Finding someone with VERY limited information?
November 14, 2014 12:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for more information on someone I used to know and all I have to go on is their first name, the street they lived on when I knew them, an age range, and... that's about it. Oh and, this was 20+ years ago. Is this even possible?

Here's what I know:
In 1991, $FIRSTNAME was living on $STREET. I can narrow the street down to two blocks, and side of street but not house number.
I can narrow down a birth year to 3, maybe 4 possibilities.
They were in jail at some point before I knew them, though I don't know what for or what agency (three possibilities in the area). I can narrow the year of that down to 2 or 3 possible years.

I'm not looking to get in contact with or track down this person. I'm just trying to fill-in-the-blanks on a chapter of my personal history. It's not worth it to me if my only real options are professional investigation services.
posted by The Imp of the Perverse to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on what country you're in, you can use to help you find birth, marriage, and other public records. You might be able to fudge a result for the person's last name with the dates and locations you have.

There should be something like a 14-day free trial in which you can search like mad, but if not, you can sign up for one month and cancel it.
posted by vickyverky at 12:26 AM on November 14, 2014

Have you looked at the street on Google Streetview, or are you close enough to go there? If you can identify the house and get the address, you can look into the homeowner history. If a couple of houses look like possible candidates, you can check into their sales history.

I dwell in the past a little too much, and when I get curious about somebody I knew in 1990-something I can usually track 'em down with a little 2 AM Google stalking. You have to really wrack your brain. Think of anybody you both knew or places you used to go. Do you know where this person went to school, and do you know the year of their graduating class? Look into reunion stuff. Were they active at some local church? Look into that. If you obsess enough, you can probably think of some way to find this person.

But I gotta say, this all sounds a little worrisome. I assume it's entirely innocent, but the vagueness about why you need this info coupled with the person's jail history makes this post sound a little too much like the beginning of a pulpy thriller that ends with one of you taking two slugs to the gut. Please don't get yourself involved in anything hinky.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:39 AM on November 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

You might try asking a friend from that time. I know when I've asked friends about people I kind of only half remember, the details that come out are sometimes surprisingly detailed.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:35 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

You could check local property records for that street, if the home is still owned by the same family that might give you a last name.
posted by HuronBob at 3:31 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

In my area, I can go to the county website, search property tax rolls, then from there find every past owner on record. So if you lived near me , I'd make a guess on a couple of street addresses, and check out the property sale records. It might take an hour or so of going through all the houses in the relevant blocks, but you'd be able to find first names of the owners, at least.
posted by instamatic at 6:39 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can find names of residents in the reverse phone directories (not sure if that's what they're called -- the have names and numbers that you look up by address) at your local reference library. This will only work if you're sure that the person would be the name listed on the directory listing (i.e. not parents or a spouse) OR if you might recognize the last name if you saw it.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:03 AM on November 14, 2014

That whole "lacking the last name" really ups the difficulty for any internet-completed searching. Perhaps seek potential neighbors that have lived in the same area since that time period and inquire?
posted by stormyteal at 7:25 AM on November 14, 2014

You might also want to try, they gather and assemble property ownership/transfer records. Given a particular address they will also show adjacent properties and the current owners.

Maybe with some careful house-by-house searches you can find a last name that will jog your memory. At worst, you could combine $FIRSTNAME with ALL of those last names and use that as a list. Put that list through Google Images, or maybe to see if names come up with a picture or an age range that matches your subject.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:52 AM on November 14, 2014

i'd use property records to see if any of the owners in the neighborhood have been there for 20+ years and then just ask them directly about the person and their family... that'll give you a last name and potentially a bunch more information to start a proper search.
posted by noloveforned at 10:45 AM on November 14, 2014

If you know or can guess the name of any high school or college they attended, you might be able to find them on Classmates. That's the way a friend found me 45 years after we parted. The helpful part is that women sign in under their maiden name, which is the name they had in school, and then leave a current e-mail address or at least the name of the city they're living in now.

Good luck - hope you find your friend.
posted by aryma at 4:13 PM on November 14, 2014

There were voters lists in many cities. Residents are listed by street name. Check with the library.
posted by beccaj at 6:59 PM on November 14, 2014

A reference librarian can potentially help you in person. The hard copy material that comes to mind is a city directory in the city in question for 1991. It's been so long since I used one that I don't remember if you can look at everyone who lived on a street, or if you have to know the last name.

Another online thing I'd try before that: Does the state in question have a searchable database of pending and closed court cases? Mine does, and I can search with any part of a name. If I had only a first name, I'd be able to pull up all those records, and then look at the address for each defendant. I use it to keep tabs on a violent & troublesome neighbor.

My city also has an online property tax records search. My city's records are spotty, but I can see past owners of a property, sometimes going back 30 years. It's only searchable by an entire street or a house number on a street. If the city in question has one of these, you wouldn't need to know the last name.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:31 AM on November 15, 2014

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