Lately, I’ve been immersing myself in the world of genealogy and family history. As a private investigator who specializes in adoption searches, genealogy is regularly at the heart of many of my cases, due in large part to the increasing popularity of DNA testing.
My son, my husband, and I all tested our DNA last year. For Christmas, my parents and all of my siblings got on board.
My sister just group texted us all last night with her results. My fair skinned, blonde haired sister is 19% Norwegian. She and my equally fair skinned, blonde brother started chiding my other brother and me, who are both darker skinned with brown hair, by using Google Translate to text in Norwegian.
My results are very heavily British, so I teased the blondies by directing some very British phrases to my brown haired brother.
Although there are minor differences, our DNA results show we all come from the same two parents.
My family is a standard example of many individuals who are sending off their DNA to establish ethnicity estimates, determine if some family story holds true, or assist in better completing a family tree.
But there are others, like my son, who are adopted and might have a deeper rooted desire to uncover their biological family roots, perhaps even identify specific biological family members. Many adoptees are also choosing to register their DNA in order to obtain any bit of health information they can about themselves.
Genealogy is not unique to adoption searches for private investigators. It can also come in quite handy for identifying heirs, locating missing family members, skip tracing, or even lesser known areas such as death penalty mitigation.
Regardless, if you are a private investigator and you have a case in which you need to uncover some genealogical links, these few resources have proven quite handy for me:
Obituaries can provide an abundance of information, particularly names and locations of spouses, children, and grandchildren of the deceased.
I love perusing obituaries because I never know what I am going to uncover.
This website is THE go-to for all things genealogy. It is both free and a great first stop for anyone needing direction for their online research.
Cyndi’s List provides over 180 categories and 650 pages of genealogical information.
Class Reunion Sites and Yearbooks
Class reunion sites, Facebook group pages, reunion coordinators, and even school and local librarians can be of tremendous help in identifying and locating people. Librarians often can get their hands on old yearbooks. They will sometimes even do research for you and scan copies of pages you need.
Old yearbooks can be extremely valuable resources and shouldn’t be overlooked.
A few websites for accessing old yearbooks and other related resources are yearbook-finder.com, archives.com, www.e-yearbook.com, www.classmates.com, www.thisoldyearbook.com, www.ebay.com, and www.worldvitalrecords.com.
Marriage and Divorce Records
Marriage and divorce records are so easy to obtain and are accessible by the public. It doesn’t take much to uncover a county’s process in obtaining those records. No ingenuity required here. Just call and ask.
Sometimes, the depth of information I uncover with these records is astounding.
This website provides state and county-level information that should at least be considered before undertaking any county-specific information searches.
Some examples of resources found here are birth and death records, census records, city directories, marriage records, newspapers, obituaries, photos, schools, tax lists, and wills.
Wills and Probate Records
Wills and probate records often list potential heirs’ names, addresses, and other pertinent information. Do not fail to include this crucial step in your search process.
Believe it or not, I have used professional license listings on many occasions to verify information or even identify individuals. Utilizing professional license listings doesn’t necessarily directly establish genealogical links, but it has been so handy for me while working many of my adoption cases that I chose to include it.
I recently worked an adoption case in which my client had non-identifying information about her birth mother that included her profession as a cosmetologist. I called the state licensing body, checked the year in question, and narrowed my search to three different women. One of those women ended up being my client’s birth mother.
The final resource I’ll list is quite simple if you run into any particularly challenging cases that involve genealogy. Contact a professional genealogist and enlist their expertise. They are some of the kindest and most helpful people I have come across professionally. Don’t overlook their ability to come at your case with fresh eyes, and don’t be surprised when they slam dunk your case for you.