Looking for a long lost friend
April 7, 2010 2:10 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to find a person you have been out of touch with for 50 years?

My mother had a friend in Italy back in 1958-59. They parted ways. My mother went to Canada, her friend went to Australia. The friend probably has a different name now because she was planning on getting married. Now my mother would like to get in touch with her again, or at least find out if she died. What are strategies for finding her? I tried the online Australia white pages and came up with nothing. Any ideas?
posted by MarioM to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That's a hard one. Any idea where in Australia your mother's friend went? Or even if the friend arrived there?
posted by dfriedman at 2:16 PM on April 7, 2010

Mutual friends, if there are any, would be a good start.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:21 PM on April 7, 2010

How common is her maiden name? If it's relatively uncommon, maybe you could facebook message people with that last name around the friend's hometown and see if any of them are related to her/ know her current whereabouts. It's a bit weird, but it might be the only way to track her down if you don't know her current last name.
posted by DeusExMegana at 2:26 PM on April 7, 2010

I've encountered lots of people in my work as a librarian who are using Facebook for finding old high school friends, long-lost family members, people they met during semesters abroad - and having decent success doing so. So I'd try Facebook. (I don't think they had this when I set-up my account but I believe new accounts have an option to list a maiden name so that could be helpful depending on how common/uncommon your mother's friend's name was.)

You might also want to try the social networking sites that aren't as popular in North America but are in other countries - Friendster and the like.
posted by Jaybo at 2:31 PM on April 7, 2010

posted by Lanark at 2:32 PM on April 7, 2010

Contact the Australian immigration authorities?
posted by SuzB at 3:11 PM on April 7, 2010


In the U.S., the Social Security Administration, which manages benefits for the elderly and disabled, allows one to look up people's birth and death dates on their website. Perhaps Australia has something similar.
posted by neuron at 3:31 PM on April 7, 2010

Old mutual friends have been the resource that helped me most in reconnecting with friends from 40 years ago who are now scattered worldwide. Finding the first old mutual friend took a lot of digging and some lucky chances. I think you'll need to hunt in Italy for the first clue - not that you have to go there, but try to find via the internet (and telephone) someone there from your mother's circle who might give you the next clue.
posted by anadem at 3:49 PM on April 7, 2010

You could place an ad in Il Globo, a daily paper published in Italian in Australia, or try some of the Australian-Italian community groups, such as COASTIT (google Italian Australian Association and you'll find more).

Some suburbs in major cities have strong associations with the Italian community - Leichhardt in Sydney for example - so their local newspapers might also be able to reach this person.
posted by girlgenius at 3:50 PM on April 7, 2010

Sorry, just read the part about wanting to know if she was still alive. Deaths are registered by State governments, so you'll have to go state-by-state. The New South Wales registry is here, Victoria's is here. The date to which you can search varies by State - NSW is for all deaths up to 1979, Victoria is deaths up to 1985, and Queensland's is up to 1964.
posted by girlgenius at 4:00 PM on April 7, 2010

If the suggestions above don't turn up any leads, you could ask these guys for help.
posted by harmless at 5:09 PM on April 7, 2010

Search the Births, Deaths and Marriages registries for each State to see if she died or got married. You might search the National Archives of Australia to see if you can find which State she arrived in, first. Mail me her name and I'll see if I can find anything in the genealogy databases I use.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:06 AM on April 8, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions. I'm following up on them, fully understanding the search could be a long one.
posted by MarioM at 6:17 AM on April 8, 2010

you can always try to hire an Australian private investigator
posted by pyro979 at 6:38 AM on April 8, 2010

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