile and meaningful exercise and will hopefully bring long term positive changes and experiences for you and those around you, and those who you intend to make contact with.
Essentially, to be able to reunite people or mend old wounds you need to be able to contact the family member or members that you have become estranged from, and to do that you need to find them. Depending on how long you have lost touch for or the circumstances that were behind this, or how much information you already had or have about the person you wish to contact, you may be worried about your own abilities to do this and that it will require knowledge, skills or resources that you don’t possess to achieve your goal. However, there are numerous actions you can take initially that are free and relatively straight forward to see if you are able to find the family member yourself before you consider the option of recruiting professional assistance if these methods prove fruitless, or the search is more complex than you first thought.
You can start by drawing up a simple family tree – this will give you a visual idea of who you are looking to find and why. It will also allow you to input information you already have about the person you are looking for such as their full name, date of birth or last known address or contact details if you have them. You can also then build on who they are connected to and what information you have on these other people within your family to help you gain clarity around what you already know, what you don’t know and what you need to find out. This will help to give your search purpose and direction and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
The family tree can also help you to determine who you do know within the family structure and are able to contact. Get in touch with these people and let them know what you are trying to do; they may want to assist with your search or may have additional information or contact details for the person you are trying to find.
Take practical steps such as going physically to the last known address of the person you are looking for, they may even still live there! If you are feeling brave you can knock on the door and speak to the current tenants or owners of the property; if you explain the reason for your visit they will likely be more than understanding and happy to provide any additional information they may have such as when they took over the address and any forwarding information they were provided with for the person you are seeking. If they are renting the property they may be willing to provide you with the details of the letting agent managing the tenancy or the landlord; you can then contact these people to see if they have any further helpful information to aid your search.
The internet is a massive and free resource that can provide enormous help and potentially the solution to finding an estranged family member. You can also access this from the comfort of your own home or armchair! You can use the internet to look up the family member you are looking for on social media; the majority of people in the UK now have accounts with at least one social media site. Look for them using their name and any additional information you may have about them such as the area they might live in, or the school or university they attended. It may be that you can find them within seconds and make contact through their social media account. You can also use the internet for free to search through birth and death records, electoral roll and census information and telephone directory databases to fin the address or contact details of the person you are looking for.
There are websites set up by charities on the internet for the purposes of finding lost or estranged family members. Sites such as this have been built for the exact purpose of reuniting families. They will enable you access to a community of others in the same position as you, allowing you to gain from their experience and advice as well as signposting you to resources and other sites that will be helpful in your search. It may even be that the person you are looking for is looking for you and is on the same site!
There are also genealogy sites online that you can access to gain information and advice about developing your family tree and gathering information about long lost relatives. Some of these sites do charge a fee for their services but, depending on the resources and support they can provide, you may consider a small expense worth paying.
It is possible to find websites online advertising that they can find a lost family member for free. However, some caution is advised around the use of such companies as often they are only accessing information from electoral roll or household data that you can access yourself online quite easily or there may be later hidden and unexpected costs or upselling to actually find the person you are looking for or gain any information that is of genuine use.
If you are unable to find your estranged family member through your own endeavours and through no cost methods, and if it is genuinely important to you that you reunite with this person, it may be worth considering the outlay of some expense on hiring the services of a professional private investigator or person tracing expert. Professionals in this field have access to a much wider information network and to technology and resources that increase success in people tracing significantly. The cost of hiring such a service is considerably less than most people think if you ensure that you go with a reputable, experienced and ethical company and results are likely to be achieved in a much shorter time scale then if you undertake this yourself.