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Using The Internet To Find People

Primary Sites For Finding People:

Phone and Email Directories: Yahoo People Search, WhoWhere Phone, WhoWhere Email, Bigfoot.

Web Search Engines: Google, Dogpile, Northern Light.

Other Directories: Anywho Phone, Switchboard Phone, Switchboard Email, Infospace Phone, Infospace Email, Infospace Reverse Lookup, Multiple Reverse Lookups.

Other Search Engines: Inference, NetWorx List Of Search Engines, Search Engine Watch, Direct Search.

Descriptions and Instructions

Phone and Email Directories:

The first thing to do is to collect all the phone numbers and email addresses that you can find. My experience is that combining 3 directories (Yahoo, WhoWhere and Bigfoot) does a pretty good job. But if it's important to find a particular person you should try additional directories if you don't get a good result from these three. Even if you think you've found the person you're looking for, it's a good idea to collect as many listings as you can. The directories frequently have obsolete entries, especially for email.

NOTE: you can click on the underlined links below to go to the web page.

Yahoo People Search: Yahoo is easy to use because it will automatically give you variants on the first name. If you enter 'William' you will be shown anyone named Will, Willy, Bill, etc. You can also search for email addresses from the same screen as the phone search. A disadvantage: Yahoo usually doesn't show middle initials.

If you can't find someone and the person's last name seems uncommon, try searching on only the last name (leave the box for the first name blank). If there are fewer than 20 or so people in the US with the last name there's a reasonable chance that someone listed is a family member. Try sending an email to every person with the same last name, asking if they know your friend. If you know what state a person comes from, try a search on the last name in that particular state.

WhoWhere Phone Search: WhoWhere is helpful when you know the middle name because it often shows middle initials. It does not automatically try variants on first names, but you can use 'wildcards.' If someone is named 'William,' first try 'will*' in order to find anyone named William, Will, Willy. Then try 'bill*.'

WhoWhere Email Search: WhoWhere email search does not allow wildcards. You must enter each possible variant on the first name.

Bigfoot: I find that Bigfoot often has the most email entries but that it doesn't add anything new to the two phone searches above. Bigfoot will automatically 'stem' first names, which is like a 'wildcard.' If you enter 'wil' it will find names such as Will, William, Willow, etc. If you're looking for William make sure you try 'bil' for a first name also.

Other Directories: Anywho Phone, Switchboard Phone, Switchboard Email, Infospace Phone, Infospace Email, Infospace Reverse Lookup, Multiple Reverse Lookups.

Web Search Engines:

Often you can find information about people by searching the web for any instance of the name. One example of this is the Franconia College Heard List: if someone searches for your name and it's on the list they can find your email address. People are often on the web through their workplace, relatives, postings on message boards, etc. Often a news article about someone will help you to determine which of many phone listings is the person you're searching for. There is no straight path for finding people through web searches: you have to be creative and follow the clues where they lead.

A tip: when you look at a web page use the 'Find' function of your browser to find where in the page the name is located. You can do this by pressing CTRL + 'F' at the same time.

Google: Google is a good place to start. It does two things that other search engines don't. It works on word proximity, so if you enter 'William Smith' and there's a web page with 'William Howard Smith' it will be displayed to you. Also, Google 'caches' web pages. For example, the Franconia College Forum purges old messages after a period of time. Google allows you to display a 'cached' version of a page from the point in time when someone's name appeared.

You can also search on multiple terms. If you know someone is a guitar player in Maine you can search for "William Smith guitar Maine".

Dogpile: Dogpile is a multi-search engine. It will submit a search query to several well known search engines and show the combined results. This is very complete and much faster than doing it one by one. When entering a person's name you should enclose the first and last names in quotes ("William Smith"). This way the name will be searched for as a single phrase.

Northern Light: Northern Light is good because it has powerful 'boolean' capability. If you're looking for William Jabberwocky and there's someone else by that name who has hundreds of citations for books on butterflies, you can search on ' "William Jaberwocky" NOT butterflies '. This will find all web pages with the name that do not contain the word 'butterflies.'

Boolean searches are also great when you know something about a person. For example, if you know someone is a professional skier, you can search on ' "William Jaberwocky" AND skiing '. This will only show web pages that contain both the name and the word 'skiing.' For more information on how to use boolean searches you can read the Northern Light Help Page.

Other Search Engines: Inference, NetWorx List Of Search Engines, Search Engine Watch, Direct Search.

Tips: If you find that someone works at a college, go to the college's home page and try to find a faculty/staff directory. If you find out where someone works but you can't find the person's email address, send a message to the company, organization or department 'ATTN' to the person you're looking for.

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