Find living relatives

Find living relatives

Want to hold a family reunion or track down distant cousins? There are plenty of tools to help you find people who share some of your genes

How to, How to

How to

How to

The golden rule of genealogy is to work backwards, but sometimes you might need to break it – the main reason would be to find other descendants of one of your ancestors, ie distant cousins who may be still alive and might know more about the roots you are tracing.

Ideally one would work backwards, then identify an ancestor’s siblings (perhaps in the household member list in a census record), and then see if you track them and their own descendants forward.

If you have a more unusual name, you may even be able to short-cut this process by investigating people of that name alive today directly. Either way, one of the most useful resources for research in the phone book – although bear in mind that around 40% of today’s landline users are ex-directory. Many local phone books will be in your library; you can also search the latest editions online.

Electoral rolls and land registry records are also major sources – many of these are now online.

Today’s popular social networking websites are also useful – or indeed just a Google search. You can search Facebook and LinkedIn by name, and the latter (, mainly for business use, has advanced search features to narrow down results by country and so on.

In focus: Phone books

You can search phone books from 1899 to 1960 at TheGenealogist – here’s a typical example from Hampshire in 1940

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  1. Older directories often had advertisements, which might give an idea of the size of your forebear’s business
  2. Occupations are often given with business addresses, but in abbreviated form – in one case a rather opaque ‘Frtr’ presumably means ‘Fruiterer’!
  3. Before 1968 the phone books showed the telephone exchange here – after that it was the postal town
  4. If a title isn’t given, the male member of the household was usually listed – and here a military rank is shown
  5. The use of initials and first names varies as it does today – several initials can help you be sure you have the right person
  6. With luck you can track the same person through several years to find out how long they lived at a particular address

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