information search engines
Johnstone Hitt and Jerry
McLean High School (VA) alumni of 1959 & 1960
Jump to list of search sites
bottom & links
Learn to help yourself find
A search in Google for "white
pages" or "reverse phone
directory lookup" yields familiar phone book sites
or Yahoo's People
Search. AOL's own white pages service is not their
own -- they resell Infospace. Google itself can be used for
a white pages search. Put "Jerry Nelson" in quotes to force
exactly that phrase (name) to be searched. If Google doesn't
come up with what you want in the first two hits, click on the
Phonebook Results link for all the hits. Still not there?
Try name variations. You won't find me in a
traditional white pages service unless you look for "Jeremiah Nelson"
in VA. In a people finder like usa-people-search, you could
guess incorrectly at my age (say, 62), you could call me JER Nelson,
don't know if I am Jerome, Jerry, whatever, and behold!
you'll get a Jerry
Nelson in McLean. Now you know at least one valid form of the
first name. usa-people-search is more forgiving than a
The "people finder" sites are a little different.
There is a
lot of public
information out there besides phone books. Public
search engines compile information published when you register your
corporation or partnership, buy a house with a title search and
mortgage, guarantee the loan for a kid, apply for a wedding license or
die and generate both a
newspaper obituary and paperwork at the Social Security Administration.
Birth, census, military and marriage/divorce records may be
tapped. Not all people finder sites aggregate the same
These are great tools, but the trick is to how to use them without
paying subscription fees -- at least until you have some practice, some
results, and some idea which "engine" you like best.
SAMPLE SEARCH: A
COLD START WITH ANCESTRY.COM
Go to ancestry.com, try all your best guesses until you get
their "star rating" higher.
If ancestry.com tells you that the person has died, get the date and go to
ObitsArchive site. Get the newspaper and date if a paid death
notice was published anywhere in the country.
Instead of buying the obit text from ObitsArchive (90 days access $40),
find the on line edition of the newspaper, and try to look up the
You don't have time to wait until your classmate dies, you say?
No problem. Finding the obituary of a parent will
a list of all the children (your classmates). This is one of
few routes from the maiden to the married name of a female classmate.
Ancestry.com's free service uses the government's Social Security Death
Index (for deceased targets), but gaining access to a given Social
Security Death Index RECORD (SSDI record) requires a paid membership of
other time periods). You can also access the SSDI
record via the rootsweb.com link listed above.
SHOWING OUR SAMPLE SEARCH SCENARIO above
We are in ancestry.com on a sample search for someone who has
died; in this case, the
student himself, although more often you might search for the
classmate's parents. The year deceased can be only a guess.
You play with the name and locations to try to improve the
ensuing results. In some people finders, the free output is
limited to the first 100 hits -- what you want may be hidden in the
unshown hits. The game is to refine the search with guesses
so that fewer than 100 hits come up. Then you know
you've "seen it all"
and your guess was either lucky or definitively wrong, so you
can move on.
Ancestry.com has other aggregations of data besides "generic" public
data is a great separate search area.
Output from ancestry.com. You play with your guesses about
name, dates, locations until the star ratings increase.
The lower John E. Isaacs is alive. The upper hit has died,
now we know the year of death. He was married by civil
in Virginia, same state as the high school. Looks good if we
are search for McLean VA high school classmates.
Getting a look at the relevant record of the "Social Security
Death Index" or the dates in blue (the "dd's" and "mm's" etc) costs
money. Before we get that desperate, let's look for that
in obit.com. We know the year (2002).
obituary.com was searched for the date of death given by ancestry.com
and the name John Isaacs (John E. Isaacs did not work -- go
figure). The output tells us that a death notice was indeed
published. The paper is the Washington Post, in September of
2002. Before we sign up for 90 days access to 90 obituaries
for $40, it's time to check in at the Wash Post on line.
Wash Post obituaries (paid
death notices) are a little hard to find. They are
in the Metro section.
The "teaser" output of the first 25 words is enough to confirm that all
these names and dates are correct -- we have the right person.
Our high school class (McLean VA 1960) has no funds to finance missing
so just try it yourself on your old friends. If it works, try
one of the missing classmates. For a list of who's still
missing in McLean '60, write to faybrumback at removethis aol.com
White page search services were listed.
Two Google searches were set up (just click). One
finds more white page services, the other finds
A bunch of more powerful people finder search services were listed.
We did an example that illustrated using
Another person's useful "Guide to Finding Classmates" is here.
- oa.newsbank.com (the Obituary Archive)
- getting a paid death notice from an online newspaper
PEOPLE SEARCH: LIST OF SITES
top links at bottom
Public information from free search engines
info from the following is free. Never
pay to retrieve data, if prompted. Do
not register or sign in.
A basic go-to search engine. Screen allows age to be entered if date of
birth is not known. It also allows
middle initial to be entered. Locations
going back 20 or more years are reported, but current location is not
specified, which means additional searching is required. If person is deceased, it is not reported.
A basic go-to search engine. Will do nationwide searches, even on a single last name and nothing more.
search menu is limited. Middle initial and age cannot be
entered. Always enter first name and
middle initial in the first name block. On the next screen
you can refine the search if you have too many hits. Back out the
middle initial and enter it in
the block below the first name.
Locations going back 20 or more years are
reported, but current location is not specified.
PeopleSmart is different from Veromi in that it
notes if the person is deceased (even 30 yrs ago), and reports year of death.
Write this down; ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com below.
site handles death notice archives for over 800 newspapers, mostly in
the USA. When other obituary searches identify the newspaper and
date of a death notice, you can come here to get the notice's full text
for free. On the page linked above, enter by the
city-where-published. A nearby "source" field will have a
pull-down list for all the papers in the city you entered, so just
select the one you already know published the notice you're after.
Pipl brags that it finds info that
no other search engine does. It is a
“snoop” engine, reporting from court records, newspaper articles, and social
networks. May report date of birth. Address information comes from another search
engine, and appears incomplete, but click on it to bring up the full
address. Data is often old.
go-to search engine. Very forgiving. Use name
fragments, rough guess at age. Shows (possible) relatives,
exact age, location.
Only 100 hits maximum are reported regardless of how many there were, so the game is to throw enough guesses into the
search to narrow the retrievals to under 100 possibilities.
use the middle initial for men, but not women.
Address and phone numbers. "Three time more residential listings than White Pages."
sometimes give date of birth. Asking for "more information" may give
you spouse's name even if you have no intention of purchasing
"background checks," etc.
With its rich access to databases,
Google is an essential search engine.
Note that it no longer reports
residential address and telephone information. Use it to search for professional and social
Frequently updated. When the town in which a person lives has
been determined, go to White Pages to pull up address and telephone
number. Age is sometimes reported, plus
names of others at the same address.
Over half of everyone in the US is
now on Facebook, which requires correct name.
Married female classmates may list their maiden names along with their
married name. Photos may help in
http://obits.notlong.com = ObitsArchive.com
Find a newspaper obituary or--more likely--paid death notice.
Search by state or region. Never enter anything in “Name of Deceased”
block because newspapers usually archive obituaries under the lead
obituary. Enter keywords in “Obituary
Text” such as last name of deceased, first names of survivors, home town, or
occupation. If a name is displayed, this
may confirm the identity of a person
related to the deceased in order to do a Google or Google News search. Note that all obituaries found here require
payment. Do not order the obituary, but
rely on other search engines to continue tracking the person.
Ancestry.com has stopped reporting
the most recent location from local directories. Do not use as a search engine to find the
living. If a death report is from the
Social Security Death Index, write down the name exactly as it appears and the
year of death in order to get a retrieval out of the SSDI.
Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
a search service such as PeopleSmart reports a death, come here.
Enter the year of death
given and the name -- no more is needed, don't let the form intimidate
you. It’s best not to enter the middle
initial. The state of residence from which the person first
applied for a Social Security Number is reported, which is helpful to
if the deceased is the person for whom you were searching.
National Gravesite Locator
Reports burial locations of
veterans. Sometimes the veteran’s
obituary and names of relatives is reported.
Find a Grave
Select from many choices of
cemeteries to find burial locations.
Google News allows you to search
newspaper archives. The initial search
always scans news from the current month.
After the first scan, you click on Archives. You may then select a custom range of
years. This is helpful when looking for
obituaries. However, most obituaries require
payment. After finding a news report of
interest, go to the Google Web screen and search using keywords. The information may pop up for free.
Try "an exact, short phrase in quotes."
Information sources more likely to require
Memory Lane (formerly
classmates.com, but still accessed through the above link)
Note: You must register and allow
your name to appear on the directory in order to search, but basic information
is free. Paying the dues could be worth
it, since people enter their own information and photos. It is a good tool for reconnecting.
This database is especially
helpful in finding women's married names.
Although the directory lists people by their first and last names, the
married name may display on the screen when you click a name for additional
information. Must always pay to see the
map showing approximate location.
Now packaged as "mylife".
Because classmate-type sites group together people of similar age who have attended the same school,
they are useful for finding brothers and sisters of the person you
in some cases (e-mails, house value, political party affiliation), but
is not an effective a people search engine. Does reverse phone
lookup, but hits are shown as teaser letters, never a full name.
Requires payment for most information, but only $36/yr. Use as a
last resort only.
For spokeo, knowing the person’s full name is
of utmost importance. Check the senior
yearbook to find the middle name. Or
check the commencement program.
(McLean, VA 22101)
This is McLean High School’s
official directory of graduates and teachers.
Usually a classmate’s middle name is listed.
Once you have a current location from people
finders, you can do a real estate search. Property ownership
often gives you names for both husband and wife. Although by
law real estate transactions are public, searching is difficult because
it varies by county. County? Yes, the first problem
is finding the county.
FINDING THE COUNTY if you know the town is easy with this Google search
"Known City, State"
county department tax assessments property
The name of the county will pop up, whereupon you recycle the search
with this string to find the government office that handles real estate
State" department tax assessments property
For Fairfax County, where many classmates or their parents live, you
can search for assessed property by address (or tax map reference
Search for most (but not all) counties in the State of Maryland from this single
site (thank you, Maryland!).
And now we come to our big surprise, the easiest way to find civic
organizations within any State of the Union.
to any State
and get Websites of each county as well as state-wide government sites.
In most states, real estate ownership records are maintained
the county level.
Here's a drill-down for the entire site.
Karen Pranger is a librarian with the Santa Clara County Public Library
and I am going to take you through her Website. With just
of links she has created a portal that rivals Yahoo, AOL, MSN and all
the rest. "Karen's corner" has no ads and it leads to many
non-commercial and government organizations. We imagine that
Pranger has personally visited each link and scolded them if they did
Karen's home page is http://www.garlic.com/~kpranger/
"www.garlic"? The garlic comes in because Ms Pranger is
perhaps for free, we do not know -- by a local Internet Service
Provider (ISP) called South Valley Internet in San Martin, CA
95046 (Silicon Valley). They call their Internet service
garlic.com and garlic.net. Examples of non-local ISPs are
and AT&T / SBC.
Everything on the home page is worthwhile. It lists:
we know the probable town of residence of a missing classmate and used
Google to get the county for that town. On the Karen's home page, select "United
States (Individual States)" , then choose State and Local Government on the Net In the Local State Government, I picked the state I wanted, then the county -- in my case, Fairfax County.
- Santa Clara County Library
- Web Sites Reference Notebook
- Searching the
- Science portal -- individual scientists, big telescope
projects . . . they all want you to understand and value what they are
- Links to info about individual states
From county offices that are on line, I picked "Fairfax
Country Real Estate Assessment". On that homepage
for The Department of Taxation Administration, we read that "Our
provides assessed values and physical characteristics extracted from
the official assessment records for all property in Fairfax County" and
go to the website, which finally offers property
searches for Fairfax County. Go find the person you want and their mailing address.
FOREIGN SERVICE SITE
The Associates of the
American Foreign Service Worldwide
is a non-profit organization that has been representing Foreign Service
spouses, employees and retirees since 1960. If Dad gets
an unfamiliar place, the AAFSW Website can show Mom what kind of life
to expect and how to fit in. By going to the page for Virginia,
you can gain entrance to many county and city Websites. Post
9/11, this site no long shows pictures of the housing project
grew up in in Germany. It is no longer useful for finding
Adjacent-year yearbooks and classmates.com get you brothers,
sisters, cousins attending the same neighborhood schools who
may be easier to find.
Enter the missing person's last address into any whitepages site,
get the phone number, swallow hard and call.
A parent's obituary in the local paper will tell you where their
kids live, and it links the maiden and married names of
Tackle uncommon names first -- same effort, more missing
classmates. As more of us are found, we hopefully
generate more sources of help for finding the remainder.
Any lead you get in one search engine gives you a better shot if you go
back and try again in another.
Pam Johnstone Hitt is the most talented searcher I know.
If you attended McLean High School in Northern Virginia,
perhaps you can persuade her to help you. pamela
hitt all one word at comcast dot net.
home for McLean High photos
home for entire Website
lost? use your browser back button :-)
Rev 4/06 Rev 5/11