There is no guarantee of success but most people can be located fairly easily, especially if they aren’t trying to hide.
I will begin with online information sources you can use for free, then proceed to the paid services.
link on this page will open a second browser window so you can read this tutorial while having access to the many links there. For every link listed in this tutorial, there are probably a dozen similar links on the People Finder page. It is important not to give up after a single try, each link will have some different search capabilities or access to different databases.
How you go about your search depends on what information you already possess and whether they have simply moved or are actively trying to hide.
For a quick start try the and if that doesn't help,
proceed with this tutorial.
You should begin by writing down every piece of information you can remember about the person, including places they may have worked or even hobbies. You might even have a telephone number.
To start you can reverse directory a listed telephone number, whether personal or business, by simply entering the number in the Google.com search box. If you have a phone number for the individual you can link it to a street address.
But you are probably looking for someone by name, former or current location, or even birth date or Social Security Number so you will need to move beyond a basic Google.com search.
You can also attempt to locate the person by placing their name (including any variants you can think of) in quotes in the search box along with any other term you think is useful, such as a town or state.
Investigate the use of the advanced search dialog screen to narrow the search better.
You can go directly to that page
To narrow the search you just keep adding key words. For example, I recently looked for a friend in Massachusetts and found a newspaper article telling me she had just been promoted to full professor – confirming that her married name was still the same and telling me where she now worked.
If you know what school the person attended, you may be able to contact an alumni association which will put you in touch with them at the other person’s option. That’s obviously something you can turn to Google for.
Don’t forget that, although you may be unable to locate the person you are looking for through the school, if you can get your hands on a yearbook (try the school itself) you can find the names of dozens of classmates who are probably still in the area and are easy to trace. One or more of them may know the person you are looking for.
If you either worked with the person or simply know where they once worked, there is a specific site dedicated to locating co-workers.
If they are a professional (nurse, doctor, dentist, etc.) then you can find searchable directories for those professions along with lists of state associations which may provide contact information.
In the private investigation business the technical term for what you are doing is “skip trace.” Businesses often need to find people to collect debts but the process is the same whether you are looking for friends, relatives, or others.
Skip tracing presumes that the person doesn’t want to be found but works fine for others who have simply moved and you have lost touch with them.
The process will take some work since no single free or inexpensive source will provide all the information you need.
The absolute best reverse directory, yellow page, and people/white page search site I know is
Directory Assistance +
If you want to take the time to download a tool then by all means try the free Argali tool which searches a large number of e-mail and phone directories.
There is a paid version which I use regularly.
Other sites you can try include
has many useful features and it is much easier to determine if they have the information you are seeking before you pay anything.
You can search by name, approximate age, state, address (without a name), social security number, even maiden name.
Reports for a full screen of search results will run $8 or you can pay $20 and search for as many people as you like in a 24 hour period.
does much the same thing and single reports cost $10 while 24 hours of unlimited searches cost $20. If the person registered for some of the alumni locator services ussearch may provide links to email addresses for the individual.
Both will probably provide some information and both are free for the initial search which will normally allow you to determine if they have any useful information before paying.
If those fail, USA-People-Search.com
may be useful but I have found their results to be confusing and not always accurate. They will also require a $10 fee for you to look at the data they have.
Before going too far, you should bite the bullet and check to see if the person may be deceased.
SSN Death Claims Search
You can find many additional resources at groups.google.com, specifically check
If these suggestions don’t bring the information you need, remember that there are links to hundreds of additional resources at helpdotcom.com (click on the People Finder link.) That site has links to Obits, missing persons lists, cell phone directories, e-mail directories, directories for government employees, the Ellis Island database, pay phone directories, and Federal/State inmate links.
All offer some free services, although they may also provide paid research services.
Pay to find
Discretedata.com is an online detective agency which requires a minimum $40 non-refundable fee to locate missing people with additional fees if and when they are successful.
They charge more for skip trace where the people don’t want to be found.
There are a lot of places you can look up URLs (the www.xxx.com) and find who they are registered to.
These locations are called WhoIS services and the accuracy and quality can change from month to month so I have included a link to a number of sites, a link which will be updated periodically to reflect new services.
There is a very good chance that this information is accurate unless you are trying to locate a spammer or other criminal, in which case, you will probably get fake information.
You will find a complete directory of WhoIS sites at groups.google.com
There are dozens of sites so I won’t list them all.
There are also several databases of “deleted” URLs.
Google search term: deleted domain names
http://www.whois.net/ is a good place to start.
http://www.deleteddomains.com/ is another site.
This site even includes traffic numbers
In addition, there is a great place to go to see what was on most Web sites, even ones which have otherwise disappeared.
Go to www.archive.org and enter the URL. This database is attempting to store all Web pages, including those from now disappeared sites and even the old versions of current sites.
Sometimes there is valuable contact information right in the site pages and archive.org lets you look at a history of the site.
There are literally billions of pages archived there.