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Are you looking for lost friends or relations online ?

The internet is an ideal tool for reconnecting with people you thought you would never see again. All the data ever published online is stored somewhere, and retrievable through search engines if you know what you are looking for – provided that the owners of this data have not put a block on it, so you can in theory start your search by simply typing the name of the person you want to find…

In practice things aren’t quite as easy as all that – because of all that data floating around, you need to know what tools to use to narrow down your search.

And the first one? Facebook, of course!  Be aware though that as fewer seniors have Facebook pages, your search is only likely to work if you are looking for someone in the young to upper middle age bracket. Simply type the name and look at the Facebook accounts your search returns – many people have pictures posted on their Facebook pages so you can see if it’s the person you are looking for quickly.

If Facebook yields no results, you can always try the 192 people finder. You will need to know the name of the person you are looking for, plus his or her current location. So it’s more for specific searches, where you have perhaps recently lost touch with someone and want to take up the threads of the relationship again.

Be aware that many online services offering to help you find lost friends and relatives require payment before you can get down to any meaningful information.

Fortunately more altruism is evident when you instigate a search for missing family members – specifically people who have run away, or who have separated themselves from the family with some kind of problem. The Red Cross offers a family member search facility, in which you fill out a form and arrange an appointment at your nearest Red Cross office to get the search up and running.

Missing People provides a similar search facility and is also an excellent resource for anyone who needs help and support during the difficult period of familial or friend’s absence. In essence it’s a combined forum, advice centre and nationwide message board, with anonymity guaranteed to all users if they request it.

If you’re looking for someone with a specific connection, for example a fellow veteran or service person, your best bet is to start your search using the organisation to which you both belonged. For military searches, that means starting with the Corps or service arm your friend or relative served in. Or you can use a free online search engine like Veterans UK, which contains a wealth of information and links that may be useful in your search.

Finding someone you’ve lost touch with has never been easier than it is in the digital age. But you still need to exercise caution. Don’t give your credit card details or any financial information unnecessarily to paid sites when you can take advantage of any number of good free ones, including the options listed above.

In this  online guide for grandparents and for more information on the internet and family problems, Ask Granny.