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How to find people

Are you looking for someone you've lost touch with? An old friend, a relative you barely know or a lost customer you need to contact? If so, you're in good company. Every day thousands of people go online to trace that lost someone and thanks to the internet, finding these people has never been easier.

Back in the days before 24/7 internet connectivity, searching for a missing person required a lot of legwork and possibly the assistance of a private sleuth equipped with all the specialist tools and know-how to get the job done.

Nowadays, even private detectives use the internet to make their search for missing persons easier. But luckily with people searching tools like Peopletracer, you can cut out the middle man and find the contact details of the person you're looking for yourself, with just a click of a mouse. Here is a guide on how to use Peopletracer's smart tools to trace someone, and provide you with tips for other valuable avenues that will help you in your search.

Before you begin your search:

Before endeavouring to find that missing person, a trick many genealogists and investigators use is to gather as much information about the person's background as possible. So get out your pen and paper and rack your brains for all those little details from the depths of your memory. Things like the person's middle or maiden name, names of parents or siblings, their date of birth or age, their last known address, an old telephone number you may have for them, anything you can think of that will give you more clues, or at least provide you with enough information to rule out listings that might come from namesakes.

Peopletracer Packages

Peopletracer packages

Our online people finder tool trawls through hundreds of millions of records taken from the Electoral Roll and the UK’s official Telephone Directory database. We also update our databases with thousands of new profiles each and every day, to deliver you the most accurate and up-to-date search results on the web. To get started, simply create an account, select a search package that fulfils your needs, and begin finding those lost people today.

We have packages to suit all needs. The bronze package is suitable for searches needing to find a single person but finding several people will require a larger package. To find out how many credits each search will use, view our credit usage page.

How to use Peopletracer’s people search

1. Searching Names - In order to get started the minimum information needed is the person's name. You can however, start your search with just the surname and initial if you're really pushed to remember the details.

2. Finding Addresses - Adding the person's name and geographical location, narrowed down to their town or county of residence will help you refine your results more easily. Typing in the person's name and postcode, or at least the first half of the postcode, will also help you find who you're looking for.

A people search can bring up a wealth of information. Aside from returning the full address and the names of the listed residents, Peopletracer will also provide you with useful information relating to the house itself. You can, for instance, find out the purchase price of the property at its last sale, as well as the names of previous occupants. For those of you looking for someone that you suspect might have moved house, this information could provide you with clues as to the person's whereabouts, or alternatively provide you with a point of enquiry if you think that the current homeowners might know where your missing friend or relative now lives.

People Search Report

Address searches, in some cases, will also provide you with a telephone number (if applicable) and a Google Map pin, which allows you to see on a map the location of the property and nearby landmarks. To use Street View, drag and drop the icon of the orange man onto the location pin of the search result.

What else can you find online?

In the hyper-connected online world we now live in, it's also sensible to search the major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. You may also want to try searching on sites that put people back in touch with their friends from the past, places like classmates.com or friendsreunited for alumni, or websites that connect old military buddies with each other. It's got to be worth a shot!

What can you find offline?

Offline, it is also possible to conduct a search for a missing person, although it might be a little more difficult, not to mention more expensive.

Firstly, you could hire a private investigator that will have all of the tools and know-how to help you track a person down with even the littlest pieces of information provided.

You can also refer to copies of the full electoral roll, found at district Electoral Registration offices, which may be contained within public libraries or council buildings, to find your missing person's details. In order to view offline copies of the electoral roll, you will need to get in touch with the nearest district office of the person's last known address and you will usually have to request to see the electoral rolls in writing, because the information is protected under the Data Protection Act (1998).

A few notes about the Electoral Register and the Data Protection Act (1998);

Copies of the full electoral roll have strict viewing restrictions to the public. Usually, you can only view the electoral register under supervision and you are only permitted to make handwritten notes of what you see, copying the data either electronically or making photocopies is forbidden. For more information, please refer to this document from the electoral commission.

There are two versions of the electoral register, the full and the edited version.

The Full Electoral Register - By law, the full electoral roll has to contain all the names and addresses of every registered voter in the UK to ensure that there is no instances fraud when it comes to tallying votes from general/local elections and referendums. The register is updated every month and published every year. There are also restrictions as to who can own a copy of the electoral register; to prevent the information being sold to marketers or misused in other ways. The public are however permitted (under certain circumstances and with supervision) to see the current version of the full electoral register, or versions of the roll which are more than 10 years old, at any time.

The Edited Electoral Register - The edited version of the electoral register has fewer restrictions upon it, which means that members of the public can pay to access the contact information of registered UK voters. However, if you do not wish to have your information included on the edited electoral roll there is a box you can tick on your voter registration form that will omit your data from the edited electoral register.

Extenuating circumstances within your search

If you find that the person you're looking for has many namesakes in roughly the same geographic location, you may need help refining your results. To ensure that the 'John Smith' you're looking for is the right person, this would be the time to refer to your notebook (as mentioned earlier) and compare the results to all of the other pieces of information you have about them, such as the names of their parents, or spouse, to help eliminate the red herrings.

Tip: Make a note of all the similar results which turn out not to be the person you're looking for as this will help you to remember which avenues were a dead-end in your search.

Finding people from your past may prove difficult in some circumstances, for example, if you are searching for a female, she may now be married and probably has a new surname. If this is the case, try Peopletracer's specialised marriages search and type in the person's full name, as you remember it from the old days. The results will show you who the person is married to, providing you with their current full name, further allowing you to continue with your research.

There may also be the possibility that the person you're looking for has sadly died. In which case, Peopletracer also contains the records for every registered death in the UK from the years 1976-2006. You could try typing their name and year of birth into the deaths search and see if that yields any results. Peopletracer's search parameters allow for up to five years before or after the date you supply, so if you are unsure of their year of birth, guessing may still bring up a successful search.

If you are looking for an adopted child or are checking for the birth of a family member you have never met before, a Peopletracer subscription will also provide you with the ability to search registered births in the UK from the years 1984-2006. You can enter the name of the person and their estimated year of birth (within a five year window) or their mother's name or maiden name if you know it and that may yield the result you're looking for.

Other Resources

Of course if you have exhausted all of your avenues and you fear that the person you're looking for might be missing in suspicious circumstances, contact the UK Missing Person's Bureau.

Missingpeople.org, Peopletracer’s charity of choice, works with volunteers to offer advice and support to people who have missing friends or relatives.

The Salvation Army Family Tracing Service also reunites relatives who have lost touch with each other, and you can call them on 0845 634 4747 (calls charged at local rates).

Tracesmart, Peopletracer’s parent company, offers TraceIQ, a very powerful web-based tracing and investigation facility for businesses looking to conduct efficient systematic investigations on many individuals.

Links to successful reunion stories on the Peopletracer blog

Already thousands of people have used Peopletracer to successfully find a long-lost friend or relative. Here are some success stories from our blog: