Tracing Lost Loved Ones

Whether a loved one has been missing for weeks or years, reminders of them can trigger grief. Holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays are common sources of painful reminders.


Relatives can also try to find their loved ones through the ICRC’s Central Tracing Agency. This is an institution that enables people separated by war, disaster or migration to reconnect with their family members.

Search Their Home

A missing person’s home may hold clues that could help them find themselves. For instance, they may keep cash in a sock drawer or other secret locations; this can be especially true for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Also, some people have a habit of hoarding items, so don’t neglect to check places like storage units and the back of sheds.

Look for financial documents such as bank statements, insurance policies and stock certificates. These documents will give police a clue to what institutions the person has accounts with, as well as if they have any investments. It is also important to check a person’s car, house and vehicle for any clues. Remember, it’s crucial to not tamper with any evidence, such as cleaning up the room or vehicle where they were last seen, so investigators can examine it for fingerprints and other signs of life.

It’s a good idea to contact the person’s employer, school and place of worship to alert them that they are missing. Also, be sure to notify the missing person’s relatives. You should also consider posting a missing person poster that includes a recent picture of the person and descriptions of physical descriptors such as scars, birthmarks or tattoos. The poster should also list their last known address and phone number. You can also register the person on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s website, which will allow law enforcement to spread the word about their disappearance.

Check with the Courthouse

A good place to begin your search for long lost relatives is the courthouse. Public records like birth, death, marriage and divorce are stored here as well as any documents related to criminal activity and bankruptcy. There are also records on professional licenses for cosmetology, nursing, therapy and law. You can also check the social clubs, schools and churches where they were members. Contacting these places is a great way to get first-hand information about your missing loved ones from people who knew them best.

You can also find information on deceased relatives by searching obituaries and cemetery records. These sources will give you a name and last known address. You can also try searching the Internet for a person. If they have a Facebook page, Twitter account or LinkedIn profile, these platforms can be helpful in locating them. You can also do a reverse Google search or a white pages or yellow pages people search to find a long-lost relative.

If all of these methods fail, you can hire a private investigator to track down your loved one. An investigator will unobtrusively collect important data on your relative such as their physical location, phone number and social media or email account. The cost of an investigation will vary depending on the amount of work needed, but it is usually the fastest and most effective way to locate your loved one.

Look for Financial Documents

Many elderly people, especially those with dementia or Alzheimer’s, hide money and valuables around their home. Whether that’s in a sock drawer, the back of their closet, or in their home safe, be on the lookout for anything of value. If you can find a bank or other financial institution that the deceased person may have used, it’s worth contacting them to see if there are any accounts left behind. Most banks will require you to present proof of death and legal documentation stating your authority to access the account.

You should also check through the deceased’s desk and files, and any safe deposit boxes they may have. Often, their computer will have documents and information about various accounts they may have handled online. It’s also worth reaching out to their most recent and previous employers to see if they have any life insurance policies, retirement plans, or 401(k)s that may be unaccounted for.

While sorting through paperwork can be time-consuming and emotionally taxing, it is a way to respect your loved one and make sure that all of their assets end up in the right hands. It’s important to remember that scammers love to take advantage of those who are grieving, so always be on the lookout for any suspicious phone calls or emails. And if something doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to reach out to a reputable debt collector or attorney.

Search Social Media

As a part of end-of-life planning, some people will make arrangements to shut down their social media accounts after they pass away. This is especially true if the deceased died in an out-of-the-ordinary way, such as being murdered or succumbing to a rare disease. These kinds of things will often make the local news, so it’s worth checking online newspapers from their hometown or even other locales to see if there was a story about them that could shed some light on their passing.

Depending on your loved one’s wishes and the policies of each platform, you can choose to either memorialize or delete their account. Facebook for example, allows you to memorialize an account so that it still exists but will no longer send out notifications, such as birthday reminders.

If you decide to memorialize an account, you can also assign a legacy contact who will be able to log into the account and manage their content. Other platforms like TikTok and YouTube allow you to do the same thing. If your loved one used Google, there are a few different processes for managing their email account and other google assets.

Trying to track down a long-lost friend or relative can be a painful process. However, you can use a background check service like TruthFinder to help you scour public records and find potential relatives and connections that may help you finally connect with the person.