Family historians often seek descendants of relatives who live in the United States whose exact location is unknown. Frequently, all that is known are surname and approximate age. Such problems may be resolved by using a combination of the resources available on the Internet as listed below.
|Results of a search for “Gary Mokotoff” in Whitepages.com[Image]|
The most direct way to find living persons is by means of one of the many online telephone directories. One such site is Whitepages.com. The only absolute requirement is that users provide a surname. With that, the site displays the name of every person in the United States with that surname. Additional, optional information—given name, city, state and/or ZIP code—helps narrow the search when included. The usual results are the person’s name, address, and telephone number. If the telephone number is unlisted, an address may still be provided. In addition, results may include age, names of additional members of a household, or an indication that a citation is a business address. This additional information—especially additional members of the household—often can identify the exact person sought. In cases where a limited number of multiple listings are given, a telephone call to each person may be feasible to locate the individual sought.
An optional search at Whitepages.com is the Reverse Lookup, whereby a user provides a telephone number or street address in order to obtain the name of the person associated with the phone number or address. This strategy can be useful when the address where a person once lived is
|Results of a search for “Gary Mokotoff” using Peoplefinders.com|
known. Results may include the name and telephone number of the current occupant, who may know the whereabouts of the person being sought. In the More Searches tab
is a Neighbor Search. This strategy may be used to obtain the telephone number of a neighbor who can provide information about the person.
By far, the most valuable tools for locating living people are websites that provide the address, telephone number, age, birth date, and names of household members of Americans. The sources used by these sites are public documents, such as publicly accessible business and government records. Many sources may be years old and, therefore, can provide information about deceased as well as living individuals.
One such example is Peoplefinders.com. A search for a person at this site will yield—at no cost—name, alternate names, age (in most cases), city, and state of the address recorded in the document that generated the information. Other persons associated with the individual are listed and the search results often include their ages. Icons displayed with the results show whether Peoplefinders, for a fee of $1.95, can provide a profile of the individual, address(es), telephone number(s), birth date, and e-mail address.
A search for Gary Mokotoff at Peoplefinders.com yielded locations in Northvale, New Jersey (home address), Teaneck, NJ (address of Mokotoff’s computer company, which closed in 1993), Bergenfield, NJ (current location of Avotaynu, Inc.) and Westminster, Colorado (address where the Association of Professional Genealogists had a bank account; Mokotoff was their treasurer until 2005). The site also names people associated with Mokotoff. A woman his age (his wife), another woman 21 years his senior (his mother, now deceased) and three persons aged 36–42 (his children). These associated persons are important when the results include more than one person with the same name. It often helps to identify the specific individual sought, because you may already know the name of the spouse or one or more children.
|When the names of children are not known for persons in the U.S. by 1930, the 1930 census can lead to descendants by tracing the children. In this case, the 19-year-old son is likely to be deceased which leads to locating him in the Social Security Death Index.|
A search for the author’s son in Peoplefinders.com provided an 18-year trail of every place he has lived: his childhood address when he lived with his parents, his college address, dental school address, internship address, and first home and current home addresses.
Peoplefinders.com permits a search by street address. Searching for the Mokotoff home address provided an unusual collection of names in addition to the immediate family. These included mother and stepfather (both deceased); stepfathers’s first wife, who died more than 25 years ago; and one daughter’s in-laws and one of their sons. This daughter has lived mostly outside the U.S. for the past ten years and sometimes uses the Mokotoff home address as a U.S. mailing address. Apparently, she used the home address on some application that was a public document. Another entry, apparently from information about the other daughter, included all addresses where she had lived since she went off to college 22 years ago, the name of her husband and the name of her father-in-law.
Sometimes, when it is impossible to find a specific person, contacting the collateral individuals named can help lead to the specific individual sought.
Peoplefinders.com can locate married women whose married surname is unknown if the researcher can provide an exact birth date. A search for the author’s daughter, Jessica (a reasonably common name), yielded only nine persons with her exact birth date—including the daughter.
Peoplefinders.com and other comparable services charge a token amount of $1.95 for the addresses and telephone number of individuals. The information may exist free of charge at Peopledata.com.
|Having found Harold Mokotoff in the 1930 census, searching the Social Security Death Index determines he died in 2003 in Suffolk County, New York. Acquiring his death record could lead to next of kin. Alternately, knowing his death date and place may locate an obituary using Google that will list surviving relatives.|
Headings of the columns displayed at this site include name, date of birth (rarely provided and usually year only), date the information was recorded (a clue to the freshness of the data), address, and telephone number.
Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
Why should a death index be included as a resource for finding living people? Because genealogists often look for the descendants of a deceased person. The Social Security Death Index (SSDI), a database of virtually every person who died in the U.S. since 1962, is available at <http://ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com/>.1
The SSDI usually provides exact date of birth and at least month and year of death, Social Security number, state where Social Security number was issued, zip code of last residence, that is, the state or general area where the person likely died.2 Such information may lead to acquisition of the death record from archives at the place of death, which in turn may list next of kin and/or place where person is buried. Of course, if a person died far from his or her last place of residence, the place of residence is of less value. If the person was working when the Social Security law was enacted in the late 1930s, the state where the Social Security number was issued reveals the state in which the person lived at that time. For others, it primarily provides the state where the person had his or her first job.3
1930 U.S. Census
When seeking descendants of an individual who lived in the United States in or before 1930, U.S. censuses may be a valuable starting point. Census records list all members of the household at the time of the census, their ages, and other identifying information. Children residing with parents usually were born in the 1910s or 1920s; it is possible they are no longer alive. Knowledge of their age in 1930 helps to narrow down information gleaned from the Social Security Death Index. For example, if a researcher is tracking a child named Samuel Cohen listed as age 4 in the 1930 census, all Samuel Cohens listed in the SSDI can be excluded except those born in 1925 or 1926. Census information works best for male children since women change their name when they marry.
Some day, all the governments of the world will stop taking censuses of their population. They will merely add up the number of people on Facebook.com from their country J. This social networking site has rapidly developed into a valuable resource for family history research. Genealogists make contact with distant cousins who formerly were mere entries on the family tree. One can search for a specific name and send messages to every person with that name asking if they are the person sought.
If a name is relatively uncommon, merely Googling it may be sufficient to locate information about a person that serves as a clue to their current whereabouts.
Veteran genealogists know that among the most valuable resources are the contacts made throughout their years of research. Subscribe to JewishGen Discussion Groups in your areas of interest and note the individuals who answer the most questions. Attend conferences and get to know the people who are experts in specific fields. Recently this author was trying to locate a family living in the United States that fled Germany in the late 1930s for Shanghai, China. He knows that Peter Nash of Sydney, Australia, is an authority on the history of these people, because he was part of the experience. In response to an inquiry, Nash responded that he had corresponded with the family just a few years earlier and provided the mailing address in Illinois.
Persons living in the United States may be located through a variety of resources available on the Internet. Often multiple resources are needed to find the person. With persistence and patience, almost anyone will be found eventually.
- For an exact description of who is or is not listed in the Social Security Death Index, see <http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Social_Security_Death_Index>. Examples of people not in the SSDI are women who never held a paying job (typically, housewives) who predeceased their husbands and children who never held a paying job.
- Exceptions include a person who was driving from Florida to New York and was killed in a traffic accident in Virginia. The SSDI will show his Florida address, but the death certificate would be in Virginia.
- Until recently there was no requirement that a person have a Social Security number unless they were gainfully employed. Today a person is assigned a number at birth, making it a national identity number.