Tracing people in the United States can be a lengthy and time consuming process. Many records, such as those held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, are protected by the Privacy Act and cannot be divulged to third parties. However, the Internet has made many other resources much more freely accessible.
For information relating specifically to locating military personnel in the U.S. see Tracing Military Personnel in the U.S.
One of the quickest and easiest ways of establishing contact with an individual is via their telephone listing. Some public reference libraries now hold U.S. telephone directories on CD-ROM and there are many internet websites providing access to phone listings. A number of these are to be found on Yahoo! However, it is worth remembering that many private individuals in the U.S. choose to be ex-directory.
Telephone directories can also be used to access lists of particular types of companies or services. For example, it would be possible to obtain a list of detective agencies in a particular location.
There is no central repository of birth, death and marriage records in the United States. These records are filed at state level and, in some cases, at an even more local level. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has produced Where to Write for Vital Records, a useful guide to these sources. Ancestry.com’s Social Security Death Index is generated from the U.S. Social Security Administration’s Death Master File. It indexes the records of deceased persons who possessed Social Security numbers and whose death had been reported to the SSA. In most cases a report of death was made in connection with Social Security death benefits. Where available the complete record may be ordered on payment of a fee.
The following organizations may be able to assist in cases of sufficiently compelling humanitarian need, and where the missing person is a close relative:
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies lists contact information and web addresses of societies worldwide.)
The Salvation Army’s Family Tracing Service exists for the purpose of trying to restore (or to sustain) family relationships, by locating relatives who for whatever reason have become out of touch.
Adoptees’ Liberty Movement operates a registry databank designed to match adopted children with their natural parents.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Through its Family History Resources the Church offers advice to those undertaking family history research. There are over 2,400 Family History Centers worldwide including quite a number in the U.K. Most are located in meetinghouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here you can find census returns, wills, church records, etc for most parts of the world. In addition, you can consult the International Genealogical Index (IGI) and the Ancestral File. The IGI is a worldwide index of approximately 187 million names of deceased persons. Searches can also be made on-line through the Familysearch.org website. The Index does not contain records of living persons. The Ancestral File contains genealogical data on millions of individuals from many countries, including information on names, dates and places of birth, marriage and death. Most of the information on the File concerns deceased persons. The File also contains names and addresses of persons who have submitted information, and this information is up-dated periodically.
It may be worthwhile contacting newspapers or local radio stations in the area where the missing person was last known to live. General information on obtaining or contacting U.S. Publications is available on the Ready Reference section of this website. Radio stations can be located via Radio-Locator (formerly the MIT List of Radio Stations on the Internet).