Missing Persons
June 9, 2007 1:41 PM   Subscribe

How do you find people you've lost?

After an absence of many years, I have returned to Washington State. I did a poor job of keeping in touch while gone, and now I've lost contact with most of my old friends. I've managed to find a few by searching networking sites or contacting family, but many more remain missing.

I'm interested in what steps to take when searching for someone through the obvious channels fails. My old crowd has scattered, and I couldn't say what town a few of them live in now. I've only myself to blame for being a flaky friend, but I don't think I'll feel like I've "come home" to Washington until I reconnect with some of the people who made home what it was.
posted by EatTheWeak to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
posted by The Gooch at 1:44 PM on June 9, 2007

Have you tried the white pages?

Have you posted their names on a personal web page for them to find when they google themselves?
posted by Good Brain at 1:46 PM on June 9, 2007

Good Brain - white pages, yes. the web page thing, no. Good idea!
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:57 PM on June 9, 2007

Tried Facebook. It's all the rage these days.
posted by purephase at 2:24 PM on June 9, 2007

zabasearch has been recommended on mefi before. It is a bit frightening.
posted by hooray at 2:25 PM on June 9, 2007

Start by trying to find the most sociable of your old friends. They will be easier to find and they will know where other people are.

Then ask them the "What ever happened to X?" questions. If all they know is a town, that's a good start.

Another web site to try is zabasearch.com.

And write to a few of the more likely matches to your searches. "Are you the Joe Smith who worked at X in Y back in Z?"
posted by pracowity at 2:25 PM on June 9, 2007

2nding facebook. You'll likely be able to find some of your old acquaintances quite easily (even those you're already "found"), and they'll quite likely have as friends other people you'll recognize. Plus, by joining facebook, you'll never know who might stumble across you and seek you out, especially if you join your related "groups" (city, state, highschool, college, etc).
posted by cgg at 2:46 PM on June 9, 2007

They will probably be right where you buried them. Did you draw a map?

Seconding Facebook, et. al., Zabasearch, and starting with your most social friends. Another idea is to set up your own web presence so they can find you.
posted by LarryC at 3:38 PM on June 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

The good thing about using social networking sites versus white pages is that people who list themselves on these sites expect their old friends to contact them.

Facebook can be a little tricky because you can't see profiles unless you're in the same network, so make sure you join the D.C. network immediately. But note that you can belong to only one regional network at a time. If you find a possible match who is in a different regional network, swap out to that network, then rejoin D.C. for other searching. Alternatively, people outside your networks may have list of their friends visible to you, and looking at those lists may help you. Search for groups, too, if you remember that a friend really liked a certain sport or hobby.

Also try classmates.com if you know what schools your friends went to (high school or university). This is especially useful for friends with common names. You may find a pile of John Does at Facebook, some of whom may not belong to any network, meaning that you may have to send them a message without even being sure that they're the right one. But at classmates.com, you'll probably find only one John Doe from the right time span at your high school. You can browse by school or do a simple or advanced search for a specific name across all schools.

bebo.com is a little MySpacey for my tastes, but I've found some old friends there, too.
posted by maudlin at 4:28 PM on June 9, 2007

Oh, and reunion.com may look neat (I'm not linking to them, but the URL is obvious), but there have been some complaints that they try to entice you to join their paid service by showing you lists of name matches that are outside the age range or geographical area that you specified. Not a recommended social networking site.
posted by maudlin at 4:31 PM on June 9, 2007

D'oh -- Washington state, not D.C. Yes, there are several networks for that state. Be prepared to swap your network affiliation around as needed when you search.
posted by maudlin at 4:33 PM on June 9, 2007

I've had success with PeopleFinder (no "s" at the end, unlike the link above).
posted by davidmsc at 5:00 PM on June 9, 2007

I've had old friends (i.e. PRIMARY school) find me through Facebook, MySpace, and Friendster.
posted by divabat at 5:02 PM on June 9, 2007

I think your success with facebook is going to depend a lot on how old you and your friends are. Graduated from college in the last ~3 years = excellent chance. Graduated from college 15 years ago = slim chance. At least that's what I've observed.
posted by Good Brain at 5:56 PM on June 9, 2007

I would also suggest using the power of pre-Internet networking. Find someone who will know the largest number of people from your old crowd. Maybe it's not a friend. Maybe it's a beloved teacher who everyone stops in to see when they are in town. Maybe it's a friend's parent who always knew all the other parents. Go to them with an explicit list of the people you are trying to track down -- people like that love to share their knowledge.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:47 PM on June 9, 2007

Don't forget siblings- often I've lost a friend and can't find them online but have been able to track down a sister or brother and make contact that way.
posted by Mamapotomus at 9:17 PM on June 9, 2007

Contact your highschool, ask if they have, e.g., a reunion committee, or anyone else who keeps track of everyone who's left. Not that uncommon, and probably more popular with the older crowd.
posted by anaelith at 7:16 AM on June 10, 2007

Seconding Facebook. I haven't joined, but it seems like everyone else I've ever known in my entire life is on it.
posted by chunking express at 6:46 AM on June 11, 2007

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