Family pictures may provide clues to your father's relatives.

How Do I Find My Dead Father's Family Members?

by Molly Thompson

You may have grown up knowing your father's parents, his brothers and sisters or various other relatives, or you may have access to a detailed family tree or history that contains names and other data about your family members. However, if that is not the case, you have a range of other options available to you to help in the search for your dead father's relatives. Talk to people who knew your father, search online public records and genealogy data and expand your searches each time you obtain new data.

1. Start Close to Home

Go through your father's papers, documents and other personal items, such as photographs, to get clues about his family. Talk to the relatives you do know to gather information they have about your father, his family and his background. They may be able to help you identify people in old photographs, the place your father grew up or where he went to school. They may also be able to give you contact information for some of his friends who might know more about his relatives or past.

2. Public Records

Use whatever data you have about your father to search public records for information about his family. Either online or in person, visit the courthouse or records center for the county where he was born. If you can locate a copy of his birth certificate this way, it should contain the names, addresses and possibly, the ages of his parents. If you know the names of his mother and father, search online newspaper archives for this parents' obituaries, which typically contain names of other family members. Search free online U.S. federal and state census records for information about your father during his younger years -- these records list all residents of a household and are a good source of information about the names and ages of family members.

3. Genealogy Resources

Many genealogy resources are available free of charge to the general public. Others are available for a reasonable fee, which can generally be paid monthly or yearly. One of the most comprehensive sites is ancestry.com, which contains millions of records ranging from census data to military rolls to birth, death and marriage records. Enter your father's name, along with any other personal data you have, into the search function at one of the main genealogy websites. The records you obtain through such a search can often provide valuable information about your father and his family members, including census data, newspaper articles, immigration records, land holdings information and more.

4. Search Sites and Investigators

If you are unable to find any information about your dead father's relatives yourself, you may choose to turn to a for-pay website that searches for friends, relatives or birth families. Another option is to pay a professional researcher, genealogist or investigator to search for your father's family members. Results for these paid options vary according to the skill and diligence of the investigator or the types of sources available to the online search company. Before hiring a professional, research his credentials and references to ensure he has experience in searching for missing or long-lost relatives.

5. Unusual Circumstances

In certain situations, standard search methods may not be effective. If your father's family members were caught up in a war or national disaster, contact the missing persons locator services of an international agency such as the International Red Cross or one of the agency's national organizations. In cases of adoption or abandoned children, start with one of the websites specifically designed to find and reconnect adults with their birth families. Bear in mind that not all birth families want to be identified and adoption records often are closed. Because of that, in-depth searches may require the assistance of a lawyer with experience in adoption and family reunification.

About the Author

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images