Confessions Of An Internet Stalker

A rust-colored silhouette of the shoulders and head of a person in front of a screen of zeros and ones in random order.
Image created by author: Joyce O’Day

How I got started and some tips of the trade!

I can find almost anyone, and I’ve been doing it for years.

In general, I don’t stalk people I regularly interact with in my daily life. Rather, I hunt for long-lost relatives and childhood friends—people I have lost contact with. Searching out your loved ones’ new boyfriends or girlfriends is also a good move.

My hobby as an Internet stalker began when I started seeking information about the man I believed to be my birth father. SPOILER ALERT: he was the wrong guy. For two decades I scoured the Internet and social media sites to find information about him and his kids (my believed siblings).

Here is the story of that ordeal. 

From there, I set my sights on old boyfriends; teenage friends; and kids from my childhood neighborhood, elementary school, and junior high. I have also “checked up on” people I knew from college and various jobs.

Things really picked up after I got an ancestry.com account. It helped me find my actual birth-father’s family, and since then I have searched out a variety of people in an effort to help my husband find information about his father’s family and help others who are searching for their birth-parents like I had.

This is not a full-time obsession. I go down the rabbit-hole some evenings when I am bored and watching TV or when someone reaches out for help.

My favorite find was in 2006 when I found a brother—the son of my adopted dad, who I knew about, but had never met. Since then we have developed a close relationship.

Favorite Search Vehicles

Google—Obviously!

  • Put the name of your desired person in quotes and add the state or states they have lived. If it is a common name, it will be more difficult. Keep their name in quotes and try adding anything relative that you ever associated them with: sports, hobbies, schools, etc.
  • Obituaries are also a good word to Google along with their name. In many cases, their name is mentioned after a close relative passes away. 
  • A lot of times, you can find comments they made on various websites, events they attended, wedding announcements, etc.
  • I found my brother after seeing his mother’s obituary. I didn’t want to reach out in that format—awkward. So, I kept looking and saw his name listed at a Corvette Club event, and saw a review he wrote about his barber/hair stylist, where his email was included. I reached out immediately. 
  • I found a cousin I wanted to contact via a wedding announcement for his daughter. I contacted the church where the wedding was held, and he contacted me the following day.
  • At best, you will find direct contact information. Other times, you may find their city of residence or other clues to follow up on.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try again a year later. Internet data is constantly changing.

Facebook—We’ve all trolled for people from our past.

  • We read their “Stories,” check out their “About Info,” and look at their “Friends” list.
  • Pro-Tip: There is a back door of sorts. Many people block Facebook content from non-friends, including their “Friends” list. If there are any “Comments” or “Likes” on their “Cover Photos,” click on them and see if any of their friends have their “Friends” lists public. You can browse that list for common friends or relatives of the person you are stalking, and they may have photos and other content of your desired person.

Other Social Media Platforms—They are a wealth of information. 

  • LinkedIn
  • Classmates
  • YouTube
  • Myspace—I found an old boyfriend who was referenced on his daughter’s site.
  • Get creative—Everything is worth a look.

People Search Platforms—I never pay! 

  • There are so many: Intelius, PeopleFinder, Zoominfo, Spokeo, US Search, BeenVerified, Whitepages, etc.
  • A lot of information is displayed on the search page, such as city of residence; relatives; partial phone numbers, emails, and addresses; etc.
  • Sort by the age of the individual and the state you believe they live in to narrow down the field. 
  • Beware: Not all the information is accurate. On my listing, I have seen my ex-husband’s wife as a family member and other odd connections. Minimally, If you determine a possible city of residence, it will help with a future Google search. Also, finding family members to Google can be very useful.

Ancestry.com—You need a paid subscription for this one, but it’s worth it!

  • The “Search & Browse” feature on Ancestry gets better and better. Plug in your person’s name, state they have lived in at some point, and birth year (or a year close to it). All kinds of information pops up, including yearbook photos; birth, marriage, and divorce records; family trees; residence information; obituary links; etc.
  • Often, when you pull up a lead on Ancestry, it will bring up other “Suggested Records.” Some are correct, others are not.
  • Tip: Public libraries often have subscriptions to ancestry.com that you use for free.

Final Thoughts

  • Use the information you find on one source to aid your search on a different source.
  • Use a spiral notebook to keep records of your searches. Be thorough by taking detailed notes, and date your entries. 
  • These strategies are also great for genealogy work.
  • Once again, if you can’t find the person you are looking for, check out their family members. Often times, they will lead you to your desired person.

What search strategies have worked for you?

There are no affiliate links on this post.


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