Genealogy Among the Living

by Ruby Coleman

Most research done by genealogists pertains to ancestors and researching backward in time. Occasionally we need to locate living relatives or people associated with our family. The research process is somewhat similar, but the types of records occasionally differ.

One of the easiest ways to approach research among the living is to make an outline of what you know about a particular individual. This should include names, dates, locations, not only of this person, but relatives and non-relatives. Next make a list of what you want to know about that person. This normally will be if the person is living and if so where.

Particularly during the last part of the twentieth century and today, people are extremely mobile. Your research should include checking telephone books. While it is easy to check them on Internet, keep in mind that they may not be up to date. When I moved to Nebraska from Iowa in late 1999, online telephone directories did no t catch up with me for over a year. A lot can happen in one year, including more than one move.

Old telephone directories can be helpful. In that case, determine the years and locations you wish to have checked and contact a library in the area to see if they have kept old telephone books. When checking online sources, the following are helpful:

The Ultimate White Pages


Telephone Directors and Locators

While checking telephone directories, be sure to check city directories. These are normally prepared six months to a year before publication. Contact libraries in specific locations to have copies made of city directory pages. Also check out the web page City Directories of the United States of America at

A different approach involves checking a telephone number or address. If you know where th e person lived or have a telephone number, do a reverse check on Internet. This will tell you who is not either assigned to the telephone number or living at the specific address. A good place to check for this information is SearchBug at If the person is no longer living at that residence, consider writing a letter to the party now residing there. You can inquire as to where the former owner/renter moved.

There are Internet sites that provide limited information on locating an individual. Further information is provided upon obtaining subscription fees. However, there may be enough identifying information to jump start your research, or you may determine it is worth paying the fee to obtain more information. One such site is People Finder at Another is at

If you know where the person lived during a specific time and have lost contact, consider placing an ad in a newspaper in that location. Further information can be found by using a search engine, such as Google at, to locate names and addresses of newspapers. Those online can be found at, A good site to check for archived newspapers is Newspaper Indexes/Archives/Morgues at

Just as you would place an ad in a newspaper, consider message boards and forums on Internet. offers the message board, Lost Family and Friends at Another place is GenForum at On this forum, select a surname and/or location.

There are many other areas that can be researched, some requiring investigative skills, letter writing or just checking the Internet. For a listing of things you never considered, check out Virtual Gumshoe at

In some respects researching living people means overcoming obstacles. With security measures and people more fearful of giving out information, you will need to be diligent with the research process. However, unless you speak out, search and try, chances are slim you will find anything!

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