How to find your relatives

If you find yourself on this journey to look for your relatives, you’ve come to the right place. A combination of common or traditional methods, combined with a technological approach can really aid your search.

There are many reasons that might prompt a person to look into their roots and discover who might be on their family tree. Family history has become very popular in an ever-more globalised world, where people migrate with high regularity. For some, knowing about their relatives is the first step in a process that may involve reconciliation, recording, preserving, and sharing further down the line. Who really knows what finding relatives can lead to.

During WWII, over 650,000 unaccompanied schoolchildren were packed onto trains and buses in the UK and sent to live with relatives, strangers, and temporary guardians while the war raged. Many who were evacuated from the cities never found their families again, spending the rest of their lives wondering what happened to their parents or siblings. By the time genealogy technology came along, with early-internet services like Genes Reunited, it was too little too late.

How to Find Relatives: Common Methods

Here are some of the common and perhaps more traditional ways to find out more about your family.

- Talk to relatives: Ask all of your living relatives what they know about your family and try to build a family tree. Some aunts and uncles might know more than others. Your grandparents might have some key pieces of information but their memory needs to be jogged. Leave no stone unturned, and if possible, ask for old photo albums, documents, or possessions that might hold further clues

- Visit the public library: This varies from country to country, and from region to region. If you believe your family was from the same area you live in now, it’s certainly an advantage to go to the library and ask about registers, archives, censuses, as well as birth, death and marriage records. You might be surprised what has stood the test of time.

- Seek immigration records: In the past, this may have been a lot easier, as you’d go to the port that your ancestors arrived in, and easily find documents such as passenger lists, immigration records, and arrival forms. This might be possible digitally now, but again it depends on your country of residence and where you believe your ancestors came from and went to. If you’re able to find any old border crossings, passports, citizenship, naturalisation, adoption, or service records, you might be able to get some key clues for your family search.

- This website has collated birth records, death records, censuses, and marriages. Simply put in the first name, last name, and year of birth of the person you’re looking for, as well as the city where you think someone lived, and FamilySearch will show you the closest potential matches. This service is freemium, so you might not find as much as you like without paying for access.

Of course, these searches are more likely to find relatives several generations back, which may, if lucky, connect you with third, fourth, or fifth-generation cousins, as well as the names of other distant relatives. It’s more likely that by coming to this article, you’re looking for living relatives. If so, read on.

How to Find Living Relatives: Modern Methods

There are a million and one reasons why you might not know who your relatives are. Immigration, war, family feuds, name change after marriage, and simple loss of contact are a few. Fortunately, reconnecting has never been easier thanks to many digital tools, services, and social media channels. Here are a few to aid your search:

Facebook - Most people who use Facebook use their real name, add details about their age, relationship status, hometown, and city of residence, as well as photos. All of that can be pretty useful if you’re tracking down relatives whose names you already know.

FindMyPast - This platform puts you at the centre of your family search, gathering all of the information you know about your family in a logical way and using their own databases, newspapers and civil records to help provide suggestions. A great thing about this site is that you can upload your LivingDNA Ancestry Test results and it will automatically update your family tree and relative information.

Take a Living DNA ancestry Test - In fact, this requires a section all of its own…

How to Find Relatives: The LivingDNA Matching System

When you take a DNA Ancestry Test with LivingDNA, your genetic information reveals way more than you expect. Anyone who has ever taken the test and comes up as even the slightest relative of yours will be listed in your account.

7 Steps to Find Your Relatives with our Matching System

1) Order your DNA test from LivingDNA
2) Wait for your package to arrive
3) Swab your inner cheek and send the test back
4) Wait for an email confirming that your results are ready
5) Log in to your LivingDNA dashboard
6) In the left-hand column, click on ‘Relatives’
7) You’re now in the Matching System and can see all of your DNA relatives

Within this relatives portal, your DNA matches will be listed in order of how much DNA you share with them. Each individual whose name comes up will also show their:

- % of DNA shared with you
- Relation to you (e.g. 2nd cousin)
- Where they live
- If they are active on the site

When you click into a person, you can see their relation to you visualised on a family tree, as well as gain access to an internal messaging system to have a conversation. With the notes feature, you can share what you know about your family tree, and in fact, it’s common to receive requests to do so from your DNA matches.

In development
: We are currently building a new visual representation of the family tree that takes into account your DNA matches. That, combined with the information that you already know about your family tree, will really help you to make progress towards finding living relatives.

Concluding thoughts

In a world that is both hyper-digital and globalised, we don’t have the same technological barriers to overcome. If we want to find out relatives, our DNA is the compass to take us there. That’s not to say, however, that the traditional methods will ever become futile. Our ancestors were fabulous record-keepers, considering there were no computers, USB sticks, or cloud storage. They left us a trail of breadcrumbs, and it's up to us in 2022 to choose whether we follow them or not.