05 October 2009

How to Find Living Relatives

Planning a reunion? Don't know how to find those cousins who moved accross the country a few generations back? Learn how to find just about anyone.

Years ago one of my many favorite genealogy sites was ZabaSearch.com
Everyone needs a little more zaba. I was there when it was new. I was there when it was no longer available for free and now I'm back when I see that I can get good stuff for free again. When it wasn't so free I began turning back to other sites.

Over the years I have come to love Intelius.com because without paying you can see relatives of most living people (their immediate family who have lived at the same address.) Intelius will list the ages for free too which you can calculate approximate birth years from. (You have to search for each name individually to find a person's age.) ZabaSearch will give a persons birth year and sometimes month next to their name for free too. There once was a very good website where you could get almost anyone's birth date who was living or recently passed. I forget the URL because I was also there when it closed. There is a site BirthDatabase.com that tries to do the same, but in my opinion is no better than the two search websites I just discussed.

For those of us who are really into the web wouldn't it be nice to be able to find living relatives' profiles on Facebook, Twitter or MySpace by searching one simple site? I thought so. Then one day I saw an ad on Ancestry.com for MyLife.com which promised just that. It works better for that purpose than any other site I know about, but it has a long way to go. I use a combination of these and a few others in this order of usefulness:
  1. ZabaSearch

  2. Intelius

  3. Facebook

  4. Ancestry

  5. MyLife

So you know what websites to use, but how do you use them. Let me use an example. One of my many genealogy goals I set awhile back was to contact and keep in touch with all the descendants of my 3rd-great grandfather Samuel McCormick. Because my great grandparents had some interest in keeping in touch with their family I had the names of many of Samuel's descendants within a couple generations of him. It cut off around 1900 on most lines though. I filled in gaps by tracing them forward on the census (to 1930). I gathered all the Social Security Death Index records I could, as well as other records that can be found on Ancestry. Then phonebooks and directories come in. Often a person who was a child on the 1930 Census will be an adult on the directories of the 1980's-2000's on Ancestry. If the person's age and location are nearly the same you can judge you have found the right person. Often the phone numbers on these records are out dated (it doesn't hurt to check.) If they don't work that is when you look on the other sites like Intelius.com to get a more updated number. ZabaSearch often gives you many of the older listings for people too which is good for tracking moves, but you may find yourself trying ten numbers before you get to the right person. It is so worth it when you get back in touch though. Then on these sites you often can find the younger generation between 20's-60's in age who may potentially use Facebook. Search for all of their names on there and you have instant e-mail connectivity as well as an easy way to share pedigrees and photos.

Happy hunting, cousin!

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