Connecting with Distant Relatives

Despite the world now being a global village, it can be challenging to stay in touch family members who have moved away to explore new horizons. If you’re missing the family connections you used to have, or want to discover more about your extended family / family history, now is a good time to change this paradigm and do something about it.

finding family, family members, distant relatives, staying in touch, extended family(Large Family Silhouette Photo: Tyler Nix via Unsplash.com)

But, how can you learn about their lives, get in touch with them, and move on together?

Talk to your parents and grandparents

These are the people who probably know more about your distant relations than you do, so talking to your parents and grandparents is a great way to start this process. Ask them to tell you a few family stories, encourage them to share a few secrets, and make sure to learn as much as you can from their answers. After you do that, you’ll be able to continue the search on your own, but you need someone with the right facts to set you off.

Talking to your parents and grandparents about these things will help you learn more about them, and also about the history of your family. These people and their memory span several generations, and you’ll soon discover more about the people who came before you and all about their stories. This will help you understand your own story too, as well as all those relatives you’ve never met yet. Once you’re done learning, it’s time to start exploring. 

Go online

Back in the day, learning more about your family meant talking to lots of different people and reading lots of different books. Many families kept chronicles and wrote detailed notes about every single family member. They wrote down details about their new location and lives when they moved away, and it was just a matter of finding the family journal, bible, address book, or whatever it was all written down in, and you’d be set. 

Now, however, you can do a lot of that in no time at all – just go online and check out different resources that are available to you. You may discover quite a lot about your family tree on your own, and / or you can find experts in probate genealogy who will discover all these things for you. They’ll give you the answers you’re looking for, and now you can start getting in touch with your distant relatives.

If you decide to start searching for family on your own, a good place to start is your local library. Browse through old newspapers, and look for sections with lists of people who were born during particular time periods. You may also be able to do this online, so ask the librarian(s) to help you reach online editions of your local newspapers and other records sources. 

Search engines such as Google or Bing can help you to find different resources for researching your relatives. Websites like Ancestry.com and MyHeritage may give you some of the answers you’re hoping to find. However, access to some online records are not available for free, and a paid subscription may be required for genealogy tools like this. You will need to share a few details about your family’s past and your DNA; in return you may discover more than you imagined. This could even lead you directly to those distant relatives and cousins you’ve never met in person.

Turn to social media

Another great way to learn more about your distant relatives is to turn to social media and look for them there. This probably won’t be too hard to do, especially if you already know their names and what they look like. And even if you don’t, you can still find them by using your other relatives’ profile pages and looking through the list of their friends.

The best way to do this is by using Facebook, because billions of people around the world are using it as we speak, regardless of their age and location. Find one of your relatives in your list of friends, go to their profile, and look for the “Friends” button beneath their profile photo. This will lead you directly to their list of friends (and the friends profile photos), and you should be able to find a “Search” option on the right. Start typing a name or surname, and a list of people will appear.

You can also use Facebook’s People You May Know suggestions, which could help you do all that more easily and quickly. This is a list of people you may know, based on mutual Facebook friends and other things that connect you.

Using a Genealogy on Facebook list that includes thousands of people you can browse through quickly, is another option. These lists are practical and comprehensive, and the chances are that you could find someone you know there. 

Get in touch using social media

Reaching out to people you’re not already connected with on social media can be hard, but don’t forget that these people aren’t complete strangers at all. They’re still your family and you share a certain bond. Once you’ve established a connection, your communication will probably be easy and smooth.

However, you can’t forget that the people you contact reserve their right not to respond. If you choose to use Facebook for this, be aware that if you’re not friends with them already on Facebook,  they won’t likely see your message immediately. They’ll get a notification that there’s a message pending, and they can choose whether they want to read it or not. If they don’t want to read it, they can simply ignore it and you won’t be able to connect with them.

If you think that they’re not responding because they simply haven’t seen the notification, there are a few other Facebook tactics you can try. Posting on their wall; “poking” them to ensure they get a notification; or tagging them in one of your posts, which will send them a notification as well.

A word of warning – DON’T be a nuisance and do ALL of these things at the same time, or you may get blocked by the person you’re trying to reach, and possibly have your own account blocked by Facebook. Give them some time to think about it and respond, before taking further action.

Traveling to distant places to meet distant relatives

After you’ve created a bond with your distant relatives, you can explore the possibility of meeting in person. If you’re not comfortable with visiting them at their home, or having them over to yours for a first meeting, then suggest meeting somewhere mutually convenient.

With so many families scattered across the globe, don’t be surprised if you find out that your distant relatives are just that – they are geographically far away from you. This means some extra work may be required to meet and get to know them better.

If your newly discovered relatives are really far away from you, you’ll need to spend some time planning your trip, arranging transportation (planes, trains, buses, automobiles), and figuring out what do with your home and pets, etc. while you’re away.

Of course, you can always turn this into an adventure if you choose to get a cool and updated RV and take a road trip to visit your relatives, but keep in mind that this process could end up taking more time, effort, and money than you imagined.

Whether you’ve never met your distant relatives before, or you just lost touch with them, establishing communication with them can be done. Stay positive, use a combination of methods – talking to family & gathering an oral history; online searches, reaching out on social media – and you should be able to find a few distant family members. Once you do, you can work at staying in touch in the future so that your own kids won’t have any distant relatives, just close family, no matter where they live!

*This article is for general informational purposes only. 50+ World does not endorse any product or service providers, nor does it receive remuneration from them. Obtain expert advice from qualified practitioners about your unique situation.*

Emma Joyce

Emma Joyce is an interior design enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. She loves spicing up living spaces and finding new ways to keep up with the latest trends. Emma is always on a lookout for some new and interesting ways to upgrade her knowledge and communication skills.

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