Dear Savvy Senior,
I’m interested in tracking down some old friends I’ve lost touch with over the years but could use some help. What websites can you recommend that can help me find them? — Tracking Tom
Dear Tom: Thanks to the internet, tracking down long-lost friends from many years ago is relatively easy to do, and in most cases it won’t cost you a cent. Here are some tips and online tools to help you get started.
Remembering the details
Before you begin your search, a good first step is to jot down any information you can remember or find out about the people you’re trying to locate. Things like their full name (maiden and married), age or birth date, last known address or phone number, old email address, names of family members, etc. Knowing details can help you turn up clues while you search.
Social media and search engines
After you compile your information, a good place to start your search is at social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. Don’t forget search engines like Google and Yahoo.
When using search engines, type in the name of the person you’re searching for in quotation marks — for example, “John Smith.” You can narrow your search by adding other criteria like their nickname or middle name, the city or state they may live in, or even their occupation.
People search sites
If your initial search comes up empty, you can also use people searches like AnyWho.com, Intelius.com or WhitePages.com. These sites will provide a list of potential matches from across the U.S.
Because many people share the same name, these sites will also supply details to help identify the right person, perhaps including their age, prior hometowns, names of relatives, colleges attended or employer.
While these sites are free to use at a basic level, they charge a small fee for providing certain details like the person’s contact information. WhitePages, however, sometimes provides home phone numbers for free.
Niche finding sites
Here are a few other niche people-finding websites to help you with your search.
To look for old high school classmates, try Classmates.com. This site has contact information only for people who have registered with it. But even if your friend hasn’t registered, it could provide contact info for another classmate who remains in touch with your friend.
Another option is to check out your high school alumni website. Not every school has its own site, but some do, and you can look for it by going to any search engine and typing in the name of the school with the city and state it’s located in. You can also search at AlumniClass.com, a huge hosting site for thousands of high schools across the U.S.
If you’re looking for old college friends, look for an alumni directory on the school’s website. You might be able to access your friend’s contact info by completing an online registration. Or, try calling or emailing your alumni relations department and ask them to pass on your contact info to your friend.
If you’re looking for someone you served with in the military, Military.com offers a free “Buddy Finder” service that has a database of more than 20 million records — visit Military.com/buddy-finder. You can also search for free at GIsearch.com, TogetherWeServed.com and VetFriends.com.
If you can’t find any current information about the person you’re searching for, it could be that he or she is dead. To find out if that’s the case, use obituary databases such as Tributes.com and Legacy.com, which has a newspaper obituary search tool from hundreds of U.S. newspapers.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.