Here's an example on how I found a client's birth family before DNA tests were available. This is a text book example of "crossing your T's and dotting your I's" and never giving up. I received an email from a gentleman in Georgia who was desperately trying to find his birth father or the relatives of his birth father. The client provided me with what he believed to be the first name, middle initial and last name of his birth father. The client also said that his birth father lived in San Bernardino County, California in the 1950's. That is usually more information than I normally receive from a client, so I figured this search would be fairly simple, but it was actually more complicated than I thought.
The first part of my investigation was to run the name in a public records database. I subscribe to several, so I ran the name in all of them. As it turns out, this name was fairly common, so I had to go to the next step. I ran the name in Ancestry.com's database. I was able to find a possible match, but it had the middle name listed as the first name. The data came from a 1958 San Bernardino County Voter Registration index. This index had the name and an old address. It also had the name of another person with the same address.
I then ran the other person's name (which was probably the birth father's mother) in a public records database, and nothing came up. I spent significant time searching through online databases, property records and even death indexes, but I came up empty. I further contacted several people with the same or similar name to my client's birth father and none of them were the right one. This can be frustrating, but you cannot give up.
My client emailed me additional information in which he found out his birth father had a brother that at one time lived in Ridgecrest, California. My client provided me the name, which was also very common. Again, I searched the all public records databases for this name and came up empty.
So I check Classmates.com for that name. I researched the names of high schools in Ridgecrest, Ca. I found one, Burroughs High School. So I went on the Classmates.com website and looked up that high school. Lo and behold, I found him there! He had a photo of "then" and "now," but no other information. Remember, this person is the possible brother of my client's father. At this point, I'm not even sure I have the right person.
So now what do I do? I called Burroughs High School and spoke with their records department. They provided me the name and phone number of the contact person who organized the class of 1951 reunion that was last held in 1976. I figure at this point, the phone number is very old and I would have to locate this person to obtain information on someone I wasn't even sure is the right person I was looking for. But I never gave up.
As it turns out, the phone number was still good. She even knew the classmate! She also said his brother had the same name of the birth father I was looking for! Too good to be true?
I left my number with this woman for her to give to her former classmate. He called me and confirmed that his brother was the person we were looking for. Unfortunately, the birth father died over 30 years ago. However, the brother was so glad to hear that his nephew was looking for his birth family. I gave my client's phone number to his birth uncle and now they have been reunited.
This is a good example of not giving up in your search. There are good resources out there to help you. Sometimes even the telephone can be your best friend, as it was in this case.