By my standards, AARP the Magazine editor Nancy Graham got lucky. Within minutes of signing up for Ancestry.com, she writes, "Ancestry notified me that "tracip70" was working on the same tree. And there on her tree was my dad. I sent tracip70 a message, and within 24 hours I got a response. Her mom, she said, was Linda Perry; her great-grandfather was George Elliott Perry Jr. (my "grandpop"). Astonished at the fast turn of events, I wrote back, 'Hi, Traci: You are my first cousin's daughter!'"
For the rest of us, it might be a little more difficult - but it helps to use sites like Ancestry, just in case you aren't the only one trying to find familial connections long since broken. In case you're just starting, here's the basics...
1) Check the site out before you start - and especially before paying them money. Not sure how to tell if it's a scam? Check this list of tips.
2) Make sure you leave a paper trail of what you find - you never know when your kids might want to do the same thing.
3) Ask everyone - and I do mean everyone - in your family if they've done any of this before. You'll be surprised. (My mother apparently traced our family tree to John James Beckley, the first librarian of Congress. You wouldn't believe how many people I've told this to - someday, I'm going to have to prove it's true. Save your notes, Mom!)
4) Last, but definitely not least, enter our geneaology sweepstakes to win a little money and help toward finding those long-lost cousins.
Happy hunting! Tell us your tips in the comments!