The following article was written by my good friend, William Dollarhide. Enjoy…
Dollarhide’s Genealogy Rule No. 13: A genealogist needs to be a detective. Just gimmie da facts Ma’am.
In part 1, we discussed the first things to do, such as a check of the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) to confirm that a person was actually alive; and a bit of information about the Social Security Administration’s Letter Forwarding service. We then described the nature of general directories online, including phone directories, city directories, and online white pages, etc., which professional people-finders say can give an 80% success rate in finding a lost person. The remaining 20%, the hard-to-find missing persons, need to be searched within the fee-based search services. We then described the first places to look as Google (Advanced Search), Ancestry.com, ProGenealogists.com, and ReferenceUSA.com.
This Part 2 section continues with the identification of Free Directory Lookup Sites, U.S. Public Records Databases, People and Address Finding Tools, International Directory Portal Sites, and UK Directory Lookups:
Free Directory Lookup Sites
ZabaSearch.com ( http://zabasearch.com ). Free site. This site has free people-searching and more. There are probably more names of people here than any other free site. For virtually every test name I used at all of the free sites, ZabaSearch.com came back with five times the number of hits as the others. If you can predict an 80% success rate using all of the free lookup sites, assume that ZabaSearch.com by itself will give you at least 75% – and you may not need to go further. But search the others as well – there will be sites where certain names appear nowhere else.
InfoSpace.com ( www.infospace.com ). Free site. InfoSpace.com is the search engine for Dogpile, MetaCrawler, WebCrawler, and WebFetch, and has directory listings from SuperPages, BellSouth, and Yellow Book. This is an important stop in your directory searching.
The New Ultimates White Pages ( www.newultimates.com/white/ ). Free site. This site features fourteen different directory lookups on the same page, and may save you time and effort.
SearchBug.com ( www.searchbug.com/peoplefinder/ ). Free site. This site includes White Pages, Yellow Pages, and names from the PeopleFinders.com site (for fee-based extended searches).
SuperPages.com ( www.superpages.com/ ). Free site. This site includes White Pages and Yellow Pages, all well done, with a good-sized database of names.
WhitePages.com ( www.whitepages.com/ ). Free site. This site includes White Pages, Yellow Pages, and extended name lists from the USSearch.com site (for fee-based searches).
U.S. Public Records Databases (Fee-based Searches)
USSearch.com ( www.ussearch.com/consumer/index.jsp ). Fee-based searches. This is the oldest People-Finder service around. Remember their pre-Internet TV ads back in the early 1990’s, “Find anyone, call Nick…” The company has over one billion names indexed from many public records, with search reports at $39.95 (and up).
PeopleFinders.com ( www.peoplefinders.com/ ). Fee-based searches. This site has over one billion names from public records. The lookup of names is free, but the results list will have only the name and city/state of residence. Fees begin at $9.95 for a one-person report with a name, full street address, city, state, zip code, and phone number. Extended searches cost more.
Intelius.com ( www.intelius.com/ ). Fee-based searches. For over one billion names, the index search is free, but the results list will give you only the name and city/state of residence. Searches within specific databases priced as low as $5.95/person, to $39.95 for major lookups.
People & Address Finding Tools
SearchSystems.net ( www.searchsystems.net/ ). Subscription site. The largest directory of U.S. Public Records on the Internet, this portal site provides the means to locate business information, corporate filings, property records, deeds, mortgages, criminal and civil court filings, inmates, offenders, births, deaths, marriages, divorces, unclaimed property, professional licenses, and much more. The SearchSystems.net site is a portal to searchable databases containing billions of names. This is not a master index, but an identification and link to over 38,500 public records databases where online searching for people can take place. At $4.95/month, a SearchSystem.net subscription may provide “more bang for the buck” than any other.
NetrOnline.com ( www.netronline.com/public_records.htm ). Free site. This site is a portal to find any county of the U.S. with real estate records online. Not all counties have these records online, but those that do can be found here from their list of all 3,146 U.S. counties. Depending on the state, the county Assessors, Recorders, Auditors, etc., are the official repositories for recorded deeds, property tax assessments, and property histories. The modern versions of these documents now online are usually for records from about the 1970s or later, and are all excellent sources for a full name, full street address, city, state, zip code; and often, a phone number for any person involved in a real estate transaction. Once you have found a county online that has real estate records available, you can access the website directly from NetrOnline.com, and since these type of documents are public records, there is never a fee to access the database. However, you may be charged a fee to make copies of records, which is no different than doing this research in person at a county courthouse.
VirtualGumshoe.com ( www.virtualgumshoe.com/ ). Subscription site. Designed for private investigators, this site has the largest nationwide criminal database on the web. Maybe your missing relative is not lost at all, just serving time. Reports here start at $39.95 to find one person.
MilissaData.com ( www.melissadata.com/lookups/index.htm ). Free site. Designed for direct marketers, this site has a Free Lookups page with direct links to websites relating to places in the U.S., i.e., addresses, zip codes, area codes, sub-division maps, house numbers, street names, radius searches, carrier route searches, county maps, census maps, school district maps, city maps, U.S. placename databases, world placename databases, and much more. Another name for this site might be “A Genealogist’s Find-the-Place Toolbox.”
Dollarhide’s Genealogy Rule No. 17: Finding the place a person lived may lead to finding that person’s arrest record.
International Directories – Portal Sites
Infobel.com ( http://infobel.com/world/default.asp ). Free site. This is a portal to directory name lists online for over 200 countries around the world. At each country, a list of directory titles is shown, and a click on a title takes you directly to the website with that online name list. Although all of the directories are in the language of the country, many countries have directories with instructions in English as well. The list of names in a foreign directory will have names spelled the way they are recorded in that country’s language, but the translations of names is not a difficult thing to do (you can do it at Google, for example).
Numberway.com ( www.numberway.com ). Free site. At first, Numberway.com looks like a rip-off of InFobel.com, because it uses the same maps, regions, and lists the same countries in the same order. But, looking at the directory titles reveals that the Numberway lists are often unique and not repeats of the Infobel lists, and usually with more directories listed for a particular country. On the other hand, Infobel.com has directory titles not listed at Numberway.com. Therefore, one should use both of these international directory portal sites to see what is available online.
UK Directory Lookups
There are three competing online directories for the United Kingdom of Great Britain. They are listed below in their ranking based on the number of inquires per month. All three sites are free for directory lookups, but two of the sites have added database searching for a fee. Unfortunately, the criteria for searching for a name in all three sites must first include the name of the village/town/city. If all you know is the name of the county of residence within England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales; or any protectorate within the British Isles, e.g., Channel Islands, Isle of Mann, etc.; you will need to first get a good detailed map of a county to find the name of every village, town, or city, then go through each place systematically for the person’s name(s) you want to find. In fact, in such cases, the first database to use might be the UK Phonebook.com site because of its interactive maps as aids in finding a placename. If you already have an exact village/town/city of residence, start with either the BT directory or the 192.com directory. Of the three, the 192.com site has the largest database, but the BT directory gets more inquires monthly than any other directory lookup in Great Britain. BT is a private company, the heir of British Telecom, formerly a government-owned utility.
The Phone Book (BT) ( www.thephonebook.bt.com/ ). Free site. British Telecom, now just BT, is the dominate telecommunications system in the UK. Free lookups in current telephone directories for all of the UK are at this site. Searching is by place of residence first.
192.com ( www.192.com ). Free site, with fee-based details. The free portion is for a telephone directory lookup for all of Great Britain. There are some special databases here, such as the annual British Electoral Rolls (voter lists) for 2002-2012, which are fee-based searches. Typically, there were between 23 and 25 million registered voters in Great Britain for the years 2002-2012. There are many other databases incorporated into the name searching, including the official British birth and death indexes dating back to 1837. At the start of the 2012 London Olympics, 192.com had a database containing over 750 million entries for a country with about 63 million in population. Searching here is also by place first.
UK Phonebook.com ( www.ukphonebook.com ). Free membership site, with fee-based details. This is a private directory publisher very much like the 192.com site, and for all of Great Britain. In addition to the free general phone listings, there is a lookup to the British Electoral Rolls (Voter Lists), 2002-2012. Searching here is also by place, but this site includes an interactive map at the search box screen which can be very useful in finding county placenames.
Comments? This article (part 1 and part 2 together) was first published in one of the last issues of Everton’s Genealogical Helper. All of the original web addresses were verified and updated where necessary. But, there may be some other websites to go online since this article was first printed – any comments about such sites are welcome. Any comments about good or bad experiences in using the online databases are also encouraged. If you used any of the directory sites mentioned here and had success in finding the person you were after, let us know about it. The goal is to give genealogists the best possible tools for finding their living relatives online.
End of Part 2