How to Find "Whatsername" After All These Years?

Written by: Tom Hilton. Posted: May 06, 2020. 



Peter Paul and Mary had a hit single decades ago called “Whats-her-name.” The chorus goes: “I wonder whatever happened to whatshername.” 

Your PC might help you find not only whatshername, but also whatshisname too.


For example: Dennis

I hadn’t seen Dennis in 50 years. We grew up as toddlers, and I always liked him, but I went to a private prep school in downtown Chicago, and he went to the local public school in the burbs. Our moms were close and kept in touch. Well, he and his folks moved to Florida in the late 60s, and my folks returned to Florida after raising me in the Chicago area in the early 70s. By 1970, I was in Navy flight school, and our paths diverged.

When mom passed away in 2015, going through her things, out fell a card with Dennis’ late mom’s address in Fort Myers. I thought; Whatever happened to Dennis?


Fort Myers Florida.

I knew Dennis was in Real Estate. I Googled: realtor, his last name, AND “Fort Myers Florida” (the quotes instruct the browser to look for all the words at once together). There it was.

I emailed the company, Dennis responded. We became Facebook friends to keep up with changes in our lives, we got together with him and his wife last year, and we continue to exchange Facebook comments and emails weekly. Nice to reconnect after 50 years!


Dennis was Easy.

As I keep the class directory for my prep school, I am always on the lookout for missing classmates. One day I decided to hunt for John Brown (not his real name).

I Googled and got hundreds of hits. Too common a name. There were a dozen or so in Illinois, so I thought to search for "John Brown" AND Illinois.

One site listed names by age (we were all the same age), and bingo! There he was. But, I only got his home town – no contact information. Next, I added the home town to the search terms, and found a business with that name. I Googled the business and the town, and there was the owner – John Brown.

I emailed the business, got his reply, added his contact info to my mailing list, and with a few emails – we got caught up.


Gets Harder as We Age

Now admittedly, searches can be much harder as we age.

Unless the person owned a business, was a university professor, politician, Rotary past president - something to get his/her name into the news, it can take many hours of sifting through hundreds of search results and still find nothing.

Sadly, it is possible that the person is dead. So, after a few searches, I search for: "Joe Smith" AND obituary.  If no or too many results are found, I add the last known city. Too often, I find that Joe’s address is on boot hill.

However, about half the time, it is not Joe who died but his father Joe or uncle Joe, and in the online Obituary I read: “… and Mr. Smith is survived by his wife Martha of 53 years, and his son Joe who lives in St. Louis.”

A quick Google for "Joe Smith" AND "St. Louis," and I found somebody with that name and approximate age at 123 Center Street. So, I Google: [who lives at 123 Center Street, St. Louis, MO] another site tells me the name, which I knew, but also the telephone number, which I did not know.

Ring-Ring – “Hello Joe, this is your old buddy Tom!”

The point of these examples is to show that adding terms to your search like age, profession, last-known employer, last-known city, military service branch can often narrow your search.  Don't be surprised if you get results for Facebook, LinkedIn (like Facebook for business contacts), Twitter, or other social media sites.  Facebook and LinkedIn often include photos and enable messaging the person, such as "Hi, are you the Terry Brown who went to Green Street Kindergarten with me, Jud Quakenbush?"   


Be Cautious

It is worth reminding readers not to divulge too much in first contacts - they might not be the person you are looking for. 

Be brief and to the point. Also, keep in mind that some people do not want to be found, and some people are people you might not wish to find. After I friended my old boyhood pal Dennis who I mentioned above, he was friends with another kid from the neighborhood.  Sammy invited me to friend him. 

Before deciding to accept, I clicked on Sammy's Facebook page.  There he was, 65 years old, gray ponytail down his back, handlebar mustache, astride a big Harley Davidson motorcycle.  His background information asserted that he was the manager of the "raunchiest biker bar in Chicago." 

We clearly had too little in common anymore to warrant a reunion, so I passed.

There are some paysites that will surely pop up in your searches.  They sometimes can provide a lot of personal information about a person you are searching for but be sure it is the target person.  The decision to pay is a personal one, and it might not produce much useful contact information. 

The next time you are thinking about whatever happened to... Joe or Alice, why not hop on the computer and start sleuthing?

It might take a lot of trial and error, but with persistence, you will likely discover new search strategies, and find out whatever happened to whatshername.  


Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

View the Series


An Internet Enabled Life

Having used technology all my working life, and now being retired, I notice that many of my peers are missing out on some of the benefits that come with appropriate use of the latest technology.

In this first of a series of articles, I start by just describing my Internet-enabled life. In other parts of the series, we offer essays describing a myriad of ways the Internet can enrich your day. I want to get you “hooked” to the Internet.



Discuss, Comment, Ask Questions


Key words: 
finding old friends

Last Updated: July 23, 2020.

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