Although such may not always be the outcome, I have good success locating missing persons I knew using methods discussed here. For the following family it took me perhaps two days to locate them and verify a favorable outcome.
Please grab a cup of coffee and follow along as I reveal how I find missing persons (in this case, missing neighbors) even 58 years after parting.
As much as I’d like to use the real surname, I do not feel it is my right to do so. Therefore, I offer no last name. I do present actual first names. The game of locating missing persons is afoot! Won’t you please join me? In addition to sharing my experience, it may benefit you in your efforts. Here then, are the family members’ names. They are,
Susan—the older girl, a little older than I
Linda—the younger girl, a little younger than I
Al and Doris were friends (my parents being both deceased, now) roughly in the same age bracket as my parents. Susan was a little older than I. However, she was still very young, so she was probably born not much before 1946.
To keep records, I started a file in my Family Treemaker software. This step was for convenience only. You don’t absolutely need it. I entered names, approximate ages, and notes, and included the house address, found through Google Maps.
Wanted: Dead or Alive
Next, I looked for graves on Find-a-Grave. When I did not find them there, I tried Interment.net. Nothing. These sites are two of the best sources of information and occasionally photos and obituaries.
Next, I tried the names of family members on Google Search, both in and out of quotes. I try every combination: first name first, last name first. If I know middle names, I include those, or use just the middle initial. I found a legal case with considerable detail, giving me Al’s full first name! Here I had thought it was Albert, when it was Alfred.
Locating Missing Persons: Social Networks
I enjoy announcing articles I write to the public, using Twitter and Facebook. I found my old elementary school represented by 117 members in Facebook, and I inquired of the family there. Oddly, although a number of my other friends were well-known and I was able to obtain even pictures of a few of them there, I could find nothing about Al, Doris, Susan, or Linda.
Although I have no desire to be a Mormon, I know the Mormons are deeply into genealogy. They thus maintain a respectable collection of useful data that includes marriages, births, deaths, military registrations and census records. The site is free at FamilySearch. Since currently the 1940 is the latest census available to the public, I looked in New Jersey for the last name.
If the name had been Jones, Smith, Black or some such, I’d have been in murky waters. Or if the name had been obscure, such as Szczęsny or something, I’d have faced serious spelling issues. Fortunately, the name was not common, but was easy to spell. I found, oddly enough, essentially nothing at all. The closest I came was an unlikely entry for Wisconsin! It would turn out to be correct.
Obtaining Free Information from Pay Sites
A name search uncovers sites hoping to make money from searchers. Thus Radaris, Intelius, Yasni, and others provide little tidbits. Those tidbits have more than once led me to success. The searcher should milk them for every tiny detail. Imagine one says “Billy Jackson” is 63 years old (subtract that from the current year to get date of birth) and is related to “Judy Jackson.” I then look for Judy Jackson and the sites say Judy Jackson is 61 years old and is related to Billy Jackson. Geographies are often mentioned, past and present.
In the Phone Book?
If I found Al and Doris, I’d have the ages. Sometimes an additional name is found. A mysterious Gary appeared along with Al and Doris. That name seemed vaguely familiar. Hadn’t there been a baby boy?¹ Could he be family? I searched those same sites for Gary. He was 59. That fit nicely into the time slot. Likely he’d be both alive and searchable. I then tried Switchboard and obtained a telephone number!
The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating
What was the outcome of all my searching? I dialed the phone number for Gary a family member answered. Is this the family of my friends Al and Doris so long ago of (town) New Jersey? Yes, indeed, came the reply. The added happy surprise was, “They are still alive and doing quite well, Doris in her upper 80’s, Al in his lower 90’s.” I love locating missing persons!
¹ I was between 5 and 6 at the time, and moved away in the same year.
Additional references I recommend include Rootsweb with its email lists, USGenWeb, GenForum, and GeneaNet. There are, of course, pay services, but if one has restricted resources as I do, volunteers often assist with a free look-up.