Tracing Lost Loved Ones

Tracing lost loved ones is a long-term process, and we use a variety of tactics to find people. These include working with local media, visiting archive facilities and scouring social media.


Many individuals who have dementia and Alzheimer’s hide cash and valuables in their homes, such as in the back of sock drawers or in home safes. Searching for these things can help locate financial accounts and other important documents.

Check With the Probate Court

When someone passes away, their estate needs to be settled. This involves reaching out to family members, settling financial affairs and transferring property to heirs. If a person has a valid will, this process can be much simpler.

Fortunately, probate court cases are public record and you can find information about an estate by searching online. This includes documents and information about what was in the estate, who the executor is, the attorney who was hired and whether there is a contested or uncontested case.

Additionally, you can call the county clerk for help with finding these records. The clerk will look up the estate information and let you know if probate has been opened. They can also make copies of files for you if you want them.

In addition to the Probate Court, you should check with any places that your loved one frequented. This may include their church, place of worship, school, work, or social clubs/centers. If the deceased was a member of any trade organizations, you should search the membership databases for that organization.

Contact Financial Institutions

If your loved one did most of their financial business online, start by searching their electronic records. You should be able to find valuable information about their bank accounts, pension and insurance companies in this way. You can also check with local town office databases for information about property and assets they owned, as well as online life insurance and retirement benefit databases.

You should also contact your loved one’s employers to locate any potential life insurance policies, pension accounts and other investments. These companies can also help you locate any safe-deposit boxes.

As part of this process, you should notify all of your loved one’s credit reporting agencies that they have died. You can do this by calling Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. You will need certified copies of your loved one’s death certificate to provide to each of the credit agencies.

You should also notify the post office, so that any mail that was sent to your loved one will be redirected to you. This will help you avoid a pile-up of mail that can invite identity theft and other issues.

Visit the Homes of Known Connections

Long lost relatives can be a goldmine of family history, but only if you are able to connect with them. Whether it was a childhood connection that faded as the adults made decisions for the future of the family or a loss of contact that occurred through house moves, separation or divorce, reconnecting can help you get closure and fill in gaps in your knowledge about your ancestry.

If you have known connections to the person who disappeared, ask them for any information they might have or any contacts they can make. Try calling their employer or school, union or fraternal organization, church, community center, social club/center and senior centers. You may be surprised to find they still live in the same area you thought they did or have new addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.

If all else fails, try a simple Google search with their name. While this casts a wide net and may be less helpful in the beginning, it can turn up news articles, social media profiles, company directories or even old addresses and phone numbers that might lead to their current location.

Check Social Media

If your loved one was very active on social media, it’s possible that their followers have already heard of their passing. It’s important that you talk to the people in their circle before posting anything, however. You don’t want to accidentally upset anyone or make the situation worse.

It’s also worth checking whether their social media accounts have been memorialized or deleted. Facebook and Instagram, for example, allow you to memorialize or delete a deceased account if you can prove that you are their family member or lawful representative.

Searching for your lost loved ones online can help you uncover a wealth of information about their life, from friends and family members to public posts. It’s often the quickest and most effective way to gain resolution on the matter, even if it doesn’t turn up phone numbers or addresses. For a more thorough investigation, enlisting the services of an investigator is usually the best option. A professional will be able to unobtrusively find out the most useful details, including what type of connection your relative had with others.