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Searching for People

Tracing people in the United States can be a lengthy and time consuming process. Many records, such as those held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, are protected by the Privacy Act and cannot be given to third parties. However, the Internet has made many other resources much more freely accessible.

For information relating specifically to locating military personnel in the U.S. see Tracing Former Military Personnel in the U.S.


One of the quickest and easiest ways of establishing contact with an individual is via their telephone listing. However, it is worth remembering that many private individuals in the U.S. choose to be ex-directory.  

  • Switchboard is one of the most extensive directories on the internet. Its search engine lets you find people, businesses, web sites and e-mail addresses as well as offers a free internet account to its users.
  • Yahoo! People Search
  • The Ultimates Collection of people search engines.

Media Sources

It may be worthwhile contacting newspapers or local radio stations in the area where the missing person was last known to live. Radio stations can be located via Radio-Locator (formerly the MIT List of Radio Stations on the Internet).

Vital Records/Public Databases/Veterans

There is no central repository (burgerlijke stand) of birth, death and marriage records in the United States. These records are filed at state level and, in some cases, at an even more local level. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has produced Where to Write for Vital Records, a useful guide to these sources.'s Social Security Death Index is generated from the U.S. Social Security Administration's Death Master File. It contains the records of deceased persons who possessed Social Security numbers and whose death had been reported to the SSA. In most cases a report of death was made in connection with Social Security death benefits.

Humanitarian Organizations

The following organizations may be able to assist in cases of sufficiently compelling humanitarian need, and where the missing person is a close relative:

The Dutch Red Cross, afdeling Sociale Opsporing (This section deals with inquiries from the people living in the Netherlands. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies lists contact information and web addresses of societies worldwide.)

The Salvation Army Family Tracing Service exists for the purpose of trying to restore (or to sustain) family relationships, by locating relatives who for whatever reason have become out of touch.