I'd Thank You If I Could Find You
May 18, 2006 8:11 AM   Subscribe

How do I find a girl that I knew as a child/teen? All I have is her name (she may have changed it through marriage) and the town where she grew up? She doesn't live there any more.

We both grew up in Bloomington, Indiana and attended Elm Heights Elementary School (doesn't exist anymore) and Binford Middle School (doesn't exist any more). Her name is (was) Kelly Shanks. Her family moved away (I don't know where) just before high school. I don't know the names/occupations of any family members. She's not listed on Classmates.com. I posted about her on Classmates.com's message-boards, but on one knows anything about her. That's all the info I have. Is there any way to find her with so little information? Private detective? How much would that cost? Below is the backstory of why I want to find her, but you can skip it if you want. This paragraph contains all the relevant info for the question.

Backstory: in Middle School (1977-1979), I has the scapegoat. I was short, bookish, unathletic and late going through puberty. I had almost no friends, and the popular kids started picking on me. Soon, the kids who wanted to be popular started picking on me. Then it became sort of a school rule: if you didn't pick on me, you'd be picked on yourself. There were horrible days when, during lunch, I had to hide from the whole school. It's disgusting and unforgivable, but the teachers did nothing (some of them even joined in) and, like many kids, I refused to tell my parents about my social status.

Believe it or not, I wasn't depressed that I was unpopular. I've always had an independent mind, and I disliked the popular kids and had wouldn't have joined their group even if they had invited me. But I didn't want to be constantly mocked, picked on, beaten up, etc. I just wanted to be left alone.

The worst part of all this is that -- to protect myself -- I developed a cynical attitude towards people, especially towards girls, because they taunted me more than the boys did. I started taunting back, and learned how to say just the right things to make girls cry. It took me years to learn to like people again. Eventually, I did grow out of this stage and became a reasonably popular, reasonably well-adjusted adult.

But during the worst period, ONE girl was nice to me. She was popular and had a lot to lose by treating me with kindness instead of disdain. I was so bitter by this point, I would just grunt at her when she smiled and asked me how I was doing. I may have even been mean to her. But she was persistently nice to me. Not intrusive. She would just throw a friendly comment at me when we saw each other.

All these years later, I hardly remember anyone from back then. I've forgotten names, faces, etc. But I remember her. Her actions meant a lot, even though I couldn't acknowledge them at the time. When I came out from under my cynical cloud, it was partly my memory of her that allowed me to believe people were capable of kindness. I've always wanted to thank her, but I have no idea how to find her.
posted by grumblebee to Human Relations (53 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
wow grumblebee, what a story. I am glad that you are less cynical now - the old defense mechanisms that you built up then are no longer useful now. glad to see you let them go

regarding finding the girl who smiled at you - google is your friend. failing that, use online phone books. thank goodness there are few phone companies in north america, you could make that search in the matter of a day if you are methodical. however, if her telephone is unlisted or she does not have a phone number to her name, this will not work.

hiring a detective would likely bring results, but keep the costs in mind - at what price a simple thank you?
posted by seawallrunner at 8:21 AM on May 18, 2006

Best answer: ZabaSearch turns up 51 Kelly Shanks. Most of those are probably duplicates. One name has a birthdate of 1967 listed. She's in the Seattle area and google suggests she is a social worker. It must be her!
posted by anglophiliated at 8:27 AM on May 18, 2006

...and I meant to say 'good luck'.
posted by anglophiliated at 8:29 AM on May 18, 2006

Don't suppose you happend to know her parents name? Did she have siblings? Wouldn't her birthday be closer to 1965? I have access to a people search tool of a higher caliber than Zaba. And there are a number of entries for that name, so trying to narrow it down is the tricky part.
posted by kimdog at 8:35 AM on May 18, 2006

Good luck! I had to comment because I went to Binford as well, a few years later, and found the atmosphere there to be just as you described it. I'm glad to hear that things have gotten so much better for you.
posted by Emera Gratia at 8:37 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster:
Don't suppose you happend to know her parents name? Did she have siblings? Wouldn't her birthday be closer to 1965?

Sorry, I don't know names of any family members or even if she has siblings.

I was born in 1965 and she and I were in the same grade. I was on the older-end of my class, so it's possible she's a year younger than me. So 1966 is a possible birth year. 1967 is pushing it, though I guess it's possible she skipped a grade.
posted by grumblebee at 8:54 AM on May 18, 2006

Best answer: You could create a page on your site (or a post on your blog) with her name on it, and a statement like "These are people from my past who I would love to hear from:" Then if she ends up on your page while googling herself, she might contact you. (which maybe not everyone does, but what the heck...) This is not an original concept - I've seen it on people's personal sites since back in the late 90s.
posted by chr1sb0y at 8:57 AM on May 18, 2006

Please post a follow-up if you find her...
posted by underwater at 8:58 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: Emera Gratia, did you spend the rest of your childhood in Bloomington? I went to Bloomington High School South. Binford Middle was a hellhole. Middle/Jr. Highs are a terrible idea in general. They take kids at their most awkward ages and pack them together without any older role-models. I didn't like High School much, but it was worlds better than Middle School.

For anyone who is interested in more of my childhood saga, here's are a couple of blog entries: 1 and 2.
posted by grumblebee at 9:00 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: underwater, I definitely will.
posted by grumblebee at 9:00 AM on May 18, 2006

Best answer: Have you tried looking in the hometown newspaper? I was able to track down many of my "missing" classmates that way by searching LexisNexis. If you search for her parents, you may find her showing up with her married name. Like say her grandma died and she's listed in the obit as grandaughter "Kelly Newname of Pensacola" then you have a whole new lead. If you search for her under her maiden name within the four years after you graduated high school you may find her name cropping up on a Dean's List blurb ("local students make Dean's List at State") which would give you another piece of the puzzle.
posted by Biblio at 9:02 AM on May 18, 2006

D'oh! Reading comprehension is your friend. I see now that she moved away before high school, but do you know if the family stayed in Indiana?
posted by Biblio at 9:03 AM on May 18, 2006

Best answer: Elm Heights currently has an active neighborhood association with lots of long-term residents involved, and a fledgling alumni association sponsored by the independent school in that building now.
posted by nonane at 9:07 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: I don't know anything about her extended family, Bilblio. But she and her parents moved away (where?) before High School.
posted by grumblebee at 9:11 AM on May 18, 2006

Have you searched property records? If you could find a record of her parents selling their house then you would have their names.

Yes, I am a stalker, er, Librarian.
posted by Biblio at 9:39 AM on May 18, 2006

My brother lives in Bloomington. If you give me an idea of the era you're talking about, maybe he can stop by the public library and see if they have phone books for some of the years involved. Maybe we'll get a hit on the parent's names, and you can go from there.
posted by jasper411 at 9:42 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: Have you searched property records?

Is it possible to do this online? The property would be in Bloomington, Indiana. But I now live in NYC.
posted by grumblebee at 9:43 AM on May 18, 2006

As an example of the "Lost People" page chr1sboy mentioned, here's one used by a Mefi member.
posted by junesix at 9:54 AM on May 18, 2006

Best answer: Have you searched property records?

Is it possible to do this online?

Yes, on Westlaw or Lexis. I think you can research using a credit card if you don't have a subscription, although it may be quite expensive. Know anyone with a flat rate subscription that includes the Public Records databases?
posted by amro at 9:57 AM on May 18, 2006

Is it possible her first name is spelled "Keli," not "Kelly?" There's a Keli Shanks in Houston who was born in 1964, who evidently used to work for a company called Entergy-Koch.
posted by cerebus19 at 9:57 AM on May 18, 2006

grumblebee, that bit from your first post about being told to bury your head in your teacher's lap reads like something from a John Irving novel.
posted by Lotto at 9:58 AM on May 18, 2006

Okay... here's another question. Do you know what the common Social Security prefix (first three #'s) is in Indiana? For instance, people born in TN often have SS# beginning with 40X or 41X. If she was born in Indiana, I might be able to narrow the field that way.
posted by kimdog at 9:59 AM on May 18, 2006

kimdog, 303-317.
posted by amro at 10:02 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: cerebus19, I'm almost 100% sure it's "Kelly." And 1964 is a year or two two old. Most people in my grade were born in '65 or '66.

I don't know Indiana's SSN or even whether she was born in Indiana. (My SSN starts with 303, but I was born in NYC.)
posted by grumblebee at 10:03 AM on May 18, 2006

Best answer: There's also a Kelly D. Shanks working at Eggers Middle School in Hammond, Indiana.
posted by cerebus19 at 10:05 AM on May 18, 2006

So the family lived there in the 60s / early 70s?

I'll keep watching this thread, but I'll also ask my brother to drop by the library when he has some time. The library said they had a pretty good collection of old phone books there.
posted by jasper411 at 10:07 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: jasper411, they lived there in the 70s. They MAY have lived there in the 60s, but I wasn't aware of her back then. (I was born in 65, so I didn't even start elementary school (where I met her) until the early 70s.
posted by grumblebee at 10:13 AM on May 18, 2006

If you can narrow it down to two or three people, just e-mail them and ask if they are the Kelly Shanks you remember. I've had a few people track me down as such, and didn't mind a bit (none of them went all stalker on me, they just wanted to say hi. It was nice.)
posted by desuetude at 10:15 AM on May 18, 2006

I have no idea if this is relevant, but if you search for Binford Middle Schoo in Bloomington Indianal, one link you get is this one, written by a guy named Andrew Hearst who says he went there, and is now a writer/editor living in New York! On that page, he also writes about an artist buddy of his (Rob Harrell) with whom he's been friends since their days at Binford!

The web pages don't give an idea about their ages, but maybe they overlapped with you? If so, maybe they'd have some more information, since you say that girl was popular. If they were part of the group that tormented you, here's a great chance for revenge, BWA-HA-HA-HA!!!
posted by jasper411 at 10:18 AM on May 18, 2006

uh, that's Binford Middle School in Bloomington Indianal, of course.
posted by jasper411 at 10:21 AM on May 18, 2006

Best answer: I checked the online Indiana property records that I had access to, but they didn't go back to the late 70's.

The social security lead didn't help pan out.

Check your G-Mail. I sent you info on two different Kelly Shanks (both are using married names now) who were born in 1965. I couldn't find any hits for 1966. Maybe you can Google more info from there.
posted by kimdog at 10:23 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, kimdog. I will contact them both.
posted by grumblebee at 10:37 AM on May 18, 2006

I just went down and checked the "local history" section in IU's main library, hoping they'd have local elementary publications, but it was all just IU. The Indiana Room at the Monroe County Public Library might have more relevant records.
posted by nonane at 10:38 AM on May 18, 2006

nonane - I called the librarian and they do have a collection of old phone books in the Indiana room.
posted by jasper411 at 10:42 AM on May 18, 2006

There are a few Google Images hits for "Kelly Shanks." Sorry if this is super obvious and you've already done that. It's the first way I always search for people, and it's worked for me twice when Google web didn't.
posted by peep at 10:45 AM on May 18, 2006

I've had great success with My Space believe it or not. Actually an old, old, friend from elementary and pre-school just found me and sent me a message on My Space. Worth a shot. (You can actually search my middle, highschool etc.) I'm sure my friend found me by doing a search on my highschool. Classmates.com works, too
posted by bananafish at 11:24 AM on May 18, 2006

I thought it was unrelated until I read the last comment...before I read the rest of this thread (ok, probably mild ADD made easier that I can use tabs on Firefox), I searched on myspace for a person I was friends with when I was 7-9 years old who I've always wondered about. I think I found her and JUST sent her a message, and I'm 99% convinced its her.

Not only did the first line of your question inspire this, but my inspiration might be your answer. It's worth a shot.

You can search by name, and if you know the schools she went to, you might be able to find her that way too (my middle/grammar schools aren't listed, but yours might be).
posted by AlisonM at 11:35 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: How many 40+ people actually use MySpace?
posted by grumblebee at 12:02 PM on May 18, 2006

Not as many as the teenage/college set, but my boyfriend and his buddies do and he's 38. Its free, so what have you got to lose? Set up an account and search for her name. If you don't find her, oh well.
posted by AlisonM at 12:09 PM on May 18, 2006

I 2nd (3rd?) the myspace suggestion.
posted by Espoo2 at 1:40 PM on May 18, 2006

I just wanted to mention that kimdog's Social Security number thing only works if you know where the person lived when the SSN was issued. Today, children are given SSNs when they're born, but that wasn't always the case. Take me, for example, I was born in Ohio in 1957 but didn't get a Social Security card until I got my first job at age 16 in North Carolina. My SSN has the digits that reveal a North Carolina origin, not Ohio. If Kelly Shanks moved from Indiana before she got her Social Security card, it won't help us to know Indiana's "code."
posted by pasici at 2:05 PM on May 18, 2006

My brother's going to try to make it to the library sometime over the weekend to look for all listings of "Shanks" in Bloomington during those years. I'm betting it's a relatively uncommon name (he said there's 3 of them there now). Maybe that'll give parent names that you could use to search with.

I'm sure you know this already, but be aware that these searches often end in ways that aren't what you'd expect. An uncle of mine had been harboring a "special relationship" with a high school girl for 50 years, only to have her not remember him at the reunion. I myself was shocked to find out (30+ years later) that a middle school girl who had been nice to me died of hepatitis shortly after leaving high school, and I had had no idea of it.

Plus, I just saw the first season episode of Lost where John Locke gets tricked into donating his kidney to his long-lost father! Not directly relevant to your case, but I just saw it for the first time and thought everyone should know!
posted by jasper411 at 2:15 PM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: jasper411, that's really cool of your brother. Please thank him for me.

...but be aware that these searches often end in ways that aren't what you'd expect...

I'm sorry about your uncle. That really sucks. But I'm not worried about anything like that. I'm happily married and not looking for a relationship. And it's fine with me if Kelly doesn't remember who I am. It's been years and years, and I probably didn't mean that much to her to begin with. She's probably just a nice person who treated everyone like that.

I only want to get in touch with her to thank her. I've always felt like I SHOULD have thanked her. It feels like unfinished business.
posted by grumblebee at 3:09 PM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: By the way, I've been doing some searches today, and there are a zillion "Kelly Shanks." I need a better plan than calling/emailling all of them -- especially since that might not even be her name anymore.
posted by grumblebee at 3:10 PM on May 18, 2006

grumblebee - My brother was intrigued by your story, so I think it'll be fun for him too. He just wanted to be sure you weren't a stalker or anything scary like that. I'll let you know anything we find out.

Actually, we all thought the thing with my uncle was hilarious, but that's because he's simultaneously hapless and pompous. It's a bit like when something comes along to knock Ollie down a few pegs in the Laurel and Hardy movies.
posted by jasper411 at 4:51 PM on May 18, 2006

grumble -

As for the MySpace suggestion, I also second (fourth it, whatever) it - and I speak as someone who just found a girl on it that I had known over 20 years ago but not heard from since then. Of course, she's only in her late twenties now - to your point, I've found that the older people get, the less likely they are to be on MySpace.

But, there are some out there - on Myspace, and the other social networking services. The problem with girls is that there's the very real possibility their last name has long since changed. That's why using the school(s) as a focal point of your search may be key.

I also second the idea of creating a page centered on finding her and figuring out how to get it ranked high on the Google returns for her name.

And, lastly, speaking as someone who used to work in background investigations, I highly recommend investing in a reputable private detective service (preferrably an ex-law officer / real detective). These guys have access to tools / networks that even the internet can't provide you with.

Here's hoping you find her.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:43 PM on May 22, 2006

I had a similar thing - trying to find a girl who likewise moved before the end of highschool, which was many years ago. My online searches couldn't narrow it down enough. I wondered, if someone like me was looking for me, how could they find me? Answer: they couldn't. But they COULD find my parents, who move far less frequently, and are of a generation that is far more "on the grid" than my generation, what with landline, their number listed in the phone books, etc etc. So I decided to try to find her parents.
I first went to the school to ask for her parents name from their records. They didn't feel like looking it up or ph33red liability if I was a psycho, so made up some bullshit about privacy requirements (which I knew were not true), but they were a dead end too. Your luck might differ - give it a try.
Since birth certificates are public documents (this may differ in your area, I wouldn't know), they seemed to be my last resort - for a fee, you could have someone search through the birth records of the region and make you a copy of the matching certificate. It did seem pretty creepy to own a girl's birth certificate without her knowledge. Fortunately, I was saved from having to do that by discovering that the central library of the region had a copy of the birth records on microfiche - not the full certificate, but a brief entry that included date, name, and mothers name.
I requested the films, searched through them, and found a perfect match. With the mother's name, it was easy to track down her parents, and they put me in touch with her.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:49 AM on May 23, 2006

Response by poster: with some trepidation about self-linking, but taking advice here that I make a web page, here's a link to my blog post about Kelly Shanks. If you have any interest in upping it's Google rank, feel free to link to it. Thanks.
posted by grumblebee at 11:02 AM on May 23, 2006

Hey, my brother and his family got all immersed in this project (props to zoogirl!), and apparently had a great old time inspecting phone books (which were very different back then) in Bloomington.

Among other things, they found old school yearbooks, INCLUDING OMG a picture of Kelly Shanks from the 78-79 yearbook! He's sending me a xerox of it. I'll try scanning it, or if that doesn't work, send me your address and I'll mail it to you.

I'm sending you an email of the phone book listings! Maybe one of them will ring a bell and you'll be able to search for a parent listing.
posted by jasper411 at 11:19 AM on May 25, 2006

Response by poster: Oh my God, Tom. Thank you so much -- and please thank your family for me. If this ever leads to anything, I'll definitely let you guys know the end of the story. Alas, I never knew her parent's names -- she was just a girl who went to school with me. Our families didn't socialize. But perhaps some of the names you sent will help me track her down.

I would be grateful for the yearbook pic, too. I've emailed you my address.
posted by grumblebee at 12:55 PM on May 25, 2006

Hey Grumblebee -

I've just snail-mailed you some yearbook pages with Kelly's picture in them. Since they were xerox's a scan of them didn't look so great.

Did any of the telephone book listings ring a bell (no pun intended)?
posted by jasper411 at 10:33 AM on June 1, 2006

Hi Grumblebee, I saw this from another post you made. It's some months now- any progress?
posted by imperium at 3:33 PM on October 31, 2006

Thanks Jerk, after reading this, I just had to look up some old friends and it brought up a bunch of old feelings.

Im such a Loser!!!1!1!

No, but seriously, Private eyes are expensive. How much is this "thank you" worth? If it were me and I was 10 years older, it would probably be worth $5-10k. But thats just me and Im a hopeless romantic.
posted by subaruwrx at 10:59 PM on October 31, 2006

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