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How To Find People Online By Name

Monday, August 10, 2009

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Who should read this article:

Anyone who needs to search for a person online and has just the individual's full name to work with.


So all you have is the person's name? Expect a challenging investigation, especially if the last name is a common one. So why take the time to read this article? Because you will discover how to save yourself time, money and frustration. How? By learning to avoid subtle pitfalls and knowing when you need to dig deeper. Let's get started!

What you should know first:

Many first-middle-surname combinations are very common. So how do you know what's common? Let's take a look at some very popular full name sequences for people born in the United States in the last 100 years:

Top 20 most common first names for a man:
James, John, Robert, Michael, William, David, Richard, Charles, Joseph, Thomas,
Christopher, Daniel, Paul, Mark, Donald, George, Kenneth, Steven, Edward, Brian.

Top 20 most popular first names for a woman:
Mary, Patricia, Linda, Barbara, Elizabeth, Jennifer, Maria, Susan, Margaret, Dorothy, Lisa, Nancy, Karen, Betty, Helen, Sandra, Donna, Carol, Ruth, Sharon.

Top 20 surnames in the United States:
Smith, Johnson, Williams, Jones, Brown, Davis, Miller, Wilson, Moore, Taylor, Anderson, Thomas, Jackson, White, Harris, Martin, Thompson, Garcia, Martinez, Robinson.

Most popular middle names for a man:
Alan/Allen, Dean, Don, James, John, Joseph, Louis, Michael, Nicholas, Scott, Ray, Richard, William

Most common middle names for a woman:
Ann/Anne, Beth, Claire, Elizabeth, Gay, Grace, Jane, Jean, Lee/Leigh, Linda, Lynn,
Margaret, Mary, Rae

Let's take some examples. If the full name of the person you are looking for is any of the below combinations, you will have a challenging time discerning if you have the right person:

James Allen Smith
John Dean Williams
Robert Louis Johnson
Mary Ann Jones
Patricia Claire Brown
Linda Elizabeth Davis

You get the idea. Know that with common names like these, you will get hundreds if not thousands of results to plow through.

So what else can you do? Two words: dig deeper. Do you have a date of birth(or at least the birth year)? Maybe the first three digits of their social security number? Where were they born? You need something more. Find it!

How about not so popular names? Rare name combinations will make your investigation much easier.

Some rare first names for a man:
Abram, Barrett, Cale, Dana, Easton, Fletcher, Gage, Harvey, Immanuel, Jan, Karl, Lamont, Marion, Nicklaus, Octavio, Paxton, Ralph, Silas, Theodore, Ulysses, Wade, Xander, Yale, Zakary.

More very rare first names for a man:
Angus, Arnome, Blair, Brandt, Briar, Derlin, Eldon, Emerson, Esau, Farris, Finlay, Flett, Gannon,Garson, Gatlin, Gervase, Gowan, Grayson, Greer, Halvard, Heaton, Jair, Jashon, Kyan, Lennex, Lucius, Orton, Perley, Phoenix, Porter, Rulon, Satchel, Tamir, Tevin, Wylie

Some rare first names for a woman:
Ada, Beatrice, Caleigh, Daphne, Elaina, Farah, Geneva, Hazel, Ivy, Joy, Kambree, Laurel, Magnolia, Nadine, Opal, Patience, Quinn, Ruby, Serenity, Tanya, Unique, Viviana, Willa, Xena, Yolanda, Zoey.

More rare first names for a woman:
Addison, Aditi, Adora, Agnes, Alba, Ariane, Ash, Bella, Bree, Bryelle, Cade, Cassidy, Davelyn, Hannah, Harrison, Houston, Jaleesa, Jameka, Josette, Keane, Kelsey, Lancaster, Lauren, Lysette, Martina, Maude, Nicolette, Noemie, Olivia, Pace, Philomene, Shae, Shalonda, Shyla, Tearah

Now here's the list that will make your search investigation much, much easier: uncommon surnames or last names. The surnames below are just a sampling, take a look at the mongabay reference for many more. Each of these last names represent 0.001% or one thousandth of one percent of all last names for United States citizens.

Least common last names or surnames:
Aikin, Baldree, Coello, Donlon, Ebbert, Firkins, Gehl, Hepp, Iser, Kelliher, Lustig, Malchow, Noggle, Orrell, Pilger, Rennick, Sax, Taube, Utsey, Vickrey, Weidler, Xie, Yop, Zehnder

I think you'll agree that searching for name combinations like the following will be far less prone to error:

Brandt Porter Aikin
Lucius Esau Noggle
Grayson Wylie Vickrey
Agnes Olivia Rennick
Hannah Harrison Donlon
Kelsey Lauren Kelliher

Keep in mind that just one of the three(first name, middle name or last name) needs to be uncommon in order to make your search investigation easier. Realistically, with just one of the names in the "rare" category, you will still need verifying information such as date of birth or social security number. With two out of three names known to be uncommon, you have a much better chance of finding the right person. And with all three names considered rare, it is very likely that you will unearth the exact person you are looking for with just one search.

What you need to understand initially:

1. If you are looking for a formerly married female, keep in mind that many women take their maiden names back after a divorce or even a legal separation. If you don't know their maiden name, then you need other identifying information. If this woman has remarried and taken her new husband's last name, your chances of finding her are much smaller, especially if her new surname is Brown, Smith or Jones and she has a common first name.

2. Both men and women can legally change their name to something completely different. If you are looking for a bright savvy person who does not wish to be found, you will probably not find him via an online people search engine.

3. If you are looking for a person who has likely fled to another country, you should hire an offline detective agency. You need deep pockets. You have to ask yourself: how important is it to me to find this person and how much money and time am I willing to spend? Is it worth it?

4. Certain shady characters use different last names or first names, depending on where they are and who they are working for. These are usually people who have been in trouble with the law before in another jurisdiction and move to escape it.

5. Of course, it's easy to change your social security number illegally. All anyone has to do is get hold of birth records, find an infant who died, and take their social security number and even their full name! Not hard at all is it?


1. You will have a hard time doing an accurate investigation if the first name/middle name/last name combination is very common. With common names, you will certainly need to dig around for other verifying information.

2. Take a look at any online or offline name reference if you are in doubt about name popularity or rarity. Do this BEFORE you attempt to conduct an online investigation on your own. Remember, on most online databases, once you choose a record, YOU BOUGHT IT! If it turns out to be the wrong person, YOU WILL NOT GET YOUR MONEY BACK!

3. It does not matter if you are certain that the person you are looking for has a
criminal history and has served time. It helps if you know exactly when and where he was convicted and at what prison he served his sentence. Since you know what the person looks like, you could research their prison or arrest record to be sure you have the right individual.

4. You should know that federal, state, county, and even municipal jurisdictions each have their own rules about giving out information to the public. You may need to hire an attorney or an offline detective to get the records you need. Give yourself plenty of time to get all the information you need in one place.

5. Even with a rare three name combination(like Lucius Esau Noggle), you may have a
challenge if that person is bright enough to have changed their name to something
completely different, such as Paul David Gray. On the other hand, it is a known fact that most people are not that original when they make up an alias; they tend to use the same initials. For example, Lucius Esau Noggle might change his name to something more popular like: Larry Edward Nelson. Note that the initials are the same(LEN). Use this tendency to your advantage. For example if you have other verifying information that matches Larry Edward Nelson, such as the exact same birthdate, there is a good chance that you have found Lucius Esau Noggle posing as Larry Edward Nelson. Now dig deeper!

6. Watch out for persons that have a rare first name and a common middle name. Oftentimes, they will adopt their middle name as their first name. So if you are looking for a woman named Agnes Mary Williams, she might hide her rare first name(Agnes) and call herself Mary Williams, telling others that she has no middle name. Or she might make up a popular middle name and call herself something like Mary Elizabeth Williams. You can't get too much more common than that for a female United States citizen.

7. Also keep in mind that there is a black market for phony birth certificates, fake
driver's licenses and forged passports. Many people use the social security numbers of dead people and adopt them as their own. There is nothing new about sham documents, except that now it is very easy obtain fake documentation. You just have to know where to go online. I found a "novelty certifications" site after just a few seconds of searching. This website carefully explains that although the documents will look very realistic, they are indeed fakes. They leave any responsibility for their use up to the buyer. I'm sure there are many other websites just like this one. Now how easy is that?

8. Are you willing to dig and dig and dig until you find who you are looking for? Pretend you are mining for gold. If you give up, it may turn out that you were an inch or two of striking a vein of gold nuggets. Again, ask yourself how much time and money you are willing to spend to find this person. How badly do you need to find this individual? What is it worth to you? Only you can answer these questions.

Best of luck finding the person you are searching for!

For more information, read my criminal background investigation how to blog by clicking below.

John Soares
Do It Yourself Criminal Background Checks Blog
Is Someone Using Your Child's SSN?
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