How Do You Search for Distant Relatives?

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Searching for distant relatives can be done through older, time-honored methods such as contacting known relatives for a family history or family tree and talking to neighbors or community members. Modern approaches, like DNA testing and making use of the wide range of research resources found on the Internet, are also effective. A comprehensive search uses both methods.

If distant relatives are known, then a search of online phone books or other people-search sites for names and last known addresses is a good first step. Contacting whoever lives at the last known address may turn up the forwarding address of the relatives if they have moved. Searching online obituary and death notice sites is also a sound option; some sites allow friends and family to sign virtual guest books, which could give clues to tracking down distant relatives. There are many genealogy sites online, both free and fee-based, that can be used to track down known relatives and to discover new ones. These websites include message boards and links to public records. DNA testing sent to a database can discover distant relatives who are also in the database; autosomal DNA tests can only determine relatives as far as grandparents and grandchildren, while Y-DNA tests for men and mtDNA tests for women can determine both close and distant relatives, although they cannot determine the relationship.