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Finding Lost Family Guide

Losing touch with family can happen for a huge variety of reasons – adoption, arguments or moving overseas can all result in us no longer possessing the contact details of those we should be closest to.

Of all separations, estrangement from our family members is perhaps the most painful. Family is about more than shared DNA and losing touch can feel like losing a piece of yourself.

Fortunately, Peopletracer's online tools can help you to track down the person you're looking for, at the click of the button. The rest of this guide will consider how to use these tools, as well as providing you with more information to help you with your search.


Image by Lars Plougmann

Getting Started

To get started, rack your brains and try to gather as much information as possible about the person you're looking for. The more details you have, the further you can narrow down your search results. Useful things to note down include:

  • Middle name

  • Maiden name

  • Names of parents or siblings

  • Date of birth or age

  • Last known address

  • An old contact number

Searching for Birth Parents

Since 1975, adopted adults in the UK have been able to apply for access to their original birth record. If you were adopted before 12 November 1975, you are required to see a nominated counsellor before being given access to your records. If you were adopted after this date, you can choose whether or not you wish to see a councillor.

The laws differ slightly depending on country. Visit the relevant Citizens Advice pages for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island for more information. If you wish, you can send your information to the Adoption Contact Register. This is a confidential, computerised database, which links birth relatives who wish to be contacted (the person you are searching for will also have to be on the register for you to contact them). You can also specify if you do not wish to be contacted.

Searching for an Adopted Child

Under UK law, it's illegal to try and make contact with an adopted child until they are 18 or over. Once the child is 18, you can add yourself to the register by filling in the form CR part 2. Alternatively, you can apply to make contact with an adopted person with an approved intermediary agency.

Find out more at Gov.UK.

How to trace lost family using Peopletracer

If you have information about the person you're looking for, you can use Peopletracer's tools to track them down. All you need to get started is a name, although information such as location can help to narrow your search results.

Peopletracer packages Packages

We offer three different packages to suit your needs: Bronze, Silver and Gold. If you're looking for one person the Bronze Package should be ideal, but you will need a bigger package if you're searching for more than one person. To find out how many credits each search will use view our Credit Usage Guide.

Simply create an account and then select the search package that's right for you.

What information will you have access to?

Our people finder tools trawl through hundreds of millions of records taken from the edited version of the Electoral Roll and the Telephone Directory database. Our records are also regularly updated to ensure that you are given the most accurate results possible.

A People Search will throw up a wealth of information including a full address, contact number and property information. Address Search results also include Google Maps, which pins the property's location on a map and also includes the visual tool Google Street View, allowing you to virtually walk around the local area.

Difficulties You May Face

In certain circumstances, tracking someone down may prove difficult. Things that can complicate your search include:

  • A common surname – may return a large number of results for the same name, making it difficult for you to identify which one is the person you're looking form. This is when you need to refer to your notes mentioned in 'getting started'. A detail such as a middle name or a date or birth may help you to distinguish between the results.

  • Marriages – if you're searching for a female, she may have married and gained a new surname. Therefore, if you search using her old surname she may not appear in the search results. If this is the case, try using a Marriage Search to find an official marriage event in England and Wales from 1984-2005. This might provide you with the person in question's new surname.

  • Death – there is always the sad possibility that the person you're looking for may have died. If you're struggling to find someone in the search results, try using a Death Search. This will provide details of every registered mortality in England and Wales from 1976-2006, and will include the name, precise date of birth, month and year of registration and registered district.

  • Adoption – if a child was adopted their surname may have changed. Try using a Birth Search to locate official birth records in England and Wales from 1984-2006. This will reveal the full name of the person, the mother’s maiden name, month and year of registration and the registered district. You can perform a search with the full name or the surname only – adding the year of birth or the mother's maiden name can help to narrow down the results.

What else can you do online?

With the huge and growing popularity of networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked In, social media can be an incredibly useful tool for tracking someone down. Try searching the person's name in the search facility of these sites to see if it returns their profile.

However, whilst Facebook or Linked In can give you the ability to privately contact people who aren’t your friends or contacts, many people will apply settings that prevent people from contacting them in this way. Many of these sites will also limit search results for people who may have contacts in common, so you may struggle to find the person you're looking for in this way.

What to do when you reconnect

Reconnecting with long-lost loved ones can be an overwhelming experience, particularly if contact was lost following a difficult incident such as an argument or adoption. You will also have to prepare yourself for the distressing possibility that the person may not want to be contacted.

You should consider whether the potential benefits of re-contact outweigh the potential negatives – no two circumstances are the same and the important thing is what's right for you.

Remember, adoption and fostering organisations such as BAAF can offer further and sound advice regarding tracing and contacting family members.

Sign up today to start tracing your lost family. If you're successful, contact us – we'd love to hear about it!