Guide to Finding People Online - How to Locate Someone

Tips to Finding People Online

There’s always a need to find someone on the internet, whether you’re looking for information on obscure celebrities or your long-lost great-aunt. People have successfully hunted for their birth parents, especially through social media sites like Facebook.

For the Wachtels, it was easy to find the birth mother of Jessi, the girl they adopted decades ago. All it took were Google searches, Facebook searches, and a bit of luck, and they were able to reconnect, eventually sharing their story in the New York Times.


A similar story on the same page is Alexander Dorf, whose birth mother had found him via the internet. A professional guitarist in San Francisco found his son on MySpace, having been armed with info about the birth mother, hospital, and adoption agency.

So, finding people online certainly comes in very handy. Whether you’re just searching for old members of your family or even doing a check on a potential employee, the internet can be a great place to begin. Your easiest bet, of course, is a social platform.

Find People Online: Facebook and Google

Find People Online: Facebook and Google

Well, searching Google for their name is probably the first thing you could do, especially because many people leave a trail on the internet. You’re likely to find them with a quick Google search, especially if you add a location you know they frequented or a social network website you think they’re on.

When you’re looking into social networks, you should also use Google. It’s a very awesome and popular trick that Googlers use to find social media-related searches. If you’re looking for John Smith on Facebook, type “John Smith” on your Google rather than going to Facebook to search.

This often gives better results than using Facebook’s internal search engine. If you can add a location to your Google search, like “John Smith Baltimore Maryland,” you’ll have even better luck with your search.

Using Google Images

Another great trick, if you know what the person you’re looking for looks like, is to do a Google image search of the person’s name and details.

Similar to the social media search above, you can type the same keywords. If you see an image that looks like the person, you can access the site where the image was obtained.

Using Google Alerts

Suppose you’ve had a difficult time finding a particular person online, set up some Google Alerts. Whenever any information relating to “John Smith Baltimore Maryland” comes up, you’ll immediately receive an alert in your email. To use this option, visit and add the person’s name (and any other details) in the search box.


Find People Online through Search Engines.

Find People Online through Search Engines.

Of course, Google is inarguably the largest search engine globally, with billions of searches every day. However, Google isn’t the only place to go when it comes to searching for people.


While you can also use Bing and other search engines to find people online, they can be very broad. Specific search engines like Pipl conduct a deep search for any full name you search for, and they often have impressive results. Pipl also helps get phone numbers and even names of other family members, often from miscellaneous and record-keeping websites.

Although it isn’t free to use – you need to sign up and subscribe – Pipl is focused on employers who want to investigate and verify their employees’ records. However, that doesn’t mean individuals can’t use Pipl.

True People Search

Like Pipl, True People Search offers great search results, but it depends on your current location (country). True People Search offers in-depth results when you search for a full name or maiden name and a state of residence if you’re in the US or Canada.

It also includes a section that displays information about past and current colleagues and (former) college roommates. While more detailed reports would need to be paid for, getting immediate basic information for free on True People Search is possible.

Truth Finder

This site offers services similar to Pipl. You can easily match the online profiles of people you are looking for with their names and age. This website also provides background information like possible relatives, phone numbers, addresses, and several other public records.

Finding Family Members and Others: Niche Search Engines

There are quite a few options, including the two mentioned above. The one you decide to use might be based on the exact features they offer.

TinEye, for example, allows you to reverse image search by using image recognition technology. FamilyTreeNow helps you find genealogical records and search for your family tree. helps you track down an old friend or colleague, as long as you remember the high school they were in. PeekYou digs through social sites like LinkedIn and Pinterest while searching for the full name you’ve typed in the search box. ZabaSearch goes as far as helping you conduct a full background check on anyone, including their driving record, criminal history, and even citizenship verification.

Other unique search engines include Find A Grave, which helps you look for deceased people if the person you’re looking for is no more. Interment is similar but includes a massive database of cemetery records from countries worldwide.

Finding People Online with Social Media Searches

Finding People Online with Social Media Searches

Although Facebook has been covered earlier and using Google has been beneficial, there’s a good chance the person you’re looking for is on other social media sites. With an estimated 4.2 billion people currently using social media, there’s almost a certainty that they’re on one of the many social sites available.

When looking for a person on Facebook directly, take advantage of the advanced search options. These can help you narrow down your search results, filtering them with important info like year and location.

Twitter is similar to Facebook, thanks to its advanced search options. However, with Twitter, it’s unlikely that the person you’re looking for will use their real name as their username. So it’s important to keep that in mind when looking for a friend online via Twitter.

Like Facebook, LinkedIn is a great option for looking for anyone online. If you know some details like the school they went to or where they last worked, chances are you can find them on those respective groups on LinkedIn. Some professionals maintain their LinkedIn account as their main social media account, so you could potentially find the person you’re looking for with a LinkedIn search.

Niche Social Networking Sites

Niche Social Networking Sites

Like LinkedIn, there are quite a few social sites with a specific niche they focus on. These are websites you can use to look for people, especially when you have some idea about their hobbies or tastes.


It looks very similar to Twitter, but StockTwits is mainly for investors, traders, and anyone sharing ideas and opinions about the trading markets. If you’re looking for someone who enjoyed discourses on the stock market or forex, this might be a good place to look into.


The main focus of Dribbble is design, which means that you’re very likely to find anyone who works in creative design, illustration, graphic design, etc. If you’re looking for a hobbyist or professional in this field, there’s a very good chance they have an account on Dribbble.


If the persons you’re looking for are beer enthusiasts, you’re most likely going to find them on Untappd. The niche social networking site is dedicated to such enthusiasts and will be the perfect spot to find a beer lover.


Eleven million users on this network upload everything from presentations to proposals. If you’re looking for an academic, starting on ResearchGate will be your best bet. If you have some knowledge about their previous work in their field, it will make your search twice as easy.

Use a Deep-crawling Search Engine

While using other alternatives like Yahoo and Bing may yield good results, they might be similar to Google’s searches. There are some search engines. However, search the web with more depth, including DogPile, Monster Crawler, and WebCrawler.

The Wayback Machine is also a great place to search for someone because it keeps an archive of pages that have been deleted from the web.

Search Public Records

Like ZabaSearch, which was mentioned earlier in this article, it is possible to find a person’s full profile with details including past addresses, phone numbers, city, and even criminal records on this site.

Other sites like this include everything from physical addresses to possible relatives, bankruptcies, and more. Most of these paid sites often use the USA’s massive database for all state and federal agencies.

Rather than pay for background details, you can visit, find the agencies in the state the person might live in, and search for yourself. For example, if you do an in-depth search into the state of Maine’s agencies, you can look for criminal records in the state.

These databases also give you phone numbers and emails to your elected officials. As well as contact info to your local governments and state attorney generals.


The National Sex Offender Public Website can help with background checks on potential employees, and a single search by name would do. Still, this essential search includes a large database from every state and US territory under public records.

Patent records

It would be possible to track down an inventor, and their work, by accessing the publicly available patent records. While the US Patent and Trademark Office handles these public records, it is possible to look out for patent holders in other countries.

Copyright records

These are very useful if you’re looking for someone online who is a creative person, perhaps an artist or writer. As long as they have work attributed to them, chances are you’ll see their names and their work as well. This is also available in other countries, most of which have a regularly updated database for copyright records.

Prison records

If you have scoured social networks and everywhere else, and you’re unable to find the person you’re looking for, there’s a good chance they might be in jail. Statistically, nearly one in a hundred American adults are incarcerated. They have court records, so a search within the publically available prison records might help.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has a regularly updated large database of over one million currently incarcerated Americans. So, that’s a good place to check.

Military records

While you’re hardly going to find anyone from the pre-World War 1 era, you’ll have a better chance of finding most veterans. If the person you’re looking for had joined the army at some point, the Veterans’ Service Records would be a good place to check. Also, this is great for employers doing a background check to ensure that a potential employee is a veteran.

Other Sources

If you don’t want to scour through the government’s massive database, you can use websites that already do the work. A great example is VitalRec, which helps you find birth certificates, death certificates, records for marriages and divorces, and other public documents for every US county. VitalRec also works for some other countries, including Australia, Canada, and some countries in the European Union.

Final Thoughts

Searching for someone online is not exactly an easy task. However, with some perseverance and a little bit of luck, you will unearth some important information.

Remember to always start with a Google search engine and then proceed to other social platforms. Public records and other search engines are also great places to find people you may not have seen on social network sites. It’s also possible to check the dark web, but usually unnecessary.

Also, keep in mind that niche social networking sites could dramatically reduce how stressful your search can get. Most public records are easily accessible. However, you may need to pay for a website that enriches the information and makes it easier to understand.

Finally, it is important to note that while most people can be found online. You should not search for them with unethical intentions. Bulling, doxxing, or cyber-stalking people is viewed as a crime in many countries and will get you into trouble with the law.

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