I have to change my MO about using real names for this story. Not sure they would appreciate it, even though for now it looks like it has ended well.
I "met" via email a 2nd cousin a while ago who lives in Florida. She is the granddaughter of my grandmother Fulford's first cousin. After exchanging emails about the family history and other things for two years, she asked if I could help her find her mother.
It turns out she was adopted as a baby by our cousin and didn't know it until she was grown. Her birth mother was an 18 year old , unmarried girl who was working at a hotel in St. Petersburg when she got pregnant. She did the right thing at the time and put the baby up for adoption.
Fast forward 50 years and the daughter wants to find out about her birth family. She had actually paid $2,000 to the adoption agency to get very limited records that had a name and nothing else. She was able to locate a subsequent husband of her mother in St. Petersburg but they had divorced after a couple years and he had no idea what happened to her. She was a free spirit who was only known to be somewhere else.
So with just a name and approximate date of birth I started looking for her, using the same tools I use to do genealogy research. Online marriage & divorce records, death notices, city directories, newspaper articles, family trees posted at ancestry.com etc. I soon found out who the grandparents were but they had both died within the last few years.
I couldn't locate an obituary for either of them but after a while found a online family tree that had them listed. It didn't show any children but I knew the missing mom was a twin with at least one sister because it said this in the family notes. I contacted the person who posted the family tree on ancestry and had no response for almost two months. Then after several short, one line emails with no information that spread out over several more months I received two emails in one day.
The writer, who never gave me more than a first name said she had been in touch with the missing mom and they wanted to contact my cousin. I sent the email on to her, and she followed up and quickly talked by phone to her first cousin, aunt and was told how to contact her birth mother.
So wow, this search for dead relatives can take you to some interesting places.