Reference librarians still receive many questions asking for addresses and telephone numbers. Before the Internet, telephone books and city directories were clearly the best sources to get the desired answers. Virtually every adult owned a land line and their telephone number was published in the local phone book. City directories listed names, addresses and telephone numbers and were invaluable aids to finding people. Both reference tools are easy-to-use and mostly accurate. Furthermore, since sixty percent of all telephones in the United States are still land lines in 2014, telephone books and city directories remain important reference sources in our burgeoning digital age, even with ever-increasing people finding websites available.
Now fortunately there are three major online directories which compile U. S. telephone books. So before you try Google to find someone, examine AnyWho (from AT&T), WhoWhere? (from Lycos), and 411.com (from WhitePages). They load data from telephone books across the nation into their own enormous databases. In reality, local city, town, and village telephone books are transformed into extremely useful people finder services. They are high caliber and fast. Be aware that only those people who choose to list their names and numbers in their local phone book are included. As obvious as it sounds, correct spelling is essential.
In the print age, libraries acquired as many phone books as possible to cover potential telephone and address questions. Fortunately, in addition to the above-mentioned websites, many others have also collected a wide range of data from public sources and phonebooks into searchable websites. Two of the best are Pipl and Spokeo. Both are amazingly impressive at finding people. Pipl obtains information from background reports, blog posts, real estate listings, bylines in professional publications, profiles extracted from social media and other databases that contain personal information. After entering a name, Pipl gives you a list of options, accompanied by the person’s age, from which to choose. The given list may be long, but it should be useful. Spokeo does deep data mining in public records sources, which Spokeo describes as “including but not limited to phone directories, social networks, marketing surveys, mailing lists, government censuses, real estate listings, and business websites.” After entering a name, Spokeo presents a results list that includes a map of the United States with all of the areas where a person with that name lives. Simply click the appropriate state, and you should find some helpful information. To find websites like Pipl and Spokeo, just enter the words – people finders – in Google. Similar wording also should work. It should be noted that if you find your name in either Pipl or Spokeo, or similar sites, there are ways one can opt out of such databases. Just Google the appropriate words to learn the steps to do so
Google has also become an effective way to find people. Simply enter the person’s name and location, and there’s a good chance that you’ll find that individual’s contact information. But, Google, being what it is, can give you so much more. I was able to find a high school classmates contact information for a reunion by entering her maiden name into a search which lead me to her husband’s name and location. This information gave me what I needed to invite her to the reunion. So the trick is to look deeply into the results page to find useful information unexpectedly.
Social networks have introduced a different, and often most effective, way of locating individuals. Deep detective skills are not required when people are eager to broadcast personal information about themselves. Little needs to be said about Facebook. With more than 500 million users worldwide and more being added every day, it is a crucial tool for finding people. Of possibly even greater interest to a searcher is Linkedin, if only because it is aimed at a professional audience. Classmates is helpful in another way in that it can give you a married name of a female classmate. This threesome of social networking sites covers a broad spectrum of the online population, which can only increase your chances of finding the right person, especially if the name is common.
Occasionally customers will ask for someone’s cell phone number, but locating them can’t be done reliably. Unlike land lines, cell phones don’t need to be assigned to a specific location. In addition, cell phone numbers are protected by privacy laws. But where there’s a business opportunity, entrepreneurs will step forward to fill a void. Thus Cell Phone Registry and Intelius offer cell phone number searching for a fee. Also Lookup a Cell Phone Number will give the geographic region of a particular cell phone number.
So in our day of overwhelming sources of information, the chances are excellent that the reference librarian or the general searcher will be able to find a person’s address or telephone number. While the above sources are not the only ones, they will give you the quickest and most reliable results. But remember some people do not want to be found, and individuals can take steps to remove their information from print and electronic searches. So if you give your best effort to finding a person’s address or telephone number, the odds are in your favor of getting a positive result, But always remember that since some people choose to live of the social grid, your hunt will not always be a success.
Mead Public Library