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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Looking for someone you have lost touch with

Find out how to use publicly available information to help you look for people you have lost touch with. Some charities provide family tracing services, which help reunite relatives who have lost touch with each other. These charities can also help adopted people find their birth families.

Finding people who have gone missing

This page is about how to find people you have lost touch with. For help finding people who have gone missing – for example, a child who has run away from home – see 'Missing People - help and support’.

Checking electoral registers

You can use the electoral register to look for someone if you know the area where they last lived. The electoral register lists the name and address of everyone registered to vote in a given area. To find out how to access an electoral register, contact the local council for that area.

The British Library holds a complete set of electoral registers for the UK from 1947. If you can’t find the person on the register, this could mean they:

  • have not registered to vote 
  • have moved 
  • have married and changed their name 
  • are no longer living

You can download 'UK electoral registers and their uses' from the British Library for advice on using electoral registers.

Searching birth, marriage and death information

The General Register Office (GRO) holds records, for England and Wales, of all:

  • births
  • marriages
  • civil partnerships 
  • deaths
  • adoptions granted by a court

To find out how to search for this information, follow the link to ‘Using the General Register Office to research family history’.

You can order copies of birth, marriage and death certificates online, by post or telephone from the GRO. You can also contact the local register office where the event took place. Certificates should include addresses, which you can use to check the electoral registers for the area.

Searching wills

If you think the person you are looking for has died, you can search records of wills kept at the Principal Probate Registry in London. You may want to check these records in case the person you are looking for died abroad or while on duty with armed forces. 

You can either:

  • go in person
  • request a search to be carried out on your behalf for a small fee

You can use form PA1S, available from the link below, to request a search . If you want to visit in person, you will need to make an appointment in advance.

You can also use the National Archives. It has records of wills from 1858 to 1943.

Searching for name changes

The person you are looking for may have changed their name. Most name changes are done using the Deed Poll process. Deed Poll involves using a solicitor to legally change part or all of a name. The only official records of Deed Polls are those that are registered or ‘enrolled’ with the Royal Courts of Justice.

You can get information about name changes enrolled within the last five years by writing to the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Enrolled changes of name over five years old are held by The National Archives at Kew.

Using the National Archives

The National Archives holds many records that can help you find people, including records of:

  • army, navy, airforce and marine personnel
  • prisoners of war
  • the census
  • people’s careers and occupations

Finding family members

If you are looking for your birth or adoptive family, you can check your original birth registration record once you are 18 years old. You can also use the family tracing services provided by The Salvation Army or The Red Cross.

The Salvation Army Family Tracing Service

The Salvation Army Family Tracing Service helps to find relatives who are over the age of 18. For information about the service, call 0845 634 4747.

The Red Cross

The Red Cross runs a tracing service for relatives who have lost touch due to war or international disasters.

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