How to find long lost family

Are you looking for a lost family member or old friend? Here are some tips and resources to help you reconnect.

In the new series of Long Lost Family Australia, there are many stories of heartbreak, hope and happiness. 

Extraordinary stories like that of 47-year-old Amanda Cryer, who undertook a three year search to track down her birth mother after her adoptive parents passed away. 

Amanda had few clues about her biological mother. From what she was able to piece together, her mother, Brenda, was 19 and single when she gave birth to her in a Sydney hosptial. Soon after, she was adopted by a loving family and had an idyllic upbringing in Newcastle, NSW. She was told she was adopted at just six years of age, but had no desire to look for her birth mother until much later - once she was a mother herself and her adoptive parents had passed away. 

"I felt like I had to find whatever blood family I had left," she recalls of her need for a family connection. "I guess it came down to that need for a sense of belonging".

What follows is an incredibly moving journey and, eventually, a tearful reunion, which can be seen in the episode clip above.

If you or someone you know is trying to trace and locate a lost family member like Amanda, we've put together a list of tools and resources to help you get started on your quest. 

1) Make a list

Being thorough and prepared is key and will increase your chances of success. Online Investigations recommends making a list with all the information you know about that person. This will provide the beginning parameters of your search - and it will also be handy if you do need to use a professional investigator down the track.

For example:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Last known addresses/telephone numbers/email/social networking accounts
  • Occupation
  • Hobbies/Interests
  • Spouse name/Children’s names/Other family members

2) Online Tools 

There are plenty of (mostly free) online tools and resources you can use to start your search. 

Peoplesearch and PIToolbox is a free people locator website in Australia. The site has links to adoption records, public records and search engines -  and you can tailor your search around location, age, phone number and occupation. It also contains forums where you can post information about your search.

Similarly, is another website that contains a comprehensive list of tools and links for Australian-based searches and investigations. The site is clearly broken down into search categories and all resources are free. 

Oz Reunion

Built out of passion, this Australian-based website was started up in 2000 by Mike who was searching for his long lost brother - he had success six years later! To view and place a listing in the Events section is free, and for a one-off $20 fee you can register an ad in the Classifieds section. 

Websiote -

If you're looking to find your extended family, has the world's largest collection of family trees. Its databases contain more 1 billion searchable Australian, New Zealand and UK family history records - all online in an easy-to-use format. (It also has 4 billion profiles from over 100 countries on a global scale)

While there is a membership fee to join, you can do a free 14-day trial or access the website for free at the Find & Connect Support Service in your state or territory (see below) and in State Libraries in each capital city. It may also be available at your local library.

Find & Connect Support Service

This service provides Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and their family members with assistance to search for family and in some circumstances, family reunions.

Call 1800 16 11 09 or get more information below.

Website -

The Salvation Army Family Tracing Service

The Salvos run a family tracing service and can help to search for direct relatives. There are a number of conditions you will need to meet, including the ability to prove your relationship to the person you are searching for. Contact the relevant office in the state you live in, regardless of where your relative may be located.

Website -


Link-Up services help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people separated from their families under the past laws, practices and policies of Australian governments to undertake family tracing and family reunions with counselling support.

Website -

Adoption Support Organisations

Some organisations providing support for people affected by adoption provide assistance with family tracing.

Many of these are state-based, such as The Benevolent Society's Post Adoption Resource Centre

The Benevolent Society also offers some fantastic tips and resources, for example about how to best approach a birth parent once you do have contact details.

Here is a list of adoption support and advocacy organisations.

White Pages

While it might sound a little obvious, it’s always worth checking the phone book! See the online directory link below. 

Website -

Electoral Rolls

Produced by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), the electoral roll is a list of the names and addresses of everyone who is eligible and enrolled to vote in Australia - making it an important resource for family tracing and tracking people over time and place.

Members of the public may access the publicly available roll on Public Access Terminals in AEC offices without challenge as to the purpose which they are accessing the roll.

Website -

Past copies of electoral rolls (published annually) are available for public inspection in state and local libraries. Contact your local library or the state library in your capital city to see what electoral rolls are in their collection.

The Australian Electoral Rolls from 1903 to 1980 are available for viewing and searching through the website.

Births Deaths and Marriages

Every state and territory has a registry of Births Deaths and Marriages (or BDM), which is responsible for registering life events including births, deaths, marriages, changes of name, and adoptions.

Here is a list of the registries around Australia:

Most BDM offices have a website where you can search birth, death and marriage family history indexes, at no cost. But, you do have to pay to look at search results, and to get a copy of a certificate from BDM. Also please be aware that the registries only have information for the state they are in, and they will not be able to search nationwide for you.

Social Media

Increasingly, social networking sites are the main way people stay in touch with family and friends. Facebook currently has over 1.86 billion monthly active users which is a huge database at your fingertips if you're trying to track someone down. If you're new to the world of social media, it's best to learn as much as you can about how sites like Facebook work, and to proceed with caution.

Remember that Facebook is a public space. Unless you use its messaging facility, what you post on your or somebody else’s profile is visible to everyone. Think about your privacy as well as the privacy of the person you are trying to locate. 

3) Private Investigator

If conducting a search youself isnt proving fruitful, do not lose hope! You may need to engage the services of a professional. Remember that they will have access to a more comprehensive number of subscription-based databases - not to mention expertise in making discreet enquiries, interviewing techniques and a solid network of contacts. 

Online Investigations offers some great tips to help you chooose a suitable private investigator in Australia.

Don't miss Long Lost Family Australia, Mondays at 8.30pm on Lifestyle YOU


Sign Out

Join the Conversation

Please note, LifeStyle cannot respond to all comments posted in our comments feed. If you have a comment or query you would like LifeStyle to respond to, please use our feedback form.

1 comment
Please login to comment
Posted by Emma2154Report
LOVE this show! So excited it is on Foxtel. When is the new series coming out??