How to go about finding old friends who appear to live off the grid?
November 26, 2010 8:52 PM   Subscribe

How does one go about finding an old friend in another country when every search I have tried turns up absolutely no records? I've gone from Google to Facebook to obituaries to phone directories and come up totally empty handed.

My SO had two good friends in Perth, Australia when he lived there in 1992-3. They eventually all shared a flat and became very close. He kept in touch with them for about a year after he returned to Canada, but as these things go, they gradually lost touch.

We are getting married in a few months and as my gift to him, I was hoping to surprise him by flying them in. Trouble is, I can't find them anywhere.

The only information I have are their first and last names, and a last known address for only one of them.

Any suggestions?
posted by empatterson to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried ZabaSearch, USA-People-Search or the White Pages? It's possible that they may have moved to the US at some point, so those may yield something if other resources turn up empty.

There's also...

People Search Australia

posted by patronuscharms at 9:18 PM on November 26, 2010

You might contemplate contacting the Australian embassy. Not sure what the privacy laws are, and how that'd affect your chances, but I've heard of embassies tracking down people in certain circumstances. Good luck.
posted by backwards guitar at 9:19 PM on November 26, 2010 is the best person-search tool I've found on the web.
posted by auto-correct at 9:19 PM on November 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does this search have to be conducted entirely online?

If not, the first thing I'd do is call the landlord of the flat where your husband stayed with the two friends, and ask if either of the friends left a forwarding address, or had provided any references, or had any guarantors/co-signers on the lease (who are often parents) or whatever the Australian equivalent is.

If no luck there, there I'd do the same for the flat which is the last known address of one of the friends.

I'd also try to find the phone numbers for neighbors in the same building as those flats, to see if they know anything.

I'd try sending a letter to the last known address of the friend in case he/she registered a new address with the post office.

Did they go to college together? You could call the college. If they worked together or if your fiance knows where they worked and you could ask him sneakily, you could call there.

As a last resort, if any of them have an unusual last name, I'd try other people with that last name in the phone book. If calling would be too intrusive/embarrassing for you, you could write letters.

That's where I'd start.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:29 PM on November 26, 2010

If you can afford it and they exist in Australia can you hire a private detective? In the US this is what they do (often for insurance companies and the like) and they have access to a lot of databases.
posted by fshgrl at 9:44 PM on November 26, 2010

Where were they born (city)? You may be able to locate the parents...and go from there.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:06 PM on November 26, 2010

A friend and I have both found long-lost friends on LinkedIn, in case you haven't tried that yet.
posted by brainwane at 11:01 PM on November 26, 2010

Put an advert in the classifieds section of the local paper. This is, or at least was, pre-internet, commonly used to track down people. It still goes on today (Perth classifieds site).
posted by tallus at 11:03 PM on November 26, 2010

I suspect privacy laws are going to make it difficult for the embassy or the landlord to help you.
I'd start searching for people with the same last name who live in Australia (not just Perth - it's a long time ago and lots of people leave Perth), and send some polite emails or letters. I've received emails like this from people trying to find a relative of mine, and have always been happy to pass them on if I can. It's helped that each time the email was sent to me personally (not a mass email), they explained where they found my name, and had a plausible story as to how they knew my relative and why they wanted to get back in touch.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 12:02 AM on November 27, 2010

I'm an Aussie, and I'd be happy to help any way I can. If you mefi-mail me their names and any other info you have, I have a couple of friends with access to databases that aren't google-able. Nothing illegal, I assure you! (We're currently arranging a small scale school reunion and where google can't help, these friends can.)

I also have a cousin in Perth, so maybe some weird coincidence might fall into place.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 1:42 AM on November 27, 2010

Were they from Perth? Are they likely to still be here?

I'm in Perth, and I'd be willing to check the physical versions of the electoral rolls for you. My understanding is that the state and commonwealth rolls are no longer available online for privacy reasons. But I believe the state library and the electoral commission maintain copies for viewing. Assuming the names aren't too common, that should get you a shortlist of recent addresses which you can then compare to the phone book.

Memail me if you'd like.
posted by Ahab at 1:51 AM on November 27, 2010

I had a similar challenge. After fruitless weeks, I asked "well, how I could I find me?".
I realised that I was young, moved around a lot, could be anywhere in the world, and was invisible online.

The easiest way to find me was actually to not look for me, but look for my parents and ask them. They were more settled, lived in the same place, were in the phone books, and always knew how to get in touch with me.

Looking for the parents wasn't easy since I only had a surname, so had to figure that out, but it worked. Like me, the person moved around a lot, and like mine, the parents didn't, and were listed.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:18 AM on November 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all of your suggestions. I hope that someone will find this information useful in some way.

I only marked this one as resolved because the wedding is off. Sorry for the not so happy ending.
posted by empatterson at 12:42 PM on January 25, 2011

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