I belong to a worldwide Facebook group where droves of people try to search for childhood friends they haven’t seen in half a century. And as is often the case, the person they’re looking for has long since married, divorced, changed names, or relocated.
Worse, after 50 years of post partum, they may not even remember the exact spelling of the person’s name. Was their childhood crush on Allen Greenspan? Or was it Alan Greenspan?
And while we’re on the subject of finding lost friends, what about your ex BFF Mary Jane? Yes, the 6th grade prep school pal of yours who in 1966 you made paper doilies with. (The same one who swore on her mother’s grave that she would never, ever leave you…until of course, she and her beatnik boyfriend ran away to that hippie commune in Botswana.) So how are you ever going to find her?
The answer of course is FACEBOOK. With almost three billion accounts, chances are she has a Facebook page. Or, at the very least, she went to a school or worked for a company that still has one.
And this means when looking for someone, that you can either contact them directly. Or post on their old company page, their school alumni page or the page of one of their ex classmates. Yes, where time once used to be your oldest enemy, now suddenly time is your closest friend!
You simply make your posts, and let Google and Facebook do all the work to promote your query throughout the Internet. Sooner or later, your friend or one of her classmates may see your request (even when Googling for something else) and then reach out to you. All you have to do is sit back and wait! Chances are you won’t be waiting long, especially if the Facebook account is active with lots of followers.
Googling To Get Facebook Accounts
Facebook is great because you can reach an old friend without ever knowing their current phone number or email address. But Facebook is also so vast that most searches result in overkill.
Unless you’re looking for a rare name like “Fennan Nucleoplast” or “Biswol Apocalypse”, chances are you’ll be inundated with people of the same name, who in poor taste, subject you to profile photos of their dogs, their cats, their dolphins and the pets of their dolphins. This is a cardinal sin worthy of punishment. A Facebook profile should show the human face of the profile owner. There’s no need to clutter the Internet with pics of your favorite mongoose.
But fret not. This is where Google comes in. Facebook has so many bells and whistles (ways to search for people) but most of them don’t work well. Indeed, half the bells don’t ring, and most of the whistles blow silently. So don’t be married to Facebook groups or Facebook filters. But if you must use these, check out my blog Quickly Find Old Classmates and Alumni Through Facebook, Classmates.com, Linkedin and Google.
Benefits of Using Google To Search within Facebook
- Google will suggest other spellings of the name
- You can search by a range e.g. 1983 ..1987
- You can refine your Facebook hits with other words
- You can set Google to 100 hits per page for quick viewing
- You can view the Google Cache to see an old Facebook page that has recently changed (no longer shows what you’re looking for).
- You can narrow results with quotes around phrases (if it’s likely the only way the term will appear). Note that putting quotes around “Stuyvesant H.S.” may not give you the same results as “Stuyvesant High School” (So experiment with both.)
For the UK (and other places where the schools often have long names) consider not using “” around the school name at all. Instead try various searches of how your ex classmates may refer to the school. For example: The Shropshire School for Infants and Wayward Boys and Girls in Nottingham could appear as the “Shropshire school”, or “the Shropshire school for infants”, or “the Shropshire school in Nottingham.”
Examples of Google Searches within Facebook
The goal is to:
1. Find your friends directly, or
2. Find an alumni page of their school where people look for old classmates, or
3. Find postings by their former classmates. Even classmates from nearly the same school year will do. And don’t forget to check out their friends list. Your subject could be listed there, or you could find other classmates with the same surname. (Perhaps one of their siblings or cousins?)
|Clickable Search Term
|What It Finds
“stuyvesant high school” site:facebook.com
|Gets all references to this school on Facebook. Can do a separate search using “Stuyvesant HS” But for more targeted hits, add the terms in the columns below. To do your own Google search, just click on the ready made search links in the left column. When you see the Google search box, change to your own school, and then add the desired years you want to search for. But always be sure to keep the exact same format.
|“stuyvesant high school” alumni OR reunion site:facebook.com
|Same as above but targets alumni or reunions.
|“stuyvesant high school” 1987..1991 site:facebook.com
|Finds exact references to the school along with any mention of the years 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991.
|“stuyvesant high school” “Manhattan”1987..1991 site:facebook.com
|Same as above but also mentions a city or locale just in case several schools have the same name.
|“stuyvesant high school” “william chen” site:facebook.com
|Targets all Facebook references to the school and this particular name. This is usually a long shot but sometimes it works.
|“stuyvesant high school” “william chen” “wrestling” site:facebook.com
|Adds another key word like a sport-don’t bother unless too many results from the search above.
Searching For Relatives Who Attended The Same School
For uncommon last names, you can also search the Facebook profiles of their brothers, sisters and cousins who have the same surname: These people may list your old classmate as a friend or can at least put you in touch with them.
Say for example, that you can’t find Graham Firestone at Stuyvesant HS. Then why not broaden your search for his relatives who went to the same school at about the same time? For example, a last name search of all Facebook entries that refer to this school and firestone. e.g. “stuyvesant high school” “firestone” site:facebook.com
This can also be used for common last names where you get lots of hits. Simply refine your search to the approximate time period when your classmate attended. To capture younger and older relatives, make the range slightly more than the 4 years in which most people graduate. See below. “stuyvesant high school” “firestone” 1968..1975 site:facebook.com
Other Blogs on Background Checks