Directories Of Lost Souls

How Chris Barry uses the Net to track down missing persons.

Last April found Chris Barry desperately seeking a former coworker. As database manager for Susan Flesher & Associates, an executive search firm in Los Altos, California, Barry, 50, is responsible for tracking down candidates for high-tech public relations positions. Intuit needed a new director of public relations, and Barry thought she knew the perfect candidate -- but couldn't find her. The woman had moved to another city, where she had started her own agency in her home. Here's how Barry uses the Net to track down missing persons:

Step One

Barry logs onto WhoWhere and enters the person's full name and state in the "Phone & Address" section, which searches 80 million residential listings. She never enters a city, because her quarry could work in one city but live in another. This makes sorting through the results a bit trying: a search for "Mary Brown" (client privilege prevents Barry from divulging the candidate's name) in California brought up 104 Mary Browns, each one complete with middle initial, address, and phone number. Barry scrolls through the addresses to check whether any of them seem promising.

Step Two

If she doesn't find her quarry there, she turns to WhoWhere's "Email Addresses" section and enters the person's full name. This is especially useful when Barry is tracking a married woman who's changed her name. Unlike phone numbers, email addresses are less likely to be listed under the husband's name. WhoWhere's search through 11 million addresses delivered 90 Mary Browns, each with an email address and some with city names. This is where Barry found the Intuit candidate; she then sent her an email to reestablish contact and initiate discussions.

Step Three

If she doesn't find someone through an email address, Barry clicks on WhoWhere's "Advanced Search" button at the bottom of the email search results (also available through the "Communities" button on the main page). This allows her to search by location, school, personal interests, or group affiliations.

Step Four

If WhoWhere comes up empty, Barry moves on to such sites as Four11 and American Directory Assistance and goes through the cycle again. The key, she says, is to "triangulate" your search -- to home in on your target from several directions.

Coordinates: WhoWhere, http://www.whowhere.com ; Four11, http://www.four11.com ; American Directory Assistance, http://www.lookupusa.com .

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