Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Family Records Centre Factsheet Tracing Missing Persons

This factsheet is aimed at those who have lost trace of someone in the recent past, usually a relative. It is not intended for those tracing long lost ancestors or for adopted persons.

Missing persons may include people who have decided to break with their family due to an underlying problem and it may therefore be necessary to carry out research with sensitivity. The items listed below should give you some hints on how to approach the problem and some ideas of what sources might be available. Contact details for the organizations mentioned below can be found on our factsheet ‘Tracing Missing Persons – Useful Contacts’. • Try the internet If you have access to the Internet there is no better place to start. There are many websites devoted to tracing missing persons, some covering particular localities or specialist areas. Probably the best approach is to go through a portal site such as which provides links to a large number of other sites concerned with locating missing people. Another useful web site for people searching for lost relatives, offering a “post and read” message facility, is For links to the websites of the main UK organizations involved in this area, go to The FRC Factsheet ‘Tracing Missing Persons – Useful Contacts’ gives details of the websites of other relevant organisations. Some sources are also available on Compact Disc (CD), either to buy or for use at record offices or libraries. • Use telephone directories The current Phone Book can be a useful means of checking the whereabouts of missing persons. Local libraries often have a good collection of countrywide directories and larger libraries may have collections of overseas directories. If you have Internet access, try the BT web site at Older directories are available to view by appointment at BT Archives in London. • Check electoral registers If you have an address try searching the relevant electoral registers. They may help you to establish how long a person lived at a particular address. The disappearance of a family member from the registers often means that they have moved home, married or died. A full set of Electoral Registers for the UK is held by the British Library and local copies can usually be found in reference libraries and county record offices. There is also a CD version of the current electoral registers for the whole of the UK known as the ‘UK Info Disc’ which is available from the Research Enquiries desk on the first floor. FRC Factsheet © September 2003
FRC Factsheet © September 2003
• Search the birth, marriage and death indexes Try searching the General Register Office’s (GRO) indexes. The indexes can be seen free of charge on the ground floor at the FRC but many county record offices and local libraries also hold sets on microfiche. Copies of birth, marriage and death certificates can be ordered at the FRC. Birth, marriage and death certificates should have addresses which you can check in the relevant electoral registers. • Look for a will If you suspect that the person you are looking for may have died, it is also worth trying the indexes to wills kept at the Principal Probate Registry Search Room, London. Even if you have not been successful in finding an entry in the death indexes (see above) it may be worth checking the will indexes as the missing person may have died abroad on holiday or business or while on duty with the armed services. The FRC holds a set of will indexes from 1858 -1943. • Try checking records of name changes Nowadays most changes of name are done by deed poll, through a solicitor and no centralised records are kept unless the change of name was enrolled in the Supreme Court. In recent years only a small proportion (less than 5%) of changes of name by deed poll have been enrolled. Information about changes of name enrolled within the last 5 years can be obtained by writing to the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Enrolled changes of name over 5 years old are held by The National Archives at Kew. More information may be found in their leaflet ‘Change of Name’. • Ask questions locally or use newspapers Ask all known family and friends. Visit the missing person’s last known address and ask neighbours for any information that might help. Write to the appropriate local newspaper. Editors are usually happy to print features or advertisements about missing persons. If you want to spread your search try national newspapers, some of which may also run advertisements or special columns for missing persons. Copies of older newspapers are available at the British Library Newspaper Library, Collindale. These archives might be worth researching for details of births, marriages deaths and any local or national news stories that the person may have been involved with. • Use a tracing service There are many tracing services available, particularly through the Internet. Some websites offer to carry out research for a fee and care needs to be taken to establish that the service being offered is run by persons experienced in the area of research in which you are interested. There is also a service called Traceline run by the Office for National Statistics which may be used to contact relatives, friends or beneficiaries. Please ask for a copy of the Traceline leaflet at the FRC Research Enquiries desk on the first floor. There are many other organisations which may be able to help you in your search for a missing person. For example, you could try employer’s records as many companies have their own archives and may be willing to deal with enquiries. There are also organizations which specialize in helping to trace missing persons and others which have useful records including children’s homes. Some organizations may charge a fee and may require quite detailed information before they can assist

Source-National Archives

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