I’ve just done a really interesting case, building up a picture of a person and finding out what happened to them since they were last seen in 1943.

This article is written by Dave Oates, People Tracing Expert and Genealogy Mastermind!

I thought I’d give you the inside track on how I collected particular information that helped me build a profile of her life and ultimately lead me to find that she had passed away whilst living with her family at her son’s house in 2001.

I’ve changed the names so that it’s none specific as I don’t want to write anything that could reveal the persons’ identity but I hope you enjoy reading it regardless.

Finding an Old Friend
I was contacted by a member of the public who wanted me to research what had happened to a young lady he courted during the war, they lost touch when he was posted overseas in 1944. He sent me a rather large cheque so I was determined to impress him and show him that I could obtain all the information he had asked me to find. This included,

•    Her Place of birth
•    If she was still alive and if she wasn’t what had happened to her
•    When she married and where
•    If she had had any children
•    Her present location if she was still alive

If she had been alive I would have had to contact her to make sure she wanted contact with the gentleman who placed the order, but as he explained he was 89 years old so wasn’t going to be trying to ignite any old passions! But simply wanted to have a review of their lives and see how she had gotten on. Still, we have to respect people’s privacy so if she hadn’t wanted contact we wouldn’t have supplied him any details relating to her current whereabouts. Most people like to here from the people we work for when they have placed an order to find an old friend

Many people who use us want to speak to a previous partner and the reason they do is nearly always the same, they stress that they are happily married and just want to catch up sometimes from over sixty years ago. We always ok the contact from the other side and nine times out of ten people have a catch up on old times usually via email, letter or telephone.

So how did I find her?
She had an unusual name so I found a birth record for her online, this gave me her date of birth and her mother’s maiden name. She was born in 1921 and was the only person born in that year with that name; this was good news because it meant her name was so unusual that I would be able to find other information about her easily.  I immediately looked past her time with my client and dived straight in for a marriage certificate, I found one from 1952. It was in the same place that she was born and also where she was when she was courting with my client during the war. This was a breakthrough, I now had her married name and her husband’s name too.

If you have two names then an electoral roll can be quite useful as it can bring up an address for the two people at the same address. I did this and found a match on the 1997 electoral roll, still living in the same area.

Less than two hours later
So now in just less than two hours I had traced her from her birth in 1921 to an address in 1997. I noticed that her husband was not on the electoral roll after 1999 and her not after 2001, this unfortunately give me the worst potential news, they could both have passed away.  I search death records in the area between late 1998 and early 2002 and found records for both of them.

Finding out that people have passed away is a sad part of my job, I have to treat the people who I am telling with dignity and respect, I try and put myself in their shoes and think how I would want telling and act accordingly. I always let people know via telephone rather than email. Most people have considered it an option and are ok with it. Occasionally people are devastated and this is the hardest part of what I do, I still struggle with it to be honest.  Like I said, I need to be honest but also compassionate and thoughtful.  As it happened with this customer he was aware that it could be the case as she was quite old.

I was able to find out that she was living with her son and her grandchildren when she died and that gave him some comfort. I found out she had had three boys in the 1950’s and that she became a company director in later life, starting two businesses with her sons.

Building a picture of her life
I really built a picture up of her life. At the end of the investigation I almost felt like I knew her and when I turned the page over on the trace request sheet there she was, smiling at me like it was yesterday. She was a really beautiful lady and lived a full, interesting and exciting life from what I can find.

I think that is what’s important to remember when you are a professional researcher; you’re dealing with real people.

It’s amazing what information you can find in a few hours when you have a brew and the internet, it’s even easier when you can access so really cool stuff as a professional researcher but I guess that’s why sometimes even homemade super sleuths have to come and see me and ask for help.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this story, please leave a comment or share this post on Facebook about finding an old friend.