Ever felt the need to reunite with a high school buddy you last saw ten, thirty, or even fifty years ago? How do you begin the search with limited information when all you have is a name, and in some instances, only the first name?
It would be great to catch up with a friend from the past. However, seeking out a long-lost friend from high school can be like solving a daunting puzzle. Thankfully, there are a lot of free and paid resources or services to help you locate friends you haven’t seen in a while.
Several online and offline search tools can help you find old friends. However, before commencing a search, you must gather relevant details, including their full names, nicknames, dates of birth, last known addresses, past phone numbers, married names, family members, previous employers, personal interests and hobbies, mutual friends, and professional ambitions.
Most offline searches aid your ability to find friends faster using online resources. While offline and online search tools are usually free, you might have to pay a fee to use certain online directories. The following are available tools to help you find old high school friends:
A yearbook is a school’s memory book containing the full name of all graduating students. Going through a yearbook is a good way to get your friend’s full name. A letter or postcard may include the address and aliases of your friend. These sources may contain information, including your friend’s full name, nickname, or last known location, which you may then use to conduct an online search.
If you have the email address, cell phone number, place of employment, or address of your former high school friend, you can consider calling, emailing, or paying a visit. The chance that they still live or work at that address after so many years, or use the same cell number, may be pretty slim. However, there is the possibility that the new homeowners or previous employers may be able to provide you with updated information about your friend.
Most high schools have an official online alumni association that shares photos, class directories, reunion details, and other information about members. To find a long-lost high school friend, consider registering with your alumni association for access to their directory. If your friend is also a member, you can send a message using their registered contact details. Also, you might be able to connect with someone who can help to contact the person if the person is not a member.
You can find old friends by accessing official government public records, including voter registration, court, or marriage records. Many of these records are public records available online via your state or county website. For states without access to online records, you may visit the county office to do a physical search for public records that may contain your friend’s details.
Typing in the name of your high school friend using an online search tool like Google or Bing might get you the information you need. You can easily filter through the search results to find which ones match your friend’s information. However, you should note that filtering might be difficult if your friend has a common name. In this case, adding more information than a name might help narrow the search.
In addition to a name search, you can use Google’s reverse image search if you have a photograph. A reverse image search will show results that contain that particular picture and other similar images.
You can search for your long-lost high school friend on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media platforms. Facebook allows you to search using the person's name. You can take the search further by narrowing results using details such as your friend’s school, city of residence, or employment information. You can also search groups and pages associated with the person’s name.
Using the name of their school or workplace, you can further your search via LinkedIn since many schools and organizations have groups for their members on the platform. If your friend registers on the platform, the search will turn up some information you can use to contact them. However, remember that LinkedIn may only provide professional information.
Although not so popular for older folks, there is also the option of Twitter or Instagram. These social media platforms have search tools where you can input names or email addresses for desired results.
Online directories are websites that collect public information from online sources and aggregate them into a repository. A search with the full name of your high school friend would produce all persons bearing the same name, their aliases, approximate ages, past and present home addresses, and possible relatives. Some aggregators offer paid services that provide additional information, including criminal records, email addresses, social media accounts, court records, marriage records, and real estate listings.
After successfully obtaining information on where your friend lives and how to contact them, it is important to be careful how you reach out. You must consider the possibility that your friend's personality may have changed over the years, and they may not be in the same mental space as you. Therefore, ensure that your approach is cautious.
It is best to take things slowly and possibly lower your expectations. Start with an introductory phone call, message, or email, identifying yourself and recalling fond memories. If you are reconnecting on social media, you can chat when they are online. Depending on their response, you can invite your high school friend to catch up at a neutral place like a coffee shop.
The outcome of this first meet-up should tell you whether to continue pursuing the friendship or let it cool off. Following a successful in-person meeting, you can then plan a fun event with other mutual friends. The relaxed atmosphere usually removes any pressure or reservation from either party.
Sometimes, you might be unable to find a high school friend if they are deceased. You can confirm this by visiting the vital record department in the county or state you think they passed. Also, there are free web search tools you can use to verify if an individual is deceased.
If your search still comes up short, you can hire the services of a private investigator. A private investigator is a professional that specializes in finding people and locating information that may be otherwise hard to find. Licensed private investigators have access to a wealth of information not available to the public. However, most private investigators charge a fee for their service.
Looking for a friend you saw decades ago can be time-consuming, frustrating, and costly. However, it could be rewarding if successful. Reconnecting with your friend you last saw during high school can help relieve happy memories, give you a new perspective of your past and present, explore your roots, and help with your mental health.