How to find a lost relative? The simple answer – There are two ways to find a lost relative. The first is to use a professional people tracing service. The advantage of this is, if you choose a good one, is that you get full access to their tracing systems, their experience and their support. The second way is to carry out your own research. It is possible to find a lost relative this way but be prepared to spend money on credits and lots of time on your search. So really it depends, are you looking for a service or is it something to do in your spare time.

Often the answer lies on how close the relative is to you and the reason you want contact. We’ll discuss both options in this article. Here is what we will cover,

  1. Finding a lost relative with a service.
  2. Finding a lost relative, yourself.
  3. Tools and methods to help you find them.
  4. The emotional side of finding a relative.
  5. Contacting them.
  6. Possible outcomes and dealing with them.

Just on a side note – We find some people are looking to find a lost relative for free but that is just not possible. You’ll need to spend money or time, neither are free.

How to find a lost relative with a service

This is not an advert for our services, and we want to make sure you get lots of value from reading the article, but the overview below will help you understand the advantages of using a service. There are lots of services in the UK to find lost relatives and they all do it in different ways so make sure you shop around to get what you are looking for.

Our clients are looking for a service that does everything for them. They want to be supported throughout the process of finding a lost relative. They understand that it can be tricky, emotional and time consuming.

On average we take around a week to find a relative but that for us is the easier part of the service. Our service is designed to put you in touch with your relative. So, once we have established where they are we offer an intermediary service to help get you back in touch with them. We also offer lots of emotional support so our team are trained in safeguarding and counselling so they can support you.

Our experience over the last 14 years shows how important that first contact is and by choosing to do via a third party means that everyone can ensure they get the best possible outcome.

Here are somethings to consider when you are thinking of hiring a people tracing agency to find your relative.

  1. Do your due diligence on the agency you are going to hire.
  2. Do they have contact details on their website like their address and phone number?
  3. Do they answer their phone when you call?
  4. Do they have experience in finding people and good reviews?
  5. How long have they been in business?
  6. Do they search legally and ethically?
  7. Do they offer any emotional support?
  8. Do they just provide you with your relatives address or do they help you make contact?
  9. Are they regulated? Do they have any credentials?
  10. Do they provide exactly what you are looking for on your journey to find a relative?

Advantages of using a find lost relatives service to help you

  1. They do all the work
  2. They emotionally support you
  3. They work to get you the best outcome
  4. You don’t waste time looking yourself
  5. They can find relatives with only snippets of information.
  6. They can offer help and advice depending on the outcome of the search
  7. They can do the intermediary work and deal with any initial concerns or doubts your relative might have.

How you can find a relative yourself

If you prefer you can look for a relative yourself. There are many ways you can do so. Where do you start though? Well that really depends on what you know about the relative you are looking for.

Here are some questions to ask yourself or even better, to ask other people who know or did know your relative. Remember a professional service would not need this information but if you are doing your own searches you will need to think about these questions in order to do your own investigation.

  1. What is their full name? Could that have changed? Could they have got married for example.
  2. What is their date of birth? A date of birth is something that you cannot change so can be useful in searching.
  3. If you don’t know their date of birth, do you know their age now?
  4. Do you know where they were born? This can help if you need to look for marriage, birth or even death records.
  5. Do you have any idea where they might be living right now? Obviously, you don’t know where they are, but do you know that they live in Scotland for example, or that they moved to Spain? Or that they were born in Huddersfield and all things considered they are probably still living there.
  6. Do you know the name of anyone else they could be living with? This can be useful if you are checking some address systems.
  7. Do they have any hobbies or interests that you know about? This can help with finding relatives online quite a lot.
  8. Anything else you remember?

As you can see there is a lot to think about. If you can build up this picture of your relative it can help you find them so its worth doing. Even if you are considering using a professional service it is good to compile this and if needed you can share it with them.

Get a notebook or a Word document on your computer and write it all down. As you start searching you can add to the document and continue to build up the picture of your relative.

What to do next to find your lost relative?

The next step is to start searching. Depending on some of your answers to the above questions will determine where you start. For example you need to make sure that if your relative is called John Smith and you know he lived in England that you don’t rush to buy credits to an online tracing product. Why? Because the information is way too broad, you find lots of matches but have no meaningful way to narrow it down.

So what should you to locate your long lost relative?

Fill in the blanks. Let’s take a look at how you can do that online.

  1. If you don’t know their age can you work it out by looking at birth records? If you found your relative was born in 1949 then that would help you narrow the search down.
  2. If you knew your relative works for Morrisons then you could check to see if they were on LinkedIn.
  3. If you knew they moved to Thailand you could join an Ex Pats Facebook group and ask if anyone knows them.
  4. If you knew that your Dad married someone called Rosemary and moved to the Isle of Wight then you could buy some credits and look on something like to see if there was a match.
  5. If you have your relatives full name and an approximate area then you can check on direct enquiries*

*Direct Enquiries was a think before mobile phones and the internet. You phoned a number and spoke to the operator and asked for the phone number for a person or a business! Yes, that did really happen! Don’t get me started on when you had to dial a telephone number to get transfer news for your football team. I digress.

As you can see the information you have about your relative will help you to decide where to start your search. Again, a professional researcher will know exactly where to start as they will be searching all day every day. With a bit of practise though you’ll soon be whizzing round the various websites pulling together the various strands to continue to build out the picture of your relative.

Are you emotional about finding your lost relative?

Some people are emotional, and some people become emotional so make sure you prepare yourself for the journey. It is also good to be prepared as you can for the possible outcomes of your search. Are you prepared to check death records? How would you feel if you found a match for your relative? But at the same time are you knowledgeable to know that the match is your relative and not just a name’s sake? As you do this search you might find that you become more emotional about them. You may feel a sense of frustration of you can’t get the answers you are looking for. It’s important to keep yourself in a good state of mind.

We ask our clients if they have support around them when we are searching on their behalf. Our experience tells us that at some point people will have a wobble and of course that is understandable. The emotions can come out at various points, is it worth considering which of these would make you feel emotional,

  1. When you are told that your relative can be found?
  2. When you think about their reaction to being found?
  3. When you think of the circumstances of your separation from them?
  4. When you find them?
  5. When you want to contact them?
  6. When you know more about them?

There are other points that could be emotional, and every search is different. Your story is unique and your emotional journey will be different to everyone else who reads this article and that is ok.

Just consider these things too please,

  1. It is normal to want to know more about your family.
  2. It is normal to want to trace your relatives.
  3. It is normal to feel emotional about searching for a relative.

If you feel you are moving from feeling emotional to a state where you feel you cannot cope them, please seek medical help and in an emergency call 999.

Contacting a lost relative.

Once the finding is done then the contacting takes place.

In the UK some tracing companies will trace your relative to their current address and provide you with the address in a nice report. We don’t do that. In our opinion it is not ethical to do that. We want to contact your relative and ensure that,

  1. They are in a good place emotionally for contact. Basically, is now a good time for them.
  2. They want contact and don’t have to bring other relatives up to speed with things.
  3. That they are prepared for contact.

If you go and knock on your relatives door after 20 years do you expect to met with open arms? Maybe you might, maybe you think you will, but you don’t. Why take a chance. You must give them the opportunity to take in this information in their own time. You can really make a mess of it because you’ll be so excited or nervous or emotional and it could all go wrong.

Here is what we think you should do.

If you used our service to carry out your intermediary. We would write a letter to your relative. Old fashioned maybe but effective for getting a good outcome. So, if you have found your relative yourself then we would advise you to do the same.

Keep the letter short. Use the K.I.S.S method.





This was first coined in the USA as early as 1938 but widely used by the US Navy. I digress again.

Obviously, we are not saying anyone is stupid, but the message to take is keep it simple.

Keep your letter really simple.

The letter is to get them to response it is not for pouring out your heart at this stage. Make sure you include a way to response but do not put your address in. We would not even suggest adding your phone number. Start with an email address. This can protect you later on if things don’t go to plan and they sometimes don’t.

You can send the letter recorded delivery if you wanted. This would let you know that it was received. Although since Covid-19 the Post Office no longer obtain a signature when delivering recorded post.


Then you have to wait. This can be an emotional time so look out for that. It is good to make sure you have a friend or family member around to support you at this time. Maybe make allowances if you are feeling a bit short tempered for example. We all have different ways of expressing emotions so just be mindful of yours.

It can be good to prepare yourself for the possible outcomes before you post the letter. Will you be ok if they don’t respond? Or if the response is underwhelming or not what you wanted?

On a final note.

If a relative doesn’t respond it might be for several reasons.

In our experience some of the following can happen,

  1. They don’t feel able to deal with any response.
  2. They feel guilty about the past and don’t know how to deal with it.
  3. They are encouraged not to make contact by someone else.
  4. They have health problems
  5. They simply don’t want to do it at the moment.

We must give people time. Only last week we had a letter response that was over 2 years old. The record is around 4 years. In both circumstances the timing was wrong and as soon as it wasn’t the letter was responded to. So be at peace if you don’t get a response that one could come at any time. You must continue to live your life though and not become obsessed waiting for a response.

So, what in next for you in your journey to find a long lost relative?

Are you looking for a service? We’d love to tell you more about our work and tell you more about what we do and how we do it. So if you were looking for information about tracing a relative yourself then I hope this article has been of use to you.

If you are feeling emotional about your search for a lost relative please click here to visit NHS Mental Health.

If you would like to know anything else feel free to contact us our details are on the website.

Thank you for reading how to find a lost relative.