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'Lost' Relatives

lost-postAll to often, we all have one of those ‘Lost Relatives’ – one that we believe existed but we can’t locate any information. Then there are the ones that appear to ‘disappear’ after a certain date and no record in any form that the person passed away.

So to help out a bit in searching for these lost relatives, keep in mind some of these search ideas.

If a woman states in a census record she is a widow, you tend to assume the husband died between the last census record and that one. Yes, possible, but if she was actually divorced, both men and women had instead stated even on government documents and to their friends they were widows or widower rather than divorced since that was not socially accepted. Also, there is the possible case that the husband or wife deserted the family, ran off, disappeared – yes even the wives did that. In those cases the remaining person either stated they were still married (which they were) or after a number of years stated they were widowed.

lost-mother-children-1907So finding that lost spouse can be difficult. You have to use a variety of differences in the spelling of the names. Even a surname might have an extra letter or ending added such as ‘ton’, ‘burg’, ‘son’ or ‘ly’. Also the opposite, a letter or two were removed from the spelling, such as Johnston became Johnson – sounds similar but spelled differently. When doing using a search box place the beginning part of the surname followed by an asterisk (*) so a variety of ending can be searched. A person maybe using just their middle name as the given name, dropping the first name. Or they could be using initials switched around.

As far as location the person could be anywhere, but people decades ago did tend to stay in the general area, maybe a neighboring county or if close to a different state, moving into a neighboring state. However be open to any location. One person eventually located a great grandfather who was working with a traveling circus.

In attempting to find a lost relative, you do have to have a complete search of any death records. Not just in the hometown or county but for sure neighboring counties and states. Alternatives after checking county records for death records are cemetery records, church records, newspaper obituaries, county Wills, tax records, and probate records — again including neighboring counties and states.

lost-fourA lost relative may be incarcerated (prison), hospitalized, serving in the military, working on a ship out to sea or moved to another country. Be open to alternatives.

When a person is missing that was still underage – a child, they could have gone to work as an apprentice, placed in an orphanage or workhouse (even if the parents were still alive), or went to live with another family, mostly because the parents could not support the child.

Another method to investigate is if a child’s or an adult’s surname has changed and is now using their mother’s maiden name. Of course, that can be a whole problem into itself finding the mother’s maiden name. That is a good variation of a family name, a person now using their mother’s name – worth checking. Recheck siblings of the missing person, one of them might have their mother’s maiden name as a middle name — a common practice.

Related genealogy blogs:

Elusive Ancestors

Errors in Records

Can’t Find Ancestor Online


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