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If you want to track a person down, the web is awash with potential resources. You can find anyone online with the help of search engines, social networks, and public records among other tools.
Whether it’s a lost friend, a rogue landlord, or an old teacher, you should be able to locate them with a bit of digging. Here are steps to finding information about someone online.
Step 1: Check Google Search
Google should always be your first port of call. A simple search could reveal all sorts of information about a person, including their job, family, and the city they live in.
If the person in question has a common name, try using some of Google’s Boolean search operators to narrow your focus.
It’s also worth checking out Google News. It will reveal any recent notable achievements or infamous scandals.
Step 2: Set Up a Google Alert
If you can’t find any information using Google, try setting up some Google Alerts. If something about the person you are looking for appears on the web in the future, you’ll receive a notification in your email inbox.
To set up a Google Alert, head to google.com/alerts and enter the person’s name in the search box. Click on Show Options to customize settings such as language, region, and notification frequency.
Step 3: Check Other Search Engines
Google isn’t the only show in town. There are lots of search engines out there. They all have differing search algorithms, meaning you’ll be able to dig up alternative nuggets of information by using them.
Check out our roundup of Google alternatives to learn more.
Step 4: Check Mainstream Social Networks
Estimates suggest that in 2018, 77 percent of people in the United States have at least one social media profile.
Although that’s down from the all-time high of 80 percent in 2017 (thanks to the #DeleteFacebook movement), there’s still a strong chance that the person you want to track down is out there somewhere.
You should scan all the usual haunts such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But make sure you don’t overlook LinkedIn. Some professionals may maintain their LinkedIn profile as their only social media presence.
Step 5: Check Public Records
“Public records” is a broad term. Which records are available online is hit-and-miss. If you’re in luck, you might be able to find a person’s birth certificate, marriage license, divorce decree, and more.
You also be able to check documents such as land use certificates and company registers to see if the person has any entries connected to their name.
Sites to look at include:
Zabasearch is a good starting point, but it will return a massive amount of information. It pulls information from openly available records like court records, voter registration information, and Yellow Pages etc. To manage the deluge of information, you can narrow it down to a state for starters.
Most of the information is available free of charge and you should exhaust all your search options before taking the paid route.
VitalRec will help you find birth certificates, death records, marriage licenses, and divorce decrees for every state, county, and town records office in the United States.
The site also has some international records. Countries covered include Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, the U.K., Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, and Sweden.
The National Sex Offender Public Website—or NSOPW for short—is the U.S. list of registered sex offenders.
It contains the databases for all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and Indian Country.
Veterans’ Service Records are available through the National Archives in the United States. It includes photos, documents, and searchable databases are available.
Note that the data is not exhaustive. The National Archive’s curators admit the majority of the information is not available online. That’s especially true for pre-World War I records.
If the person you’re trying to find is a writer, musician, or otherwise involved in the creative arts, you might find a reference to them in the United States Copyright Office. The department’s records are all searchable online.
You can search for both personal names and corporate names.
Other countries maintain their own equivalent searchable databases.
Similarly, if the person you want to track down is a scientist or inventor, you might find them in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s public records.
You can search by name, design mark, keywords, and more.
Again, other countries have comparable databases.
There’s a chance that the person is incarcerated. After all, almost one in every 100 American adults is behind bars.
If they’re a convicted criminal, they might not show up on social media or in some of the other sites we’ve discussed.
You can check the nationwide list of detainees on the official Federal Bureau of Prisons website.
Step 6: Check Niche Search Engines
Still no luck? Don’t worry; you’re not out of options yet. Next up, check out some niche search engines. They specialize in specific industries, regions, and social networks.
Some niche search engines that will help you find someone online:
PeekYou scans people’s social media accounts along with references to a person’s username on other sites and blogs.
You need a name and (optionally) a phone number to begin.
Pipl is excellent at uncovering phone numbers, addresses, and links to public records. You can refine your search by city, state, and zip code to get a narrower selection of hits.
If the person you’re looking for is deceased, you could head to the Find a Grave website. It is the world’s most extensive database of information about graves and tombstones. It is a collection of user-submitted photos and content.
At the time of writing, there are 170 million memorials you can search through. There is a mix of ordinary deceased people and departed famous people.
In the same vein, Interment.net has millions of official cemetery records from thousands of cemeteries around the world.
Data is available for the United States, Belgium, Brazil, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, and Poland.
Step 7: Check Niche Social Networks
Lastly, it’s worth poking around on a few niche social networks. You’d be surprised at the diversity in the number of smaller sites out there. There are networks for investors, beer lovers, neighborhood communities, and more.
We’ve written about some of the best niche social networks. Read the list to find out which ones we recommend.
Even More Sites to Find People Online
The diverse array of tools we have covered should help you get up and running in your bid to find information about someone online. For even more avenues to explore, check out our list of websites to find people on the internet.
And speaking of finding information online, did you know that you can get your hands on declassified government documents and secrets?