Salvation Army

Family Tracing Service

The Family Tracing Service exists to restore and sustain family relationships by tracing relatives who have lost contact with each other, either recently or in the past. A dedicated team of caseworkers handle more than 2,500 new enquiries each year, with searches taking from as little as two hours to more than two years.

Applications can be made online or by phone (charged at local rate).

The key aims are to:

  • Journey with you and offer support throughout the process of searching family, regardless of the outcome, providing a service that is professional, compassionate and non-judgemental.
  • Exhaust all relevant avenues of search providing services to any family.
  • Support you in reunion or first contact with your family, offering mediation/reconciliation services if requested.

The key objectives are:

  • To relieve the anxiety of enquirers by assuring them of our concern and the full support of our service
  • To trace relatives in order to advise them a family member desires contact
  • To open a line of communication between an enquirer and the person sought
  • To act as intermediaries until such time as trust is established between the parties
  • Where appropriate, to seek to resolve the difficulties which brought about the break the family relationship

Our success rate

We of course can give no guarantee of success in every search we undertake, although every effort will be made to trace the person during our enquiries. Of the enquiries accepted our success rate has been 89% resulting in more than 10 people being reunited every single working day.

Cases we can and can’t help with

Who does The Salvation Army's Family Tracing Service try to find?

Known and named relatives over the age of 18 years

The Salvation Army’s procedures are inappropriate for locating children, and usually the police would accept responsibility in such cases.

Wives and husbands

Wives or husbands may reach breaking point for a variety of reasons and leave home, or may have just needed time apart and have lost touch.

Long lost relatives

This is an area in which The Salvation Army specializes. More than once we have broken the world record in reuniting relatives who have been out of touch for over 80 years.

Parents of children in care

Parents sometimes need to be traced when their children in care have special problems, or perhaps where consent for adoption is sought. The Salvation Army would usually act on behalf of local authorities in such cases.

Emigrant families

Contact may have been lost with members of family who emigrated. The passing of years frequently brings an increasing need to restore a family link. Investigations can often be put in hand where basic general information is available.


Hospitals sometimes need to contact next of kin to a patient who is seriously ill; or a prisoner about to be released may seek help to trace his/her family; or a visit can often be arranged to a sick or elderly relative who has ceased to communicate. Sometimes, other matters to do with identity and relationships can also be dealt with, although each request can only be considered on merit.

Who is not included in the tracing programme?


The daily demands of tracing family members are so great that the Family Tracing Service cannot undertake to trace those with whom no formal relationship exists.

Young people under the age of 18 years

The Salvation Army’s methods and procedures are not appropriate for tracing children. In such cases, there are usually no transfers, registrations or reference requests to follow up. The Family Tracing Service cannot, therefore, undertake to look for juveniles. This is recognized as a police responsibility. (It should be noted that The Salvation Army cannot as a rule conduct physical searches.) If a child is believed to be in the company of an adult relative whose full name and date of birth can be provided, it may sometimes be possible to make contact with that person.

A birth parent on behalf of adopted or non-marital children

Whilst the Department has every sympathy with an adopted person seeking the whereabouts of his or her natural parent, due to current UK legislation we are not able to help in this case. You would need to contact an Adoption Support Agency.

A person who was placed for adoption shortly after birth

The Family Tracing Service cannot act on behalf of a parent (or relative) wishing to trace a child who was placed for adoption at some time after birth. On adoption, a child is issued with a new birth certificate, showing the names of the adoptive parents, and the new names which they have given to the child. It is not enough simply to know the names by which the child was originally registered, since there is no accessible cross-reference between this entry and an adoption record.

A husband or wife sought for divorce purposes

The service exists only for the purpose of trying to restore family relationships, and to encourage reunion and reconciliation.

Relatives for estate, legal or other business purposes

Genealogical requests

The service can only carry out searches for known relatives, who might be expected still to be alive. It cannot help with Family Trees, or find out whether the enquirer might have relatives.

Contact Salvation Army

Further guidance on eligibility can be obtained by contacting the Salvation Army.

For more information about the Family Tracing Service (including stories of those who have been helped) go to The Salvation Army’s web site

Enquirers living outside the United Kingdom should get in touch with their nearest Salvation Army centre - contact details from The Salvation Army’s international web site