Learn More About Family Searches

If you've been adopted and are curious about your biological family, you may feel compelled to search for that family. The same could be true if you think there's a family member about whom you know very little, When you go to perform a family search, there are a number of documents that you'll largely rely on.

What documents factor into a family search most prominently?

Census Records

If you're just looking to get basic family tree information, census records can be immensely helpful. Not only do census records provide information for general demographics and research, but those records help you to track down individual family members through the years. To make matters better, that even includes family members that lived centuries ago.

Usually, censuses happen every 10 years. This allows time for families to change and grow while also checking in fairly regularly. It also means that researchers get useful, timely information; in-between censuses, researchers often estimate demographic and population numbers based on non-official records, which can provide inaccurate information.

Birth and Death Records

Birth records give information about when a person was born, where that birth happened, and --- most importantly for many family researchers --- the names of the child's parents. Death records, on the other hand, provide information about whether a recent relative is deceased. They may also provide information regarding surviving family members of the deceased or if a marriage ended due to a death, rather than a divorce or separation.

Different locations include different information on birth and death records, so it's worth it to check what information your location maintains. Some individuals may also have had to turn in incomplete birth and death records; for example, if an individual doesn't know a child's father, that information will be absent on the birth records.

Contact Information

Some people make a distinction between familial research and ancestral research: familial research describes when an individual tries to gain as much information as possible about current family, while ancestral research describes when that individual tries to build a family tree stretching back as far as possible. If you're in the first group, contact information can be a hugely important part of your quest. It allows you to actually get in touch with anyone you find.

You can find contact information in various ways, and with the advent of technology, there are more ways than ever to contact someone. For example, PeopleFinders can help you find an individual's email address, phone number, and physical address, making it much easier for you to get in touch any way you prefer.

Why Should I Try a Family Search?

Even if you're not trying to build a giant family tree, you might want to start researching your family. Here are just a few of the most common reasons people start a family search.

Learn More About Your History

First off, it can be great to learn about your history just for knowledge's sake. Many families don't have very rich oral histories. It's common for people to only know about the last few generations of their family, and sometimes not even that. You might think that your family is "boring," but have you actually researched your family back through the years?

Second, history doesn't just refer to what happened centuries ago. If you're only looking for lost relatives of your local family, it can still open up information about family history. Maybe those relatives don't talk to your family anymore because of bad blood, or maybe it was just because people moved away and never kept in contact. That information can be extremely useful to your personal history.

Find Distant Relatives

Even if you don't have any estranged relatives, you likely have relatives distant enough that you don't talk to them. It's usually just a matter of connections; while some families keep in touch with second cousins, great aunts, and grandparents-in-law, not all families maintain those connections. Those distant relatives are still part of your family, however, and you might find it's important to reach out.

These family searches are also important if you do have estranged relatives. Estrangement happens for a variety of reasons--money, insults, etc. But no matter what the reason, you should have the ability to contact members of your family. Whether it's because the rest of your family won't help in your quest or because nobody has that information available, a family search can help.

Connect to a Bigger Community

Community is a basic human instinct, but many people don't have an attachment to a specific community. It's rare for people to talk to their neighbors these days, and the fast-paced nature of the world means you might not have the time or energy to engage on any additional levels. But you still deserve to find a community that you really feel connected to. Family inherently offers that.

You automatically belong to a family, and it can be nice to really understand that connection. Even if you aren't close with your immediate family, you may find you really get along with the people in your extended family. Sometimes, the small tie of family is all that you need in order to connect with someone on a deeper level.

How Can I Start a Family Search?

If you're looking to get in touch with family members for these reasons or any others, how do you do it? This is the best way to start.

Visit Courthouses and Request Records

Because public records factor heavily into family searches, you can often visit courthouses and other record-keeping offices and request the records directly. These courthouses may also offer digitized records that you can access from home or from the courthouse computers, which makes your research much easier.

The thing is, although these records are technically available to the public, that doesn't necessarily mean they're free. Courthouses can't usually charge you directly for the records, but to get around that requirement, many charge administrative fees that can be pretty steep. You can often expect to pay anywhere from $0.10 per page to $30 per document. The court may also charge extra for certain special requests, or requests in specific states.

Use an Online People Search

If you want to get around these administrative fees, your first stop should be an online people search engine like PeopleFinders. With PeopleFinders, you don't have to individually request records and attempt to cobble together an understanding of your current and past family. Instead, you can access everything right from your computer. Even better, PeopleFinders compiles records in one place, so you don't have to request multiple records --- those records are just one people search away.

This accessibility pairs with a huge database to really make this online people search worth your while. PeopleFinders has one of the largest databases of any online people search: billions of records for millions of American adults, comprising over one petabyte of storage.

Find Information With PeopleFinders

PeopleFinders is a great way for you to find information about anyone, whether it's someone you know or a distant relative who you want to contact. Because PeopleFinders has information about almost every adult in the United States, it's even easier than ever to find your family.

You can start with a variety of information, which makes it much easier to find people. Do you have a long-dead phone number for an estranged relative? Try a reverse phone lookup. Do you know someone's past address? An address lookup may help. Even if you don't have anything except a person's name, a people search should put you on the right path towards finding the answers you seek.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I do a family search on peoplefinders.com?

If you're trying to find family that you don't know, start with a search for yourself. Based on our data, PeopleFinders will pull together a list of possible relatives.

Can I find family for free on peoplefinders.com?

We do give access to a rudimentary possible relative list for free. But for a more extensive list of names, there is a fee attached.

How do I find family members?

Apart from searching on PeopleFinders, you can try to find family via a general online search, browsing through social media, or inquiring from other family members.

How do I create a family tree?

Start with yourself and work backwards (or upwards, as if often the case visually with a traditional family tree). Once you've established your direct lineage, then you can start expanding outward, to encompass more distant relatives.

How do I find lost family members?

If a family member is lost, it is often by choice--theirs and/or the family members you know. Official records should still exist, however, which is what makes an online search so effective.

How do I find family history?

The facts of your family history are best attained through access to public records. Actual memories and family stories will help to fill in the gaps.

How can I find family members not living in the U.S.?

Dedicated genealogical websites may have some rudimentary information about possible family members in other countries. And BYU has a world-renowned family history center that may be able to get you information.

What Is a Family Search?