Frequently Asked Reference Questions

Finding People

Possible Questions That Can Be Answered Using This FAQ

  • I just know my best friend from elementary school is online, but I can’t find her email address. How can I find it?
  • My cousin moved to San Francisco years ago and we haven’t heard from him since. Is there a city directory available online where we can search for him?

The Web offers some ways to find people, but because not everyone has a presence on the Web and because Web users are concerned about being able to maintain their privacy, it is a challenging method for finding people. (Some sites charge a fee and offer a promise for personal information.) Consider expanding your search to resources that are off the Web as well. Here is a mixture of online and offline ways to find people.

A good starting point is the "Finding People – Lost Family and Friends" page from About.com. The collection of links on this page covers a wide variety of search strategies from city directories to government public records.

You can look for someone by typing his or her first and last names into a search engine, like Google. Adding a city, school, or company name to the search query may narrow down the search results. Putting quotation marks around the person’s names may also help to limit results; for more search tips, try Google’s “Operators and more search help” article.

Addresses & Phone Numbers

If you have someone’s phone number and need their address, or vice versa, there are a couple of options. There are several sites, such as AnyWho and WhitePages, that offer "reverse phone directory" searching for finding out the name and address associated with a particular phone number. Similar services on the web offer reverse address and email lookups as well.

Off the Web, ask your local public librarian for help using a "crisscross directory," a directory that enables similar "reverse searching." Not sure how to find your library? Go to our Library Locator page where we’ve listed resources to help you find the nearest physical library to you.

If you are trying to find someone’s address for bill collection purposes, try contacting their city of last known residence to see if there are any records of water bill or tax payments that list a forwarding address. Be aware that the city may charge for this information, and may not release the information to you.

You might also want to look at our FAQ on Finding Phone Numbers and our Telephone & Address resource list.


If you are trying to find someone you went to school with, there are several sites on the Internet where you can register yourself as an alumnus of a particular school or schools, and then check (sometimes for a fee) to see whether any of your old classmates have registered. A good place to check for these sites is Yahoo’s category for Alumnae/i Associations. Many schools have their own websites that include alumni information and associations. You can look for a particular school’s website by typing the name into a search engine, like Google.


Hiring professional assistance to locate someone is also an option. There are plenty of investigators for hire. A good place to check for private investigators, investigative services, and/or credit investigators is in the Yellow Pages — use the keyword "investigators," (without the quotes) and enter the location you’d like to target. You can also check the investigative services category in directories, such as Yahoo’s. Be aware that private investigators will charge a significant amount of money to help locate someone for you. We at ipl cannot recommend any particular investigator or company over any other.

Other ipl Resources

If you suspect that the person you are looking for has died, ipl’s Finding Obituaries Pathfinder and Public Records FAQ are good places to start searching.

Finally, if you are seeking genealogy help, ipl has a Genealogy FAQ and a Genealogy Pathfinder that may be just what you need.

This FAQ updated by Kara Larson in 2012.