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If you want to track down a lost relative, there are many things you can try. Social media, specialized social networking sites, in-person searches, people search sites, public records, college records, workplace records, and alumni records are just some avenues you can explore.
It's best to start with a search of Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. You can track someone down on Facebook through relatives, friends, hometown, current location, high school, or university. You can use Facebook groups of people from high schools, colleges, or religious groups to try to reconnect with your lost relative.
There are niche sites for relatives, friends, business people, and other groups. If you have a good idea about the kind of place and person they are likely to be, you could turn to some of these. One example of a niche networking site is BatchMates. It has members from all over the world. You can look for people by name, company, hometown, and more. Once you find someone you believe could be them, you send them a personalized message through the site.
You've probably tried this, but since we can (and do) miss obvious things, let's mention it anyway: you might find them through other family members. Ask any relatives you can think of. On the downside, this might make it necessary to search for even more relatives.
You haven't seen them since you were kids? This happens very often. You lost touch with a cousin you used to love playing with. It will help to remember any of their parents' social affiliations or occupations. Such details can prove exceptionally useful.
As you trace your family, you might end up finding much more than you expected. You might discover an uncle, cousin, or aunt you didn't know existed. Contacting people like your grandparents, parents, siblings, and other uncles, aunts, and cousins might help fill in the gaps.
If you and your lost relative had mutual friends, talk to them by all means. You might even be friends with some of them on Facebook and have forgotten because you don't really chat. If you and your relative had the same job once, a coworker might be able to help you track them down. It might be someone you both went to school or church with or were on the same sports team. The possibilities are endless.
Access Public Records
There are many ways to access and search public records. Best of all: all you need is their full name. This isn't to say no other information will be of use. In fact, hometown will be quite helpful. That said, you can search for many things: name changes, marriages, divorces, deaths, even prison records.
You might need to call the National Center for Health Statistics to access public records. This is the main health statistics agency in the US. If not, the health statistics agency of your local government will maintain those types of records.
Workplace or University Records
If you worked together, get in touch with the respective workplace to ask for leads. Since most offices won't provide personal information, you should talk to someone you know, or knew, there.
You can contact your college or high school if you went to school together or use your alumni directory. Directories of past students are often available for sale from educational institutions. Most colleges and universities keep track of alumni too. Get in touch with them to get information about reunions or about their directory.
You might know what fraternity or sorority they once were members of. Contact the organization if you don't have login information and ask for details.
You've done all this and still gotten nowhere? Maybe your relative doesn't want to be tracked down or has passed away. You can find obituaries or locate a deceased individual using a site like Tributes or Family Search.