Finding Old Friends and Relatives (and New Ones) is Easier than You Think

Do you have an old friend you are trying to locate—a beloved former teacher, or a cousin you haven’t seen in years? Residents at Elk Run sometimes say they are looking for someone who played a significant role in their lives, too.

We decided to share some tips that, hopefully, will allow you to find old friends, family members and others whom you haven’t seen in years. Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to find people and enjoy picking up where you left off.

You can find old friends and other people who were important to you through search engines like Google, social networking sites like Facebook and other resources. We recommend the following steps if you’re looking for people from your past.

Make a plan

You’ll first want to figure out how to organize the information you find. While some people can be found easily, others may be much harder to locate. You may need to look through a lot of different documents to find one bit of information that leads to a helpful clue. 

Decide whether you want to organize the information you find digitally or on paper. You may even want to do both. You should also think about the kind of information you may discover.

If you want to store everything physically, consider buying separate folders or notebooks for information you gather from different resources. For example, you can create folders for an old friend’s possible addresses, employers and family members. If you choose to store information electronically, you might want to use an app like Notes on your phone.

Collect every bit of information you can find

Write down whatever you can remember about your old friend or relative. If you have contact information for others who might have known your friend, get in touch. Information you’ll need includes the following:

  • Full name (or as close to this as possible)
  • Nicknames
  • Birth date or age
  • Previous locations
  • Past addresses and/or phone numbers
  • Former schools
  • Employers
  • Relationship status
  • Possible friends, family members, and associates
  • Hobbies and other personal interests
  • Professional accomplishments

Photos may be helpful as they can spark your memories or the memories of others.

Use Online Search Engines

Type in the name of the person you’re searching for, and try a location or profession if you know it. Nicknames, spouse names, and other options from the list above will help. If Google doesn’t work, you might try less popular search engines such as Bing. Try at least two other search engines (such as DuckDuckGo or Qwant) to get as many responses as possible.

Browse through results. This takes patience and persistence, as you may not find your friend in the first five or six results that come up when you type in a name. Read all the text and if anything seems promising, right-click on the link. If using an Apple device, double-clink on the link instead. Then open the linked web page into a new browser window, so you can more easily remember where you were.

You’ll also want to look at image results for each Google search. You may find a photo that you recognize. Continue collecting information and then organize it by stashing it in the category that fits best. Note exactly where it came from, copying the link from the page where you found it. 

Should you find someone who may possibly be a relative or friend of the person you’re looking for, keep track of this person. Often people may be located through associates or other friends or family members.

Search Facebook and other social media

You may know that 81% of American adults use Facebook accounts. Granted, numerous people have the same or similar names, but photos will allow you to narrow things down when you’re looking for someone. Type in your friend’s name in Facebook’s search bar at the top of the page. Browse through the list of results to see if you can find a friend. If not, look up the name of the school or camp you attended together to see if there are any groups affiliated with them. It’s possible your friend or relative has joined one of those groups. You can also look for people through Twitter, LinkedIN and Instagram.

Search government records

You can find official court, marriage voter registration and other records online for free. Search for records in various counties online, or visit a county clerk or vital records department in the town or state where you think your old friend lived or was married.

These are just a few ideas about how to find long-time friends or relatives, but remember, no matter your age, you can still meet new friends and neighbors who enrich your life. At Elk Run, for example, a new resident moved in from another state. It turned out that another resident who lives nearby hails from the very same state! As it happens, both play the organ and now delight in each other’s company.

Stories like this one show that even if you don’t find the friend you’re looking for—chances are good you’ll discover a new path that sends you on some interesting journeys. Whatever you decide, we at Elk Run support you—and the adventurous steps you take as you begin searching for old (and new) friends.