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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Connecting with Distant Relatives, Family Members that Don't Know You

The last time you saw a relative may have been when you were a child. You recall a few memories—the good as well as the bad. Curious about your loved one, you want to reconnect, but wonder how to go about it.
One. Obtain information about relative from family members.
Find out the relative’s full name, birth date, and last known location. You may also want to get their social security number as well. You can find a lot about the person and their family tree in this way.
Two. Visit a people search website.
Most of these sites will give you as much public information that is available when you pay a small fee.
Three. Contact a neighbor or friend.
Sometimes you may be able to extract information from someone when you are friendly. You can tell the neighbor or friend who you are while leaving some contact information. Avoid the temptation to ask questions about the relative; otherwise, the person may go back and tell your relative something negative. Instead, be willing to listen to whatever the neighbor or friend might reveal to you about your relative.
Three. Make an appointment with a private investigator.
If your people search and contact with neighbor or friend didn’t uncover much about the relative, then you will want to find out missing details by getting someone professional on the trail. A professional private investigator will discover things you may not have thought of, so it would be helpful to sit down with one.
Four. Write down what you will say to the relative at your first meeting.
You may have discovered some past history from relatives that may or may not be true. The last thing you want to do is push your relative away at the first meeting by jumping into a bunch of old stories. So prepare a simple script for yourself if you plan to reconnect over the phone or in –person. If you plan on writing a letter, you can just take your script and turn it into letter form.
Begin your conversation or letter with an introduction about yourself including your location, your reason for contacting the relative, and a request to call or write back. Leave controversial information out until you have talked awhile with this person. If the subject matter does come up, ask questions like a reporter not like an attorney and leave your personal opinion out of the conversation.
Five. Be polite and social.
Some long lost relatives tend to be quite bold. They may ask for things like money and housing. They may also create debates and rehash old stories that are better left in the past. Remember when speaking to those you don’t know very well, watch your tone of voice both on and offline. Invite them to your home or public location. Request to meet the relative at his or her home. This way you may be able to view photo albums and video if they are willing to meet with you. However, don’t offer to bring the person to your home or go to his or her environment if you suspect this person has mental problems and/or a drug or alcohol problem.
Six. Host a family event.
This is a great way to reconnect relatives. The person will be able to use you to touch base with others they know very well and most likely will feel more comfortable with them. However, there is no guarantee the family gathering will go smoothly. Distant relatives have their reasons as to why they don’t associate with certain family members, so one must always remember to respect that.
Seven. Notify relatives of a death.
A funeral will bring out distant relatives depending on how close they were. This is your opportunity to connect with long, lost relatives notifying them of someone’s passing. People are more likely to share information about the family when they know the person in question is long gone.
The following are some takeaways you will want to keep in mind in your quest to reconnect with your relative:
  • Know what your intentions are before meeting with this person.
  • Remember to avoid revealing everything you know so that the relative will not be put off with you.
  • Ask questions in a polite way, taking care to listen and not interrupt. You can get what you want if you are kind.
  • Avoid discussing the details of your meeting with other relatives who you know don’t like your loved one.
  • Dispel rumors only if you feel it will bring peace to the family; otherwise keep conversations with your distant relative confidential.
  • Encourage future interaction by periodic phone calls, emails, photos and video sharing.
When seeking out your relative, think of additional ways you can connect with this person if no idea previously mentioned works.
by Nicholl McGuire

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