How I Research People

Today, share something you love about yourself  — don’t be shy, be confident! — but that few other people know about you or get to see very often.

I am really good at researching people. It was a skill I refined when I was a foster parent recruiter – I had a whole protocol of information that I had to find. I learned how to search all sorts of public records – court documents, genealogy sites, and social media, of course.

What I became good at was connecting the dots and developing a technique I describe as “going sideways” – in genealogy, if you hit a wall with an ancestor, you move sideways to siblings and cousins. For example, if you lose a woman in her late teens, if you search for the parents in their dotage – you often find they are living with the sister and her husband which gives you her married name. This was especially true in the late 19th and early 20th century census records.

So I have a family tree with 2200+ people including hundreds of very distant cousins. I save everything because you never know when a long-lost cousin is going to generate a really interesting tip. I found a fourth cousin once removed on my mother’s side and learned that I’m eligible to join the Daughters of the American Revolution. He has all the paperwork and is willing to share with me.

A few months ago, a friend of a friend was being harassed by a guy in another state. She didn’t know how serious it might get, so I dug in to the information superhighway and dug up his multiple arrests on charges related to stalking and lots of information indicating his family knew his pattern and covered it up. She printed everything and took it her local sheriff who took it seriously. We got her connected with a women’s law nonprofit that took it seriously. He was already facing an arraignment so the judge sent him for the mental health treatment he most likely needed and he was off the street.

That was a good day because my friend’s friend could just breathe again.

It wasn’t just the information, obviously. But I think it mattered that I believed her and spent some time actually helping.

You might be surprised how much information is accessible and how quickly someone can find detailed information about you WITHOUT Facebook. One speeding ticket from 2003 can generate a lot of information. Most of it is useless, but if I can help friends dealing with actual stalkers and harassers – I’m going to do it.  When someone feels helpless, having some facts about their tormentor can help.

It is a lot of work so I don’t do it for fun (except genealogy) and I am careful with the information I do find. There’s no need to go digging just for the sake of curiosity – the information will always be there if it is actually needed.  I don’t share the weblinks b/c I think too many people are just nosy. They can find them on their own – they are all public. So don’t ask.

Unless you need help.


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