How do I find information on a dead relative?

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How do I find information on a dead relative? This is a question we get asked often, our Head Researcher David Oates is here to give you advice on how to do just that.

About the Author

My name is David Oates, I am the Head Researcher at Relative Connections, you can view my LinkedIn by clicking here. I am also the director of the adoption support agency which is regulated by Ofsted. I am a highly regarded and experienced family tracer and intermediary. I have spoken about finding long lost family on BBC Radio 5 and was part of the featured team on BBC1’s Family Finders TV series.

Finding information on a dead relative is something that you might be able to do yourself. It just depends on what information you are trying to find out.

If it’s standard stuff like wills, probate, birth, marriage or death information then websites like Ancestry and FindMyPast can be really great places to search. It’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Many people who come to us to find information on a dead relative have tried to source the information on their own but what can happen is you are either too busy, not experienced enough or don’t have enough initial information to join the dots and get to the bottom of it all.

So at some point people do come to us to either finish a search or for us to confirm that they were barking up the wrong tree and for us to start again.

The main problem is lack of information to find information. There are certain facts that you need to know to be able to narrow down the search enough to look for useful information.

If you know your relatives name and it’s very popular then even having a year of birth and a place of birth can prove a challenge. That’s when you would have to look at potential matches and then search each one to find some other facts, parents names for example to tie everything together.

As you can see it’s not always easy to find information on a dead relative. People who use our service tend to start the search, get frustrated, give up and then come to us. We don’t necessarily have access to some amazing system but what we do have is skill and experience to get to the bottom of things. Also we find our external researchers to be invaluable to a search. For example if we can’t find what we need online we’ll instruct a local researcher to search a local archive and been able to call on that network of other people is hugely helpful.

I was talking to someone yesterday who told me that her mother’s father was thought to have another child after a brief affair. Her mother has decided long ago that she had no interest in finding her husband’s child to another woman but the lady I was speaking to was intrigued to think that she had a half-sister out there. These situations happen all the time.

We work for several people each week who ‘think’ they have a half sibling or who think they have a long lost cousin but the person they need to ask about it has passed away. We love getting people answers to their questions and these types of searches are always interesting and allow us to uncover lots of information on deceased relatives. It’s not always good so you must steel yourself for any outcomes and ask yourself if it will soil your opinion of your dead relative if you do find some hearsay to be true, I just want to be honest with you.

On the whole people who use our services go into any investigation with their eyes open, they just want to know if things are true and get to the bottom of a family mystery. Others searches have less intrigue and people just need a copy of a will or death certificate but the documents they require are not available online, we can usually get to the bottom of these searches too.

I hope that’s given you a quick insight into this topic of finding information about dead relatives. If you think you might need our help you can contact us via our website and we can run through the details and tell you more about what we do and how we do it.