How to Find People Using Free Tools on the Web

There's no shortage of places on the web to look for someone

Tracking down someone you've lost contact with is one of the most popular activities on the web all over the world and with good reason. The vast amount of free information available online makes finding someone easier than ever before. The tools and websites shown here are all free and deliver consistently reliable results.

Illustration of a person looking for someone on Google with a magnifying glass. A yellow pages book lies nearby
Lifewire / Theresa Chiechi

A couple of things to keep in mind while reading this article, and before you start using any of the resources listed here:

  • Be patient. Have you ever heard the phrase "Rome wasn't built in a day"? If the person you're looking for hasn't left much of a trail, you probably won't find success in one simple search. Give yourself time and realize that you may need to run multiple searches in several locations to find the information you seek. 
  • Use all the tools in your toolbox. Don't limit yourself to one search engine or one website. Search tools can give surprisingly different results, and each tool adds just a bit more information to the overall summary.
  • Keep your money. The resources listed here are free and don't require financial or personal information. There are situations where paying to find people is useful, but only after you've exhausted the resources below.
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Google results page for "john smith"


Ask someone what Google is, and they'll tell you it's a search engine. However, Google is much more than just a search engine. It offers a whole spectrum of search tools that you can use to find people on the web. These include finding phone numbers, tracking down maps, and images.

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Family Tree Now

Family Tree Now website

Family Tree Now is a popular genealogy and people search site that provides a surprising amount of information—all free—with no registration required. Anything from census records to birth dates and phone numbers can be found here, making the site both useful and somewhat controversial at the same time. 

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Screenshot of the Zabasearch home page

Zabasearch, a free people search engine, uncovers a startling amount of information, most of it amazingly accurate. It updates its records according to information that's publicly available. You can search by what's available in the public domain for free public access.

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Man looking through binoculars outdoors, close-up

Andy Andrews/Getty Images

There are a wide variety of websites that focus only on people-related information, such as online phone directories and databases. These sites are excellent resources for picking up bits and pieces of information, such as business phone numbers, obituary notices, and census data.

Sites that focus only on people-related information are incredibly valuable tools when you're trying to dig up as much information as possible.

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Obituaries and Death Notices

Widow in cemetary


Andrew Bret Wallis/Getty Images 

Surprisingly, in a day of almost limitless information online, obituaries prove somewhat tricky to find because they are published by local, city, and state newspapers. It's worth a try to check the newspaper in a person's hometown if you have that information. There are ways to find both present and past obituaries on the web using a variety of resources and search queries.

If you don't have the hometown but have the person's first and last name, try the free Social Security Death Index at It may lead you to the date of death and the city or town where the person was living. Then, you can check the local newspaper.

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Facebook people search results for john smith

Hundreds of millions of people use Facebook every day to connect with friends and family all over the world. You can use this incredibly deep and diverse network to find a person, company, brand, or organization. The possibilities are endless.

You need to have a free Facebook account to access all the Facebook information that is available to you. There are plenty of ways to use Facebook to find people, starting with your high school classmates.

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Cell Phone Numbers

Woman holding cell phone up to her face
Tara Moore/Taxi/Getty Images

If you've ever tried to look up a cell phone number, you've probably hit a brick wall. Cell phone numbers are attractive to people who enjoy their privacy because they aren't listed in public phone directories. However, there are ways to get around this and track down who a cell phone number belongs to using a few clever search tricks.

If you have a phone number, try using a reverse number lookup on Google, or search the social media websites for the number.

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Search Engine Shortcuts

hand holding puzzle pieces with people's faces on them representing Finding the right people
Dimitri Otis/Getty Images

If you're trying to figure out what part of the country a U.S. area code is related to, all you need to do is type the area code into any search engine. You can also use the web to find a toll free phone directory. Check out this list of the top web search tricks for more ways you can find people on the web. 

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