Tag Archives: Forensic Genealogy

#ICAPGenAnswers: Finding Missing Relatives

Today’s #ICAPGenAnswers question helps our reader, William, with a long-lost relative:

“I have a sister that has been missing since 1965 I was told that somebody saw her name published in a news paper in northern Indiana several years ago that she passed away I have not been able to find any info on her…Can you advise where I should look. Thanks.”

ICAPGen does not have a credential that tests our genealogists with regard to forensic genealogy, but several of our professionals have worked as forensic genealogists. Jenny Tonks, AG® worked as a forensic genealogist for several years and solved many cases similar to yours;  she wrote in the answer to your question:

First, I recommend starting with the basics–getting to know the rudiments of contemporary relative research. You can learn those ropes at the following links:



If you know the county where she died, you could also find out about requesting a death certificate, depending on their vital records release laws–you will learn about those from the links above.

Second, I recommend utilizing Google and other search engines to the fullest. They will help you find her obituary and much more. If there is another newspaper article that mentions your sister or her husband’s name, then Google or the other search engines will find it for you. If they shows up on a paid newspaper site in your search results, it will be worth the few dollars it costs to pay for a subscription to access that article!

Third, as I said above, I would also get a subscription to newspaper sites like GenealogyBank.com, Newspapers.com, and NewspaperArchive.com. Those are the three sites that helped me find living or recently lived persons most often.

Fourth, I would utilize a paid site like peoplefinder.com to help me find anything that vital records offices, genealogy records/sites, search engines, or newspapers didn’t uncover.

Fifth, use phone directories and social media to contact potential relatives or associates. I say social media because many people do not use landlines, so I find them more often on ocial media than I do via the white pages these days.

Also, you might want to consider taking a DNA test. If your sister has any descandants, you would be able to identify and contact them via DNA databases. If you and your sister are biological siblings, you share DNA with her children and they would show up as matches to you, so you would be able to connect with them and learn more about her life through them. You can learn more about DNA testing here: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Hiring_a_DNA_Testing_Company

William, we wish you well in your search for information about your sister, and we hope that this information helps you “find” her.

Spotlight on JoAnne Haugen, AG®, Forensic Genealogist

JoAnne Haugen, AG
My hometown is The Dalles, Oregon located on the Columbia River on the historic Oregon Trail.  In our neighborhood was a pioneer cemetery.  At an early age I became fascinated with the headstones in that cemetery and the whole Oregon Trail story.  As a very young mother, the Institute of Religion at the University of Idaho offered a series on genealogical research and provided free babysitting.    I immediately signed up and it began a lifetime of research, beginning with letters to my living grandparents, great-aunts and cousins.

My husband’s career took him to Washington, D.C. where I had the fabulous opportunity to research at the National Archives, Library of Congress, The Daughters of the American Revolution’s Library and The Library of Virginia.

After my husband’s retirement, moving back to Oregon State and building our own home, I was approached in 2000 to do professional research for The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.  We were asked to find living members of servicemen whose remains had not yet been accounted for.  The purpose being to supply family resource samples of mitochondrial DNA and YDNA for possible remains identification.

I loved the research, and I loved hearing the stories from the families, and most of all I loved feeling I was using my skills to serve my country.  After doing this for several years, the contract required accreditation or certification or a professional genealogy degree.  I looked into my options and chose accreditation.  This was long before on-line courses were available.  I purchased the books used for a BYU class to help prepare students for the accreditation process and spent a year studying and preparing. I was first accredited in Mid-South Research in July 2005.

After becoming an Accredited Genealogist, I had my own website for 10 years and did client work.  I found over time that my non-Army cases were mostly from the Pacific Northwest.  I now specialize in Pacific States Research and was accredited as such in February of 2014.  Oregon made a survey in the 1990’s of every kind of record held by county governments and their exact location.  I have made incredible finds for my clients in unusual places.  So much is available on-line today, but nothing beats searching in the courthouses, museums and storage places for unique original records.

I consider myself a Forensic Genealogist and besides working with the US Army and US Air Force, I have held contract with the Oregon Department of State Lands for 8 years to find heirs of persons who die intestate.  My goal as a genealogist is to document everything and be just as accurate as possible.  In my line of work, I cannot make mistakes because too much is at stake.  I have had cases from World War I down to Vietnam.  Last week one of “my men” was buried at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Washington.  He was a World War II P-47 pilot who went down in Germany in 1945 just three weeks before the war was over.  This is why I will continue to do the research just as long as I am physically able.