Finding Info on an Ex
July 27, 2004 1:10 PM   Subscribe

So, there was this girl I dated about 11 or 12 years ago. I know right where she lives and her phone #. I've been considering calling her or writing her a letter, but I want to find out more about her first. I'm just curious about how her life turned out. What public sources can a person use to dig up information on a person?

The circumstances mentioned are completely true, unlike that post about revenge a while back where everyone was duped.
posted by pissfactory to Human Relations (47 answers total)
 
There must be a stalker support group out there somewhere. You could try them.
posted by bondcliff at 1:27 PM on July 27, 2004


Get some counseling. This is a bad thing to do. It will turn out badly. Stalking is wrong. Leave the poor girl alone.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:30 PM on July 27, 2004


Not without being regarded as completely creepy if found out. If you've got any mutual friends, you can ask them how she is. You can also write her and say that in a fit of nostalgia you're wondering how she is. Anything other than that is unnecessarily prying into things that are none of your business.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:31 PM on July 27, 2004


If you are honestly wondering "where are they now?" as we all have about high school folks, just google their name. If nothing comes up, forget about it and move on.

That's what I do whenever I think about some old flame.
posted by mathowie at 1:34 PM on July 27, 2004


The best way to dig up information on an old flame, especially if you have her contact information, is to contact her directly right off.

I guarantee you: she will not appreciate any detective work you might do in advance. And isn't it better to write her and have a chat and have her tell you all about the cool things in her life in person? You can see what excites her, what she's passionate about, and you can share those things. And, you'll know a lot quicker if there's a friendship (or something else) between you still.

Or are you only looking to reconnect with her, and if she's taken then you don't want to bother even saying hello?

Start with a letter. Trust me.
posted by chicobangs at 1:38 PM on July 27, 2004


Why not just be honest and call her?

Of course, you can google her too. Anything more than that is prying and outside of social norms.

From the girl's POV, she may not even remember you. I got one of these calls a couple of years ago. I hadn't seen the guy in 20 years. I didn't even recognize his name at first. When I finally remembered him, the memory wasn't all that great. At this point in my life, I get a couple of these calls/emails per year. I've never understood the point.
posted by Juicylicious at 1:40 PM on July 27, 2004


Fully agree with chicobangs. Be your self - you are not a detective.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:42 PM on July 27, 2004


There are a lot of people in this world, many of them of potentially greater relevance and use to you than your old flame.

I don't have a ton of old girlfriends, but it seems that every one of them wanted to contact me as soon as the word went out that I was engaged. I never wanted to write them back or call them up. There was nothing to say. They just wanted to plant a flag in me for my wife to look at: "Remember I was here before you."

I'm piling on here, but it bears saying: Google a bit, then leave it alone. The odds very strongly suggest that nothing pleasant will come of re-opening contact with here. Never structure your life to go against the odds.
posted by argybarg at 1:49 PM on July 27, 2004


I say 'call her' too. Wouldn't finding out how she has done be more fun by hearing it directly from her?
posted by mischief at 1:52 PM on July 27, 2004


All good advice. Maybe I'll write, maybe I'll just leave it alone. Prying does seem rather odd now that I've had some feedback.

What would be more interesting would be getting to the bottom of this motivation (which is an entirely different personal matter).

Possibly writing the letter and never sending it would be good therapy.
posted by pissfactory at 1:54 PM on July 27, 2004


Um, the original poster did not ask for a morality lesson. He asked for some information. This is ask.metafilter.com, not getalecture.metafilter.com.

Would it have been better if he stated instead that he was thinking of becoming a detective and then asked the questions?

Or how about: I am interested in finding out how much others can find out about me. What public sources can a person use to dig up information on a person?
posted by eas98 at 1:57 PM on July 27, 2004


Quite apart from that, the whole "don't be a detective, just write the letter" thing is potentially bad advice. If she's married or otherwise involved with someone, a letter out of the blue could cause her trouble. A little research first is to be encouraged, not dismissed as "stalking".
posted by reklaw at 2:01 PM on July 27, 2004


Out of curiosity, do y'all think the propensity to seek out old flames is higher in men than women?
posted by mookieproof at 2:04 PM on July 27, 2004


"do y'all think the propensity to seek out old flames is higher in men than women?

Yes!

There's only one guy that I've dated that I wonder about. And, that's only because he seems to have dropped off the planet. I seriously fear that he's met a tragic fate. Otherwise, I have no desire to check in on old flames. But like I said I get these "checking in" calls a couple of times per year. I think that the guys just want to feel young and desirable. They want to hear "let's get together." It makes them feel wanted. Just my theory.
posted by Juicylicious at 2:11 PM on July 27, 2004


eas98:

most universities keep their alumni magazines in their libraries, which are usually open to the public. class notes are great for info on people. (my graduate, but not undergraduate, institution has this available online to nonalums).

also, public records at the courthouse, county registrar &c are available to everyone, sometimes at a fee, and almost always at a lengthy wait. that would include birth, death and marriage certificates, as well as deed transfers, some court judgments. any notice that runs in the paper can eventually be tracked down in the archives at the public library.

the state in which i live also has a searchable database of the inmates of the department of corrections, online, which also includes those not currently incarcerated, but on parole.

there is a boatload of information about people available in the world, but most of it is boring, and almost all of it takes devotion to find.

i am firmly in the "if you know where she lives, send a note" camp. IMO, a person (or spouse) who gets hysterical over a "hi, you may not remember me, but i was thinking of you the other day and wondered what you had done with your life" note from someone they dated over a decade ago needs to relax (unless the sender of the note was someone to be afraid of ten years ago). i've both sent and received such notes--they never lead anywhere.

pissfactory: you could just tell us her name, maybe one of us knows her! j/k
posted by crush-onastick at 2:15 PM on July 27, 2004


eas98, sometimes a person might not be aware that they're asking for potentially dangerous instructions. Yes, I guess I was a bit snarky but maybe he didn't realize he was asking for help with stalking.

If someone asked "I'm leaving to climb Mt. Everest tomorrow. What would be the best sneakers to climb it with?" We would be doing a disservice if we limited the answers to sneaker choices.
posted by bondcliff at 2:18 PM on July 27, 2004


Possibly writing the letter and never sending it would be good therapy.

Indeed, writing to previous, current, and even future friends/acquaintances/lovers/parents can be therapeutic.

Since about 1987, I've had a folder on each of my computers called LNS, which stands for letters never sent. (In 2001, I started "publishing" some of these letters via email thru subscription at my site, but that's another story.)

I recommend you send a letter or an email or make a quick phone call. I suggest you do so once and include a way for the person to get back to you. If they do, great. If they don't, move on and never contact them again. If you start making excuses ("Maybe someone else deleted the voicemail before she heard it"; "Maybe she lost my number"; etc.), then quickly correct yourself--accept she isn't interested in catching up--and move on.
posted by dobbs at 2:34 PM on July 27, 2004


It's not just old flames though. Every couple years I get an itch to find out what my old high school friends are up to*. I'm not looking to renew friendships or anything, all I want to do is see if they're alright and maybe find out what kind of people they've become.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think there's anything pathological about that. If you don't have any luck, make yourself easy to find: be sure that the first hit for your name on Google is a page you control, and keep it up to date.

*One became a teacher, and another is the lead singer of some punk rock band... but some people disappeared after college, others are difficult or impossible to find online.
posted by Eamon at 2:37 PM on July 27, 2004


eamon--

although i agree with you (this sort of idle curiosity, after all, is why we have class reunions, and why we just had a huge ask.me thread on that topic), my first reaction to the question was more like bondcliff's reaction. i think the "whoah! stalking" reaction happened in this case because pissfactory mentioned that he already has her address and phone number and wants to know what else he can find out. most people seemed to respond to that with: well, you have her address and phone number, why not just ask her?
posted by crush-onastick at 2:55 PM on July 27, 2004


Search Systems: the largest directory of links to free public record databases on the Internet.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:55 PM on July 27, 2004


"hi, you may not remember me, but i was thinking of you the other day and wondered what you had done with your life" note from someone they dated over a decade ago needs to relax (unless the sender of the note was someone to be afraid of ten years ago). i've both sent and received such notes--they never lead anywhere.

They've never led to a new bloom on the relationship for me, but they very much have led to a better settling of an old one. I heard from an old dear friend/crush a year ago in exactly this manner (she found my name/info through a local music project CD she picked up) and it's not like we hang out or anything (in fact, I've seen her once since then), but I feel more settled/comfortable about the whole thing.
posted by weston at 3:11 PM on July 27, 2004


I've had good luck with Melissa Data in general, in particular their People Finder... but it only works if they've been paying the bills in their own name, not through a roomate or something like that.
posted by namespan at 3:13 PM on July 27, 2004


Does this have something to do with this?
posted by pieoverdone at 3:15 PM on July 27, 2004


I cry foul over that pieoverdone.
posted by Quartermass at 3:49 PM on July 27, 2004


foul? more like 'hit it right out of the park', i'd say.
posted by quonsar at 4:24 PM on July 27, 2004


well spotted pieoverdone
posted by quiet at 4:40 PM on July 27, 2004


The problem with googling names from one's past is that typically, most of the females have gone and foolishly changed their last names. I hate that.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:23 PM on July 27, 2004


Y'know, it's just a matter of time before some MeFi/AskMe member goes off and does something horrific that ends up in all the newspapers. :-(
posted by five fresh fish at 6:25 PM on July 27, 2004


well spotted pieoverdone

I think most of us spotted it. Most of us, though, had the decency not to mention it.

Sheesh, and you people have the balls to accuse pissfactory of prying where he's not wanted.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 7:01 PM on July 27, 2004


It's interesting, the different kinds of morals people have. I sincerely have a hard time connecting the word "decency" to the idea of not pointing out the connection between the two threads, no matter how you slice it.
posted by bingo at 8:12 PM on July 27, 2004


Hey, we're all family on this cruise! When you ask a question here, the range of acceptable answers is quite wide.
posted by mischief at 8:29 PM on July 27, 2004


It's interesting, the different kinds of morals people have. I sincerely have a hard time connecting the word "decency" to the idea of not pointing out the connection between the two threads, no matter how you slice it.

I think it's decent not to make judgements about how a stranger is living his life to his face. It's similar to the people who come up to young parents and tell them they're raising their kids wrong, or people who come up to me and ask me if I know Jesus. It's offensive to presume knowledge of my life and situation that you don't have.

It's becoming increasingly clear to me that either (a) many MeFites don't find this a problem at all, and probably do proselytize their personal belief system to strangers, or (b) they don't feel like fellow MeFites should have the status of "strangers." The latter is, I think, more likely, but confusing to me.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:11 PM on July 27, 2004


well... pissfactory isn't stupid. He knows what he's posted before, and how this question might sound in light of that. As eas98 points out, he could have phrased the question in any number of ways that would not inspire dot-connecting, but chose not to. So I think that there's more than a little bit of talking-to-myself-out-loud "what do you guys think?" about this question.

As an amusing little anecdote not necessarily meant to be an object lesson: my ex-husband used to always talk about his highschool girlfriend, partly to try to make me jealous (foolish, foolish man), and partly, I think, in poignant pursuit of the sweet bird of youth. Eventually, she divorced her husband (or vice-versa), and contacted my husband to meet up. He asked if I minded, I said "no"; they met, and he was horrified. Big hair, fake boobs, loud voice, awful clothes. But he was stuck entertaining her for a week, and never massaged precisely those same old bitterweet recollections again.

Some memories are definitely better left alone. I'm not saying it's the case here, pissfactory, but something to consider.
posted by taz at 1:41 AM on July 28, 2004


Possibly writing the letter and never sending it would be good therapy.

And possibly it wouldn't. There's a good chance you'd send it and end up looking like an arsehole, and even if you did it wouldn't help and would only stir things up in your head. Don't pick at scabs! Move on!
posted by biffa at 1:59 AM on July 28, 2004


Classmates.com/ Friends Reunited (or your local equivalent if you're not in the US or UK)? Even if you don't know which school she went to, you should be able to do a search by name, and (with Friends Reunited at least) she may have put a description up that could fill in some blanks.
posted by etc at 2:42 AM on July 28, 2004


This has nothing to do with my other post... talk about junior detectives. Taz was right on about sorta tossing it out there to "see what you guys think". I'm, in case you don't know, prone to manic-depression and the depressive part of me makes me very nostalgic and causes a great deal of rumination at times. That, I think, is the true source of this desire.

That and I loved her very much and just wonder how her life turned out. She was a pothead and now lives in a poor area of town. I, on the other hand, am a college graduate who is relatively successful. She, last I heard, was dating some unstable alcoholic and I do fear that an out of the blue letter might cause her trouble.

Not to sound bad, but I seriously doubt she could forget me... and I have 25 year old girls in my art classes fawning over me for some reason, so I don't need this to feel desireable, you cynics! :)
posted by pissfactory at 3:49 AM on July 28, 2004


oh, I used searchsystems to see if whe was married, and she is, so I'll probably just drop it.

Um, there was this guy in one of my art classes who collected all of this data about a person he didn't know and put it in a box. He never actually met the person, but had a phenomenal amount of info... this was his project. Stalking in a box.

Anyway...
posted by pissfactory at 4:04 AM on July 28, 2004


I think it's decent not to make judgements about how a stranger is living his life to his face. It's similar to the people who come up to young parents and tell them they're raising their kids wrong, or people who come up to me and ask me if I know Jesus. It's offensive to presume knowledge of my life and situation that you don't have.

the trouble, ishmael, is nobody made any judgement but you! asking whether x has anything to do with y is about as completely neutral a question as possible. you invented all the rest of whatever is bothering you in your own mind.
posted by quonsar at 5:20 AM on July 28, 2004


I have 25 year old girls in my art classes fawning over me for some reason, so I don't need this to feel desireable, you cynics!

Well I know I'm impressed.
posted by Eamon at 7:50 AM on July 28, 2004


At this point in my life, I get a couple of these calls/emails per year. I've never understood the point.

Wow, that's harsh.
posted by rushmc at 10:16 AM on July 28, 2004


Wow, that's harsh.

It's not harsh, it's reality. What exactly is the point? I get a call from a guy that I haven't thought about much less seen for nearly 15 years. I don't recognize his name. He goes on and on about how I was the first "real woman" he ever met. How I changed his life. Yada yada. What did he expect? There I stood in my kitchen deperately trying to remember him, all the while trying to sound happy to hear from him. He was excited like a puppy, I didn't want to let him down. Or how about the guy that was in a college course with me 10 years ago who sends an email, recounting the crush he had on me. And then there's the guy who I worked with in the very distant past who also felt the need to tell me how he fantasized about me those many years ago.

First of all, where the hell were these guys when I wanted a date all of those Fridays? What is it about time that makes guys grow balls? Sure, it's nice for my ego, but what real purpose does it serve? It puts the recipient in an ackward position. Do you have a conversation with the guy, perhaps encouraging more contact? Do you tell the person that you're not interested and rist hurting their feelings? What?
posted by Juicylicious at 12:19 PM on July 28, 2004


To be fair, and on the other hand:

I've never tracked someone down myself, but I've been tracked down a few times, once by someone I thought had died. (Talk about welcome.) Her life had changed completely; she had moved overseas, gotten married, and once she'd settled into her new life, she felt safe reconnecting with the parts of her old life she missed.

I was amazed and thrilled to hear from her, and we're very good friends again now.

She opened with a two-line letter that was essentially the text of crush-onastick's note above.

Obviously, this isn't the norm, but just so you don't think dropping in and saying hi is never a good idea.
posted by chicobangs at 12:36 PM on July 28, 2004


>a college graduate who is relatively successful

>and I have 25 year old girls in my art classes fawning over me for some reason, so I don't need this to feel desireable, you cynics! :)

I'm offering free detective classes, if you can't put the two together...kidding
posted by thomcatspike at 12:52 PM on July 28, 2004


Hey, as a fat 40 year old, I find the fawning 25 year olds impressive. Just had to share that.

I have a reunion coming up, and I'd like to tell a friend (male, buddy) who I haven't seen for about 10 years, but feel awkward calling him up on the phone.
posted by mecran01 at 2:34 PM on July 28, 2004


thomcatspike, I'm a college grad from computer science that has gone back to get an undergard and masters in fine arts.

I'm also prone to delusions, so those 25 year-olds might just be humoring me.

Juicylicious, wouldn't that be weird if you were the girl?!?!
posted by pissfactory at 3:25 PM on July 28, 2004


Uh oh.
posted by bingo at 7:58 PM on July 28, 2004


What exactly is the point? I get a call from a guy that I haven't thought about much less seen for nearly 15 years.

It seems incredibly insensitive and self-centered to me to discount—and indeed dismiss—another person's strong feelings simply because you don't happen to share them. The fact that something doesn't matter to you does not mean that it doesn't matter.

I shall now move on, forget this thread, and try very hard not to generalize your callousness to all women.
posted by rushmc at 5:24 PM on July 29, 2004


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