Researching family becomes an obsession to most of us. There is most likely nothing we would rather do with a few spare minutes than make a great ﬁnd. To each genealogist, that great ﬁnd can be something different; a vital record that gives a new name to add to the tree, or a census record that shows the family together. For me, it is completely different. Donʼt get me wrong – those are great ﬁnds, and I have done many happy dances with each of those ﬁnds. But, my favorite ﬁnd is… a living family member.
It is easy to lose a connection with family, it could have happened a few generations back. The question is, how do we ﬁnd the living family members? Let me share my experiences doing this.
My favorite records to help me ﬁnd living family is the newspaper. There are many different web sites that can help a genealogist ﬁnd their living family. My ﬁrst experience with ﬁnding living family was in October 2008. I had been following census records following the family of my great-great aunt, Catherine OʼConnell. I turned to Newspaper Archives
and searched for Catherineʼs family. (Due to living family, I am withholding Catherineʼs married name.) I found so many mentions of the family in different areaʼs of the paper. I found obituaries, marriage announcements, and birth announcements. I was able to bring this family forward four generations within a week’s time.
Once I had names of children that should still be living, I used the White Pages
to ﬁnd home addresses. With that, I mailed off letters to a few of the family members and prayed that someone would answer me. A few weeks later, I got my ﬁrst response from an older gentleman who conﬁrmed that we were related. He was older and said he really does not remember much about the family connections and that I should write his sister. So, I did, and I patiently awaited her reply. She actually phoned me, and we had a brief conversation about family. I told her I was looking to travel to see where our ancestors were from and would love to meet them.
She told me to let them know when we would be in town and we could all get together. It took me a few years to make the trip, but I was ﬁnally able to meet these cousins – cousins that had lost connections with the family. Their mom moved away from the family as did my grandfather and his mom. So, it was natural that they had no contact. To be honest, they had never met. I was honored to be there to meet these siblings who were my grandfathers ﬁrst cousins. I felt a sense of closeness to my grandfather who had passed when I was a small child.
The clues to ﬁnd the living are out there in the papers local to where your family lived. You just need to search them out. Besides Newspaper Archives, there is Genealogy Bank
(both of are subscription-based websites). For those of you with New York ancestors, I highly recommend Fulton History
. Something you should never overlook is your public library. Through ours I can access ProQuest which has a historical collection and recent papers as well. Using ProQuest will depend on the area your family lived in, but do not overlook it. Be sure to check your local library to see if ProQuest is available to you.