Searching for a Long-Lost Sibling

two little boys walking and holding hands

Do you have a brother or sister you’ve never met? It’s not all that uncommon. Parents get remarried, biological mothers and fathers drift out of their children’s lives, and adopted children struggle to discover the family trees of their birth family. Psychology Today estimates that nearly 40 percent of all students live in households without their biological fathers, a staggering statistic that shows just how blended and fractured today’s families can be. If you’ve ever thought about tracking down a sibling, there are considerations to be made. Here’s where to get started when it comes to finding information, formulating your search, and dealing with the possibilities of what you may find.

1. Gathering Information

Since the internet became so prevalent, it’s become easier and easier to locate someone with barely any details – sometimes not even a last name. But that doesn’t mean you should cut corners in finding out as much about your sibling as you can. The easiest methods are searching old documents and paperwork that might belong to your parent or grandparent, or simply talking to living relatives who might know something about where your sibling lives or how they might be contacted. You can look for them online through search engines, social media, or even public records. Sometimes even a name and location can be more than enough to pinpoint them.

2. Finding an Adopted Sibling

Parents with 2 kids posing together If your brother or sister was adopted, you might have a distinct advantage over those who were separated from their sibling for other reasons. The adoption agency that handled the case may be able to open their file for you and give you some information to contact them. If not, you have to petition the court to get the file opened. Only about 15 states will consistently provide adoption information to adult siblings, but even in locations without laws on the book, agencies and courts are usually willing to work with you on different ways you can get back in touch. If you have a medical reason for needing to contact your sibling, usually the judge will allow you access to their information.

3. Do You Need a Private Investigator?

Many people who have lost contact with their siblings for reasons other than adoption end up hiring a private agency to search for them. For a nominal fee, this investigator may or may not turn up meaningful details about the sibling’s residence or whereabouts. Whether or not private investigating works depends entirely on the situation. Many times, you can turn up the same results in a thorough search online, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Your sibling might not have a Facebook. They might be deceased or living abroad. These are all specialized possibilities than private investigators can explore.

billboard for private investigator

The bond you have with your siblings is unique, and wanting to locate a long-lost brother or sister is natural. In most cases, they’ll be open and receptive to getting to know you and might have even looked for you themselves. Be aware that a missing sibling could have had a radically different childhood than you did and have a radically different view of your shared parent or parents. There’s no guarantee that things will go perfectly, but the feeling of finding your family is difficult to replace.

Christopher Shanks recommends having a criminal background check and even a people search performed on your future spouse.

Images courtesy of Mario Spann, Donna & Andrew, and neotint via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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