Nancy Drew 10 years later
June 3, 2012 11:46 PM   Subscribe

Help me play private detective! For a totally innocent cause, I promise.

I volunteered my excellent sleuthing skills for the people who are organizing my high school 10 year reunion. I have pretty excellent google skills and I love Veronica Mars and actually own a pretty kick-ass deerstalker, but there are still some people (and not even the ones with really common last names) who just seem to have no internet presence.

I'm assuming a number of them have gotten married or such, (hopefully not died?) and I'm wondering if there are better methods than google and Facebook to help me find marriage records? I don't need access to anything too untoward -- I'm not looking for DMV records or anything like that. Are there ways to search newspaper classifieds or marriage notices online?

If it helps, I'm from a town near Victoria, BC, so Victoria, Vancouver, Alberta are all common places for these people to have settled.
posted by custard heart to Human Relations (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This is not an answer to your question but a suggestion of how else to search.

When we arranged a school reunion, we found quite a few - mostly women who had married/remarried - who had no internet presence. We started with Google, then tried Facebook. As a final resort we tried to contact their parents (usually still in our hometown, and often still living in the same house) or siblings who did have an internet presence.

A handful of people were tracked down in surprising ways: one of our classmates was a teacher many years ago at a particular school, we could not track him down at all, in desperation I rang the school... and the woman in the office not only remembered him, but knew where he was working now, so she took my name and number and passed it onto him.

Each time I explained that we were arranging a reunion, and I couldn't find contact details for Jane Smith, this is my name and telephone number, could you please pass on the message? This had an almost 100% success rate.

None of them had died, though. That might be awkward, but it may also be worth the risk.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:21 AM on June 4, 2012

Look for obituaries (of your classmates' relatives, that is) -- these will often show a spouse and changed last name, e.g. "beloved father of John (Mary), Jane Smith (Mike)...." You can get obituaries through other services than newspapers and GNews, primarily

Zabasearch can provide a wealth of current and (often mostly) former addresses.

Pipl is a "people" search engine that turns up addresses, web pages, news mentions, and social media profiles. Both Pipl and Zabasearch bury their information in links to pay stalking services, though.

Other than that, there are standbys such as Yahoo! People Search,, Anywho, Wink, WhoWhere, and so on. Doing a "similar" ( Google search for these will turn up more if you exhaust possibilities.
posted by dhartung at 12:22 AM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

People tend to get better at this kind of sleuthing as the decades pass but here are some of the things that people do to beef up the reunion attendance.

Start early. Get in touch with the previous reunion organizer and get the lists of contacts that were prepared then. Compare the lists and see who came last time who might know someone who didn't show then and who can't be found now.

Ask if they remember who the missing person used to hang out with in school and try to get in touch with some of those people to see if anyone still knows where the MP is now.

Find out if the MP had relatives in the school and see if you can find one of them now--or someone they knew who might know the parents. Be very clear, brief and cheerful about why you're trying to find the person. If you get a lead and only have an address, write a letter and ask them to pass on the enclosed invitation (with RSVP info).

Check the yearbook for club or sports activities and that might give you people who could have information about the MP. Take the same steps for the MP's siblings which might get you a very good lead.

Work the Google and newspaper searches. find out how to trace marriage filings and real estate records in likely locations. Check census records. Ask a librarian how to access the records you want to search.

This kind of sleuthing is fun because it is a real competition to see if you can get the whole class together again. Even if they can't all come, it's nice to just get in touch and remember that the next reunion might be even easier and better because of your work now.

Good luck.
posted by Anitanola at 12:22 AM on June 4, 2012

If there's a local paper, consider taking out a small advertisement and running it for several weeks or months. If your classmates aren't local, a relative who is may pass on the news.

"BlahBlah High School Reunion Class of 2003 now organizing. Contact Custard Heart at x x x"

Give phone number, mailing address, web address and email as a means to contact so the maximum number of people will respond. If you have a Facebook group, also give that info and your Twitter feed.

Keep in mind that some of your classmates will not want to participate for a variety of reasons. If you make a contact & relay info and then don't hear anything - please take that as an answer & give up. Also respect your classmates' privacy and don't reveal locations of the 'missing'. The innocent "Oh Janie couldn't attend but she's living over in Smithville" may have unintended consequences.
posted by jaimystery at 4:57 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

First of all, the Reunion committee should make a Facebook page, this way people can take the initiative and find you.

Call your school (if it's still around) and let them know who is organizing the reunion and how to get in touch. That way, if people call directly, they'll be directed to the correct folks.

If you have the resources, create a web-page for the reunion. If anyone googles it, they'll find it. is a real pest, but we used it for our reunion.

You won't be able to find everyone, but the people who are interested will be able to find you. Also, if people don't want to be found, they don't. Don't worry about it, you'll have a blast with whomever shows up.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:56 AM on June 4, 2012

Universities/colleges usually keep tabs on their alumni - if you know where some of them went to school (if they did), you might be able to work with the school's alumni association to track them down.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:04 AM on June 4, 2012

There is a service that tracks realestate purchases that could be useful.
When we bought our home we had to provide a lot of identifying info-maiden name, schools, old addresses. It was after that when I started getting regular mailings from my alma mater.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:51 AM on June 4, 2012

I helped track down a dozen people for my 20-year reunion by starting with their parents, all of whom still lived in our hometown.

I was one of the "people we just can't track down", even though my dad had been a well-known insurance agent in town for about 40 years at the time.
posted by chazlarson at 7:04 AM on June 4, 2012

Lexis/Nexis public records lsearch is a whole lot faster than anything else. If you can't get access through a law office, you could try a library or university.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:50 AM on June 4, 2012

Seconding Zabasearch and Pipl. (Note that's free front-page listings contain a lot of useful information for sleuthing (age, previous locations,...) that can help you select your classmate from same-named people.) is a very useful phone-book search.... find 'em and phone 'em. is a "people finder", also good. And if nothing else works, you have to get real human with your search. Who did Alice hang out with? Was it Betty? Phone Betty and ask where Alice is now, if she has a married name, does Betty have Alice's email address? Phone number? Happy hunting!
posted by exphysicist345 at 4:38 PM on June 4, 2012

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