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Exir
04-26-2008, 11:19 AM
I need some help with my current WIP. It involves a child trying to find his sister, but somehow I'm getting stuck on this second rewrite. I just don't have the creative juice to come up with a way to reunite them. I think part of the problem is I just don't know how would someone search for someone without knowing where they are. Are there any real stories of people finding their lost family? What method could one use - knocking from door to door? Reading the newspapers? What???

I'm stuck!

PS. I would love any advice from those who have worked as a private investigator before.

Keyan
04-26-2008, 01:40 PM
I need some help with my current WIP. It involves a child trying to find his sister, but somehow I'm getting stuck on this second rewrite. I just don't have the creative juice to come up with a way to reunite them. I think part of the problem is I just don't know how would someone search for someone without knowing where they are. Are there any real stories of people finding their lost family? What method could one use - knocking from door to door? Reading the newspapers? What???

I'm stuck!

PS. I would love any advice from those who have worked as a private investigator before.

Is your setting contemporary?
In which country is he?
Does he have internet access?
What information does he already have about her?

I sometimes hang out on an adoption forum; many of them have searched for children they had to give up, or parents who had to give them up. There are *lots* of stories, but it usually involves adults.

The internet is the strongest tool. Aside from that the library of the town where they lived originally, for clues to relatives, and employees of the organization that took care of them. If this is the same WIP as earlier - where the boy was in foster care and the girl was adopted - it might be easier for her to find him. His name would remain the same, while hers might change.

If they're old enough - she finds him on Facebook.

(I know - on the net - of one woman who found her birth-son this way.)

HeronW
04-26-2008, 04:04 PM
trace back through family, friends, name varients, put ads in newspapers in the cities lives as a child, go through web searches, schools in relevant locales, tax records, DMV, lists of births/deaths in hospitals or town halls

Exir
04-27-2008, 01:29 AM
Okay, the child is only ten year old, lives under foster care, and lives in the 80ies in the United States. Thus, he has no Internet. He doesn't know much about his sister, since they were separated at a young age. All he remembers is that after their parents died, they were sent to different homes. He also remembers her name (but of course knows it's probably useless). He knows from his foster parents where they originally lived, but of course, that is almost useless info, too, because she probably moved to some other place during the adoption process, or perhaps after adoption.

Gosh, do I like making things hard for myself?

L M Ashton
04-27-2008, 06:18 AM
There were BBSs (bulletin board systems) in the 80s - precurser to what we now know as the Internet. I'll just tell you what I did... My oldest brother, computer geek, was on CompuServe, which was an international (IIRC) BBS. I was looking for information on ancestors - you know, family history stuff. So my brother posted a query (much like you would now on a forum) and we got a response back from someone in, I don't know, the US or Russia or something (we were in Canada). From what I recall (you know, I'm old and my memory's like a seive!) there were still people back then who'd look something up in their local newspaper for you if you lived far away. Or would go to their local cemetery, or that sort of thing. People doing favours for other people they never met in looking up this or that. There were groups dedicated to doing family history who would do this.

So, while not the Internet as we know it with a much much smaller population of people using it, it could work for you if you need it to. You'd just have to get the details right. :D

reigningcatsndogs
04-27-2008, 07:10 AM
Being in foster care, there should be a birth certificate for him with a parent's name on it... orhe could go through the Department of Vital Statistics with the help of a social worker or a police officer or a reporter he befriends... If he can find out where he was from, he can go through newspapers looking for birth announcements for himself, or death certificates for a parent (again, if he knows a name) -- an obit would have other children listed, so that might give him a name to look for. He could go back to his neighborhood and talk to neighbors... His birth certificate would be critical for all this, so it would require an explanation of why/how he ended up in foster care.

Or, he might be at a funeral or with his foster parents at the cemetery, see a name that looks vaguely familiar and remembers seeing/hearing the name, so starts to look....

(wow, did I just sprew a bunch of drivel there! Sorry)

Keyan
04-27-2008, 12:06 PM
Okay, the child is only ten year old, lives under foster care, and lives in the 80ies in the United States. Thus, he has no Internet. He doesn't know much about his sister, since they were separated at a young age. All he remembers is that after their parents died, they were sent to different homes. He also remembers her name (but of course knows it's probably useless). He knows from his foster parents where they originally lived, but of course, that is almost useless info, too, because she probably moved to some other place during the adoption process, or perhaps after adoption.

Gosh, do I like making things hard for myself?

It was much more difficult in the 80s. The only way a 10-year-old would find his sister would be by accident. Perhaps they end up in the same school or after-school class or camp. She looks enough like him that someone remarks on it, and then he learns she's adopted. When he talks to her, she tells him she was born in X town (which her adoptive parents could have told her). They may even have told her her parents' names (which they would know, since she was adopted from foster care). On comparing notes, they find they're siblings.

Is this his younger or older sister?

Exir
04-27-2008, 12:32 PM
Keyan, that's not the story that I would want, perhaps - I mean, that is TOO EASY. He has to work for it. He really has to.

In the current story, he finds his sisters two times - well, the first time he thinks he has found her, but actually he hasn't. That time was by accident, because I want to focus more on the consequences of this mix up. However, that girl then decides to help him join in the search, and I intend this search to be more than by accident, because I want the boy to really WORK for it. Otherwise he won't learn the lesson I want him to learn.

Thanks

BTW, they're twins

Keyan
04-27-2008, 02:12 PM
OK. Somehow I had the impression that the story was more about post-reunion stuff.

So he has to find her, not the other way around (which would be easier, because his name would not change). And it has to be deliberate, not accidental. And it has to be tough, not fall into his lap. So she can't be at the same school as him. This makes it tougher because you have to find a way to overlap different groups of kids.

I assume she's in the same town/ city as he is, otherwise there's not going to be a story since 10 year-olds can't just go off traveling to hunt for a sister. And he can't drive. At age 10, it's unlikely he'll be permitted to take public transport independently, even if it exists in the town or city where he lives. 1980s, so no internet.

Does he have adult assistance in this?

If he does, then there's a chance. He knows her birthdate. Since she'd have been 4 also, there's a good chance that her a-parents wouldn't have changed her given name, or would have retained her original name as her middle name. So if it's a really unusual name, there's a possibility.

If not, here's one possible route. Since he knows her birthday...he sort of networks through friends. It's useful that he's got a girl ally, because at 10 boys and girls are often running in different circles.

So the friend (lets posit she's an active, extrovert girl) gets the word out to all the girls in her church camp/ sports camp/ after-school ballet class that she's looking for someone adopted, with a 12 December birthday, in fifth grade, named Praxitelia. One girl says she has a friend with that birthday, but she's called Emily P. So your protag and pal decide to try contacting Emily P. They phone her; she's not the one, but there's another girl she knows with the same birthday...

And so on. The problem with this is it makes the friend the main actor, but you really want the effort to come from the protag.

Incidentally, the fact they're twins makes it more likely that they'd want to keep them together. Something went wrong in the system, but you don't have to explain what. You can handwave your way past it. Whatever it was, the kids won't know, and perhaps no one would without an investigation. Things go wrong in the foster care system frequently enough for it to be plausible.

Linda Adams
04-27-2008, 03:19 PM
I just ran into an article on this subject in Ancestry Magazine, the March/April 2008. Try looking for heir tracer. They do work for attorneys who have estates with lost heirs (though, obviously, the techniques could be applied to a layman or you could introduce a character who is one). Basically, it's a form of geneology, and you can find plenty of books on records at the library.

This site has some articles, plus there's a book on the subject: http://www.heirhuntersinternational.com/page.php?5

Keyan
04-27-2008, 11:14 PM
I think the problem here is that the kid who's trying to find his sister is only 10, and he's in foster care. This means he's unlikely to have the resources to do things like putting ads in the paper, or hiring someone to find her.

It's complicated by the fact that it's set in the 1980s, when there was no internet access for most people - so even if the kid managed somehow to get access, it's unlikely that his sister would. The internet those days was pretty geeky. It's not until the early 90s that there was any kind of general access, mainly through Usenet.

Exir
04-28-2008, 10:03 AM
Okay. Thanks for all the posts here - this has really given me some material to make a plot out of

So it is impossible for the boy to find his sister solely through his own efforts. However, perhaps it is possible with a combination of hard work AND luck. At the very start of the story, his best (and only true) friend is moving away. (I did that to create a void in his life, sort of...) Perhaps I could make him recieve a gift from this friend. His friend tells him that he bought it off a little girl. He then finds a piece of paper inside the gift, with an adress and phone number. And so begins their tresure hunt....

How realistic is that?

(Edit: actually, come to think of it, his friend buys him a pair of gloves. He wonders, "why on earth would I need it when the winters here are not cold at all?" But winter comes, and it is snowing for the first time in some twenty years. He puts on the gloves, and feels a piece of paper within it... That would create a time gap between him recieving the glove, and him actually putting it on. So perhaps his sister has moved in the process, and the adress on the paper is no longer valid. Further complications.

Or is my imagination taking me too far?)

Keyan
04-28-2008, 10:16 PM
Is the focus of the story the hunt? Or the reunion?

I think the slip of paper with a name and a phone number is plausible. But...his friend, if he's a boy, wouldn't be giving another boy gloves he bought from a girl. Ten yr olds are sensitive about things like that. If it's a book, perhaps - and he doesn't read it right away. When he does, a slip of paper flutters out...

What you need a realistic fix on is what kind of Hard Work a 10 yr-old can do in a modern US town/ city. He can make phone calls. If his fosters have given him a bike, he can probably ride within, say a 1-2 mile radius of his home - if it's a safe small town. In a big city, probably not. He meets other children in school, near his home, at church (if they're churchgoers), at any planned activities - probably not anything expensive or logistically difficult, since he's a foster-kid. He can't travel far from home without an adult.

So: What I suggest is focus on the things he *can* do. He can make phone calls. He can tell friends who tell friends. He can walk a mile or cycle two to meet possible candidates.

Then you build the quest around those possibilities.

JamieFord
04-28-2008, 10:55 PM
There's nothing like money to expedite the process. I had a long lost relative that I tried earnestly to find, and ultimately gave up. But when a great-aunt died and left an estate and no heirs, the country hired a probate researcher who found everyone in a heartbeat–-using all kinds of genealogical resources.

Exir
04-29-2008, 01:24 AM
Is the focus of the story the hunt? Or the reunion?

The hunt.

Keyan
04-29-2008, 03:31 AM
Hmm. You'll probably need a mix of coincidence and effort. Could be fun, especially if others join him so you have two or three other kids also looking on his behalf. Good luck!