Editor’s Note: The following post about how to find your relatives, including how to determine whether they’re alive or dead, and if they’re alive how you might find someone who appears to be “lost,” is by Denise R. Larson. This article appeared in the 12/30/2014 issue of “Genealogy Pointers.”
Genealogy is usually a vertical construct with ascending or descending generations, which uses the imagery of a soaring, multi-branched tree and its deep roots to visualize how a family has grown, spread, and at times intertwined through many generations.
There are a couple of new uses of genealogical methods that are horizontal in their approach to finding family members. One looks to the past to help adoptees find their birth parents. The other looks to the future to find lost or out-of-touch family members who can mentor a youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood.
Both types of looking-for-the-living searches use a variety of resources: hard-copy guides, directories, and documents; online databases; and personal contact over the phone and in person.
Not sure if someone is still in the land of the living?
If you already have the name of the person you’re looking for but are not sure if the person is still alive, go ahead and do an online search of the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), which was started in 1936 for persons born in 1865 or later. Several websites offer free access to the SSDI database. They can be found by doing a Google search for “Social Security Death Index.” If the person is located, then it’s time to order a copy of the Application for a Social Security Number (SS-5) to obtain all the personal information provided at the time of the application. As the Social Security Administration states on its website, www.socialsecurity.gov, “A deceased person does not have any privacy rights.” The application can be a gold mine of names, dates, and leads as to where to look next for living relatives. Continue reading…