Free People Search Sites: The Best on the Web

What you need to know about finding people on the Web:

If you've done even the most rudimentary of Web searches for a specific person, you know that there are (unfortunately) a lot of websites out there that promise you everything for just a small fee. The problem is that the same information they're promising to deliver to you as soon as you pony up a credit card number can be found online with just a little bit of digging and a little bit of patience.

If you're like most people, you'd rather keep your hard-earned money in your pocket where it belongs, right? This article is for you.

The following websites have all been vetted for quality and consistency. All of them are free at the time of this writing, and all of them offer up information found in the public domain. Not sure? Read Should I Pay to Find Someone Online? for more information. 

Phone Directories:

Most of the time, simply typing a phone number into your favorite search engine (area code included) can turn up accurate results, whether it be for a business or residential phone number. However, sometimes a phone directory - a specialized site that offers vast indexes of published phone numbers with accompanying information - can really come in handy.

  • Switchboard.Awarded PC Magazine's Best of the Internet; allows you to search for businesses, people, phone numbers, email addresses, and lots more.
  • Lycos People Search. Search not only the white and yellow pages, but for professional profiles and alumni emails as well.
  • Search by both first and last names to find a phone number.
  • DexOnline: Search for residential, business, and government phone listings.
  • find a business or person via phone number.

Business Information:

Most businesses offer an amazing amount of information online; that is if you know where and how to find it. All sorts of information is available, from phone numbers to addresses to board member biographies.

  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is an online network of more than 6 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 130 industries.
  • Find 1-800 numbers with the Internet 800 Directory.
  • Yahoo Local: Use Yahoo Local to find businesses near you.
  • Search for U.S. businesses in the online yellow pages.

Death and Obituary Information:

Finding an obituary online can sometimes be a little tricky, simply because newspapers publish obits and they don't always get posted on the Web. However, with a little bit of sleuthing, the following websites can potentially help you track down exactly who or what you're looking for.

  • Obituary Searches: Learn how to find obituaries both on and off the Web.
  • Social Security Master Death Index Start your basic research here, but this site does require paid access for more detailed information. An excellent place to begin, since this site has one of the largest family history databases on the Web.
  • The Obituary Daily Times: A searchable database of obituaries; also available in a free emailed newsletter format (over 2500 entries a day is typical).
  • National Obituary Archive: The National Obituary Archive is the world's largest repository of obituaries and death records with more than 55 million individual entries on file. Visitors may search the archive freely to learn about the deaths of friends or family or to explore relationships when building family trees or doing genealogical research.
  • ObitCentral: Obituary Central is an obituary database for finding obituaries and performing cemetery searches.
  • New York Times Obituaries Page: obituaries here go back to the 1800's, very interesting archives.

General Information:

Most free people search sites offer a quick grab of the most easily accessible information they can find; this includes addresses, phone numbers, first and last names, and email.

  • Yahoo Free People Search. One of the most simple and easy to use interfaces out there. Comprehensive results are delivered quickly. Also allows email search.
  • Online Doctor Finder Provides basic professional information on more than 690,000 doctors.
  • Your Family: Online since 1996; enables you to find missing family members and start genealogy research.
  • Census Finder: Almost 30,000 free census records available online. Search both locally and internationally.
  • An extremely comprehensive site put out by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their family records database is one of the largest on the Web.
  • Facebook: a great way to find and connect with other people.
  • ZoomInfo: ZoomInfo offers information on millions of businesses and individuals across virtually every industry.

Free People Search Sites: How to Divide the Wheat from the Chaff:

P.T. Barnum said that there was a "sucker born every minute". There are many, many websites out there that play on our innate tendency to trust, causing more and more people to be played for "suckers" every year. This is especially true when it comes to sites that promise to find information about a certain someone since the drive to find that person can sometimes overtake our common sense.

Here are three things to remember when looking for people online:

  • There's no magic bullet. While there certainly does exist a wide variety of information on the Web, there's no one site that is going to deliver it to you, nor is one simple search query going to (usually) do it. Finding someone online, especially someone who you've lost touch with or doesn't leave much of a trace on the Web, requires patience, diligence, and persistence in order to be successful.
  • Public information is public. Any information found online is inherently public, simply because it has been found in public databases, directories, blogs, forums, message boards, websites, etc. Small tidbits put together can add up to quite an impressive whole.
  • If they can find it, so can you. Websites that promise to deliver detailed background checks for a "one time fee" are good at one thing and one thing only: taking your money. The information they find is found for free online; all they do is put all the little bits and pieces found in a hundred different places into one cohesive package. You can do the same thing, and for free.

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