Finding Living Relatives after the 1930 Census

So what happened to all those relatives listed in the 1930 census?  Are you hoping to find your grandmother’s living sister or her children?  Here are some things to try – some obvious, some not so obvious: 

City Directories:  

  • If the family moved in the last year, many times the directory will tell you to what city they “Removed”.  Many of the directories list the names of people who died in town that year, so always check for that as well.  Death information is usually in the back of the directory, so browse those pages.
  •  The data for the directory was sometimes collected a year in advance, so be sure to check all versions.  For example the data collected in 1916 might appear in the 1917 city directory.
  • If the directory you need is not on, you could do a google search for the local library in the city where your ancestor was living. The librarian may be able to help you with street directories if they are not online.  Many times they will copy the pages for you for free or just charge a small fee for copying.

Salvation Army Missing Persons Locator Service  

  • The Missing Persons Service is available in most countries where The Salvation Army operates. Their objective is to bring families together where contact has been lost, either recently or in the distant past.   You must provide: Missing person’s complete name, date of birth, place of birth, and parent’s names.  They do say that they will not search for “genealogical reasons”….  I realize this is a genealogy blog, but sounds like a grey area to me…I met my g-g-g-grandmother’s g-g-grandson online when he discovered a photo I had posted of our common ancestor standing with both of our g-grandmothers…we are friends now.  Genealogy?  maybe, maybe not…  Cost is $25 for a search in the Northeastern US  (I am not sure if the cost varies by region).

Social Security Administration letter-forwarding service 

  • The SSA will forward a letter to someone’s last known address for “under circumstances involving a matter of great importance” if the you have a name, Social Security number and birth date. Letters that have a “humanitarian purpose” will be forwarded for free. Requests for letter forwarding should be sent to: SSA, Letter Forwarding, P.O. Box 33022, Baltimore, MD 21290-3022.

 Driver Records

  •  By writing to the Division of Motor Vehicles Office or Drivers License Office in the state of residence, it may be possible to obtain information such as Social Security number, address, date of birth, and accident history. There are different rules by state.  Do a google search.  Here is an example of what is available in the state of California “How to get a copy of someone else’s driver license, ID card, vehicle or vessel record”:     

Need a Birth Date to contact one of the organizations above?

  • Try –   although it doesn’t give the birth date, you can find it (for free) using trial and error. First, put the year. It usually gives the person’s age, so you should only have to try 2 years. Then try the months. Once you establish the month and year, try the days. If you go to (similar to or some of’s public record indexes, they sometimes give you month and year of birth to get you started.


  • Many “recent” obituaries are easily located online at funeral home websites and local newspaper sites.  When Aunt Mary passes, the obituary sometimes lists the names of those she left behind along with the city/state of residence.  Check for these names at social networking websites like Facebook, Linkedin or  In Linked in and Facebook, you can usually view a person’s “friend” list without becoming  their friend.  Browse the list – any of the other names in the obituary listed?  Bingo you have the right person!

I’ve barely touched the surface, but hopefully have given you a few new ideas.  Check out Cyndi’s list for more ideas:

This quick interview from Lisa Louise Cooke of The Genealogy Gems Podcast with Amy Urman, a private investigator offers a few additional tips:

Do you have additional tips to share?  We’d love to hear them!!

Happy Searching!!

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