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Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat

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Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat

This story is one for the books. It will warm your heart with a little bit of intrigue, some adversity, a splash of confusion, and a lot of perseverance. So, if you are ready for a good story, settle in and read on.

A promising case from the mid-70s

A fine elderly gentleman in his 70s contacted us in search of his lost sweetheart. They had fallen in love in the 1970s and had not seen each other since 1976.

Initially, it looked very promising as we had rather excellent information on her: we knew she hailed from a well-known city in Yorkshire; we had her full maiden name; we had her address where she lived in 1967 (as well as a picture of the house), and there were links to some of her local social activities and interests, like the local theatre. These are all very helpful information when tracing someone.

It is crucial to know, though, that we never approach a case presuming it is easy to solve. Being overconfident or having a blasé attitude can come back to “bite us on the backside”, as our head researcher John likes to remind us.

Forging happily ahead

Armed with the needed information, we happily took the case and started the process. This is usually how the process goes:

First, we started tracing her birth record since we had her full name.

This is a crucial step in finding someone and can be tricky sometimes. What if the person’s surname is Smith? Or full name is John Smith? Likewise, if we are lucky, we find that the person still lives in the town where they were born and met their ex-sweetheart. If not, our work becomes much more complicated.

Second, we established if there were or still are any siblings. If there are, and they are willing to talk, that is great.

Third, we had to narrow it down further by searching the entire country for all birth entries with her name and around the year of birth (1945-1949).

In this case, we got lucky and found that there was only one person who fitted with the town and year of birth. It is starting to sound like fate, yes? If you are not convinced, how about this: she married in her hometown in 1979 and still lived there. 

We were somewhat concerned that the information was outdated; this, unfortunately, happens more than anyone would like. She also could have had a divorce, and the paperwork got lost; she could have changed her name, or she could have moved, and there could be no record of this.

However, on this occasion, none of the above happened. Everything fell into place, even with a current address. We also had a telephone number. Fate!

We gave our client the information, informed him that his Trace A Person instruction was concluded, and closed the case smiling.

Trouble’s always near

Two weeks later, he called us and said it was not her. Unbelievable! We offered a 50% refund, but he waived it and opted for us to carry on instead. For a month, we searched, researched, asked questions, and contacted anyone we could think of who might have answers – but we made no progress. The only angle left was contacting estate agents who worked in her hometown in the 70s. It also occurred to us that she might have been a tenant rather than the homeowner.

Our chief researcher John contacted the local reference library and requested a search of the archive electoral rolls between 76-79.


The search paid off, as we finally found her! The Christian name our client knew her under was showing as her given middle name. Conversely, the middle name was the assumed first Christian name she decided to use. According to John, this happened a lot during the 1960s, as kids often felt that their parents gave them a “bad hand” in life because of their Christian name.

What also muddled the initial trace was that we had an incorrectly spelt surname. Frustratingly, one single letter variance in the spelling of her surname screwed the whole thing up. Her chosen versions, although very rare, were not totally unknown.

While we are very proud of our work, our client, Peter, is the real hero. He refused to give up and thus found his lost love after 50 years. He was finally able to call her and arrange a meeting. Luckily, she did still live in her hometown!

A word from Peter

“What a seesaw journey of highs and lows! What can I say? John, you are indeed the most amazing people tracer ever to walk this earth. And to think, you are also the same age as me, 75! Cheers!”

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