Finding People Online

I never thought that being a people finder would be something I would do. It never even crossed my mind. Then an elderly friend of mine asked me to find his old high-school sweetheart — no, he didn’t want to rekindle his lost love, he actually just wanted to know if she still had his high school ring, since he’d like to give it to his son.

It took a few hours of research to narrow it down to one individual, but not only did I find her current address and phone number, I also was able to see pictures of her home courtesy of Google Street View, as well as interior photos from the realtor from back in 2005 when she and her husband bought it. I knew the price they paid for it, and the post-crash value (ouch!). Searching social media I found pictures of her, her family, her cars… it’s actually kind of scary how much data is out there about a 74 year old woman who doesn’t have a single social media account. She possibly doesn’t even use the Internet, yet her life is all over it.

A few weeks later came another request to find a client’s half-brother. This was a bit of a challenge, as the brother’s name was quite a common one, but since we knew his approximate age and that he had lived in Virginia at one time, I was able to use those items as filters to find all the information needed to facilitate a family reunion.

After stumbling upon those two jobs, I decided to try find my oldest childhood friend. The trick was that I only sort of knew his last name. I knew how it was pronounced, but not how it was spelled. It took longer than I thought it would, but eventually I found myself creeping his Facebook profile. It took a day before I decided to send a friend request. It’s just weird friending someone you haven’t seen in over three decades.

To get to a point, if there is one, while I may or may not continue with this line of work, I can see that as the population ages, there will be an increasing demand for people who can ferret out information on family, friends and acquaintances from the past who hold memories for the elderly.

I have a friend who makes a pretty good second income for her family by doing something similar, except for long lost ancestors. She mostly scours old databases of obituaries, town archives and newspapers to help people fill out their family trees.

People-finding seems to me to be a great work-at-home job for anyone with a passion for research. All you need to get started is a computer with internet access and a telephone, and a bit of advertising to get your first clients.

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