Find Lost Friends
Lost friends Finder-Below are a selection of cases John has taken-on over the years.
Finding an old friend
One successful reunion we are particularly proud of was tracing a lady not seen by our client since 1966.
Lost Friends Finder case #1
Maureen was a UK ex-pat on an extended two months return home holiday from the USA. She met our client at a local dance-hall and thereafter spent lots of time together during her visit. On her day of departure he offered to drive her to Heathrow airport, but due to heavy traffic, there was no time for a proper farewell moment. Nothing – not even a brief kiss – she just rushed into the terminal building. Amazingly our client told us en-route to the airport he had called the airline twice (public call box) to advise them that he was running late. Amazingly the captain delayed the aircraft’s departure, just for her.
During her holiday they got on so well they had discussed marriage and for sure in the meantime to keep in touch. Sadly this didn’t happen as they both moved home and, of course, things happen when you are young.
However, there was much regret on our client’s behalf because it was him who failed to answer a letter from her. By then he had found a new girlfriend and saw little point. Now he wanted to apologise to her and express regret at the terribly traumatic end to their friendship at Heathrow. He still can’t get over the fact a Boeing 707 was sitting on the tarmac waiting just for her.
The only information our client had was that in 1967 she was living somewhere in Detroit. She had a fairly common Christian name but a lesser-known surname. Numerous searches drew blanks. However, one day after months of combing through the Internet, the breakthrough came. We noticed that there was one lady with the same name but a hyphenated surname. Sure enough, it turned out to be exactly who we were looking for! Today they are both living alone, widow and widower. They have been in touch! We are hoping we have done something special for both of them.
Lost Friends Finder case #2
The almost-impossible task of finding “P” from Finland.
“P” arrived in the UK in approximately 1967 on a summer job working as a live-in helper for a national charity-managed orphanage (Methodist Church).
The information we had to work with was on finding missing people such as::
- A Christian name, which was not her real name. Her work colleagues found it difficult to pronounce her real name, so they gave her a more pronounceable Anglicised name.
- She originated from Helsinki.
- Her father was British and in WW2 served in the British Army.
That’s it? We had no surname and just a UK “nicknamed” Christian name. We needed to establish a surname as a starting point. Below are details of to the campaign we embarked upon.
We contacted the institution where “P” worked but unfortunately, it closed down in the 1980’s. Although they had retained records data protection prevented them from disclosing any information to us. Next, we tried the UK Forums and Workplace, and made contact with a couple who was known to have kept old contacts alive but found no leads. Nobody recalled her and even the Forums in the local and surrounding areas where she was located didn’t recall her. We had zilch!
We thought we would have better luck with the Electoral roll. But of course, “P” would not have qualified, as she was an overseas visitor. So we hit yet another dead end. And the Finland Embassy wouldn’t so much as even acknowledge the four emails we sent them! So we still had no leads.
We connected with a few forums in Helsinki, Finland and explained that our client (an elderly UK gentleman) was seeking to respectfully reunite with an old sweetheart from Finland, whom he met in the UK during the mid-1960s. We received a few replies but understandably they were not very impressed that we possessed neither a surname nor indeed the correct Christian name. The only clear information we had at this stage was approximate dates and the location where “P” worked. Still no tangible leads.
Our next initiative was a bit more unorthodox. We advertised for paid freelancers in Finland to work on Press media, radio, etc. The story we pitched evoked the memories of the magical 1960s – Woodstock, Flower Power, Glastonbury, swinging London. We also included the story of an elderly gentleman who simply had it in his heart to say hello to and thank “P” from Finland for such fond memories.
Eureka! A national newspaper took up the story and it resulted in us finding “P” – now a 67-year-old mum and gran, still living in Helsinki! I guess the moral of this story is the old adage “money talks”. Having said that, the paid researchers liked the story so much, they refused to accept any form of payment.
Lost Friends Finder case #3
We were commissioned by our client to help find the woman who was his childhood mentor and inspiration. She was his “Akela” at a local cubs group, he was one of her cubs and wanted to try and reconnect with her. His wish was simply to say thank you to her for her kindness and to tell her that he still thinks of her, with great affection, 63 years on.
The information we had to work with was:
- Her full maiden name.
- Her address during that time, roundabout 1953.
- The information that her father was a widely known local businessman.
- She had a younger brother and we had his full name.
This was a great start, with much more information than we normally have. Using local Electoral roll archives we were able to find her full name, which included her middle name. Nowadays this would not be an easy task, as many local libraries no longer hold these records. We were even able to source her mum’s maiden name, which would prove helpful later.
We traced both her parent’s place of birth, but alas this was of no help. What we did learn was that both her parents had died in the early 1970s. We then traced a brother showing a listing in St. Neots until 2005, but no listing of him having ever married or any children. We also found no records of “Akela” ever marrying and no links to her mother or father provided any other relatives we could investigate. That effectively meant our search had hit a dead end.
We pressed on and decided to register on a Facebook page relating to the town of her birth. Within an hour we learned she had married a local gentleman around 1961 and later they immigrated to the United States. As we had completed an extensive background search we believed this must be the right person, so we decided to follow this trail.
We then discovered her new surname was not Smith as we thought it was! Using our sources in the USA we found her listed in St. Louis, Missouri and discovered she had been a professor at a nearby university. We were able to corroborate we had the right person as her husband’s Christian name was a match for what we had and they were both listed as British ex-pats. Unfortunately for us they both retired in 2005 and moved without a trace. We tried to contact the university but received no answer.
So once again, a totally cold trail! At this stage, the easiest solution would have been to enlist the services of a local American agency with the reasoning that they would have better local contacts and resources. However, this would have been costly for the client, and we had no guarantee whether they would be reliable or not.
Combing back through our research we recalled a gentleman on Facebook had mentioned that she had an older sister as well, named Judy. We recalled not seeing a listing for the sister appearing on the Electoral roll. The search continued until we eventually found her sister but as experience has taught us, expect surprises. Her Christian name was not Judy or Judith – but Jacqueline! After more research, we concluded that her middle name was, in fact, Judith and she obviously didn’t like it and buried it. Not an unusual scenario but a nightmare for people finders.
We later established the Christian name of Judy’s husband through backtracking and luckily it was an unusual name. There were three possible leads to investigate but thankfully through a process of elimination we were able to narrow it down to just one. He lived some 200 miles away from her place of birth and was now 82 years old.
We sourced a telephone number and made contact with him. He informed us that they were divorced but he remained on good terms with Judy. He kindly gave us the name of the town which she now lives in but that’s all the info he was willing to offer us. Looking up the location of the town, we discovered ironically that it was only a 10-minute drive from where she was born!
Further research revealed that she had remarried but had recently parted from her second husband although she decided to retain his surname. This led us to an address and we finally were able to make contact with “Akela” via her sister. We are delighted to announce our client was finally able to speak to his “Akela” and she is happily living in St. Louis.
Many people are fooled into thinking that it’s easy to trace people since the creation of Facebook. The reality is that without extensive research, perseverance and investigative expertise most cases would never result in finding the individual.
We take pride in the fact that we will never give up searching!
We were tasked to locate a person whom our client had not seen since 1971.
Our client now in his advanced years had never forgotten this individual. He was tremendously grateful for the influence his friend had on his life, especially when setting out to becoming an entrepreneur. He reminded our client of the market traders who used to populate ‘Petticoat Lane’ back in the day. Gruffly barking out orders to his underlings, yet behind that rather gruff external façade, a really nice and kind person.
Our client fondly remembered our missing person treating him rather like a son and he taught our client all the tricks of the trade, often taking him on ‘new deal’ negotiations. The formidable man also invited our client into his home and introduced him to his family. Here is an abridged version of what the client originally wrote to us:
“In the early 1970s, I worked with XXX. When we met I was a young wet-behind-the-ears aspiring property consultant. I had a newly opened office with a partner. In those days it was known as an accommodation agency. I had no previous experience, as prior to that I was a taxi driver.
At that time, XXX was using another agency to handle his property portfolio but wasn’t too happy with them. To cut a long story short, we got on like a house on fire, although a bit like chalk and cheese. I was quiet and lacking in self-confidence, whereas he was bristling with it and possessed a can-do attitude.
It seemed every few minutes he was doing another deal. I can imagine him nowadays having his mobile phone permanently attached to his ear! I can say in all honesty, he was one of the most decent and kind individuals I ever met. He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea with an intimidating bark. But he took to me, I was like his apprentice. Often he would call me and say “I have a deal in XYZ town, want to come along for the ride?” Off we would go in his MGB sports car with the roof down and his trusty smoking pipe gripped between his teeth.
I was also invited a few times to his home where he always seemed to be having tennis lessons in his large garden. Or giving his builder a rollicking! He came to my house as well and my wife also liked him. Sadly, we lost touch due to my parting company with my business partner. Sometime later I heard he had abruptly moved away and was living somewhere on the South Coast. I remember feeling quite sad, as it left a void in my life.
Someone also told me, possible hearsay, that business had taken a nasty turn for him! This I couldn’t get my head around, as to me he was Superman! Anyway, I am now in my 70’s and have never forgotten this amazing inspirational character. I have attempted on a number of occasions to find him, without success.”
Friends Reconnected was commissioned to take up the challenge of finding this formidable man. We were very fortunate to have a full name and a last known location, more than enough information to start a search from. However, sometimes even with this amount of useful information, it can turn out to be of no use at all. It was also brought to our attention that around 1975 our missing gent had left his home plus family and had not been heard of since.
We discovered that back in 1971 our missing person led something of the high-life. A very successful property magnate, he owned a portfolio in excess of 300 houses. His home was in a prestigious location in a very large house with tennis courts and a swimming pool. It is very important when piecing together the probability of “Have we found the right person?” to gather up as much background information as possible, to establish an in-depth profile.
Finding missing people is our mission.
With the information we had gathered, we estimated that he was now in his 80’s. He was raised in the East End of London and attended school during the London blitz era. He was an abrasive tough cookie who was intolerant of fools and sloppiness. In many ways he possessed some mannerisms akin to Alan Sugar, he was also Jewish and a natural in business.
The first breakthrough was made when discovering via his local historic Electoral roll, that his surname actually had only one “L” instead of two. This minor, but crucial detail, had set the client back many years in previous searches.
Setting off on a route of research, it took us to Stepney and Poplar in the 1930s. Along the way we discovered his mother maiden name and marriage date in 1926. A mother’s maiden name is highly valuable information for a people finder.
However, all trails seemed to end in the 70’s and 80’s. There was an absolute myriad of obstacles in this case. Ladies marry and of course, surnames are then changed. There was also divorces and subsequent remarriages and new surnames to contend with. Some were showing on ship passenger listing as emigrating to the USA, Canada and Australia. There were sons and daughters involved (more marriages and more name changes) and all these had to be chased down.
After he ‘upped and went’ the whole family left as well. We traced his ex-wife’s maiden name (in case we needed it) when we subsequently discovered she had remarried and was living in North London. We had an address and phone number so we tried to make contact. But the line was disconnected and she did not respond to our mail.
We found ourselves with a dilemma of having fifty others with the same surname to pursue. Luckily through experience, we were able to substantially reduce the number. However, each one drew a blank. After extensive enquiries, we discovered that he also had two sons. One born in 1959, the other in 1961. Neither of these showed up on any conventional tracing tools. We found one in London but he had moved in 2012 and no sight of him since. The other son was living on the Essex coast but we received no response to our email or phone calls. So, we assumed he had most probably moved.
We discovered a potential cousin who was living in Israel and this was later confirmed through his ex-wife. However, we were left waiting for a response. We then found an Internet listing in Madrid with a similar name. But it had the addition of an extra element, a double-barrelled name. The name was a company he owned but ended in 2011. We followed up the phone number but it was disconnected.
Eventually, we had a success! We tracked him from Spain to the Dominican Republic where sadly he passed away in 2011. Buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave!
Lost Friends Finder case #5
An elderly gentleman age 75 asked us to find his “Vivienne” whom he had not seen since 1964.
“Vivienne” was his old-flame, a lost love, dating back some 54 years. He had personally tried on numerous occasions to find her but without success, this was primarily due to the absence of her surname.
Upon starting our investigation, the only information we had available was:
- Her Christian name.
- The town and road where she lived with her parents in 1964.
- She used to work at a local Coop corner store.
- The name of an old friend “Veronica” from Ireland, who lived close-by in Wood Green.
Although optional our client was more than happy to describe to us his motives for seeking to find his old friend.
“Back in 1964 my friend and I were on a weekend trip down to London. Perchance, we were driving through this particular part of North London en route to the centre, when we observed these two rather attractive shapely young ladies coming out of a coffee bar. Winding the window down we asked for directions, which of course we didn’t need, but it allowed us to ‘chat up’ the ladies. To cut a long story short, we arranged to meet them later that day, which we did and as everyone got along so well we arranged to meet up yet again.
As we were only about 40 miles away it was possible and feasible on a regular basis. However, it was not without setbacks – one being that the car we claimed to be ours, was hired. Unfortunately, the same car was not always available when we needed it! Eventually, I had to own up, luckily “Vivienne” really liked me and her dad was somewhat understanding and didn’t think I was a total cad. Which to be frank, I was.
After some time my friend became bored with her friend and I became more interested in being out with him than with her. I remember letting her down on a number of occasions and eventually one day just never turning up to meet her. Her friend later told me that she was totally devastated as she was really very fond of me, and she wouldn’t let go.
Being young, stupid, arrogant and naïve, this information drove me even further away. Eventually, due to my intransigent attitude, she also moved on. Some five years later by pure chance, I bumped into her at the corner shop where she was working. She certainly did not greet me like a long-lost friend (fair enough) and it was very awkward… That was the last time I saw her.
Over the years I had felt so bad for being so rotten and beastly to her. I wanted to tell her how very sorry I was and to beg her to forgive me. To tell her what a lovely girl she was and that I had been a fool to let her go all those years ago. Moreover, memories of her remained in my heart all those years and I had wondered if she might have felt the same.”
Back in the day, she frequented a Friday night dancehall, held in Barnet above “Burtons” men’s outfitters. She also frequented the Alexander Palace aka Ali Pali as it was affectionately known. We had confirmation that we had the correct year as a starting point because in the same year our client bought his first car a “Ford Anglia” on a B registration plate, 1964. Our first task was to establish “Vivienne’s” surname.
We decided that the best course of action would be to physically revisit the location and precise road. We attempted to do so using Google street view but understandably after all these years, our client wasn’t sure if it was the correct house. Our client decided he wanted to feel and savour the journey to her house, a journey he made by car many times some 53 years ago, and so we drove the exact same route.
Upon arrival with a very excited client, the time-warped images locked away in his memory was evoked. He recognized all the surrounding houses, architecture, the right side position of the front door and a bend in the road just before the house.
With all these details, we were able to find the precise street and an approximation of the house location. To effectively utilise the newly gathered information, another trip was required. We needed lots of patience and more time to purposefully comb through all the reference libraries with archived electoral rolls.
On the trip back, we mulled over the many borough boundary changes that had taken place in Muswell since the 1950s. Haringey, Hornsey, Wood Green, Fortis Green, Barnet. East Finchley! We attempted to call the librarians from the local libraries but unfortunately due to cutbacks they only had a skeleton staff on duty. Tracing people is indeed not an easy task!
After extensive research, we obtained the information we wanted – the elusive surname! We discovered “Vivienne” had a brother and a sister plus duly noted their respective names for potential future use. Obviously, a male surname which never alters, apart from by deed poll, is more beneficial.
Our search took us down a number of false starts, as is often the case in this business. A few of the issues we contended with included incorrect assumptions, poor guesses, ex-directory numbers and names withheld from the voter’s list. Our searches took in the length and breadth of the UK, South of France and ironically back to Muswell Hill where we eventually found her, now a widow aged 74 and sadly living in a residential care home.
They have rekindled their friendship and our client happily visits her virtually every day. They get on really well! It’s now time to pay-back for his foolish behavior all those years ago, says our client.