The simple answer – There are only two ways you can find an old friend. The first is to use a professional agency. The benefit of this is that you can sit back and let the experts find your friend for you. The second way is to do it yourself. This is possible to do, and you might save some money, but you could spend lots of time. This article will go into the advantages and disadvantages of both ways to find an old friend.

In terms of doing it for free, if that is important to you. The answer is yes you can try to do the search for free. We’ll covering finding old friends for free but in truth you would be lucky to get a match this way. Lets look at it later on in the article and the various ways you could find an old friend for free.

So here is what we will cover in the article,

  1. Finding an old friend with a professional service doing the work for you.
  2. Advantages of using a service to find an old friend.
  3. Finding an old friend, yourself.
  4. Websites and techniques to help you find them.
  5. The emotional side of finding your old friend.
  6. Contacting them.
  7. The various outcomes and dealing with each one.

How to find an old friend via an agency/service.

There are many services that can help you find your old friend in the UK and around the world. You can hire researchers and investigators. You can hire agencies and they all do things slightly differently. Of course we would like you to consider our service but this isn’t an advert for what we do. What we can do is give you some ideas of the way we feel a search for an old friend should be done.

When a client comes to us to find an old friend it is usually because they want to contact them about something. It is not usually to send a Christmas card.

The main reasons we are asked to find a lost friend are as follows,

  1. An old partner.

This isn’t an ex-partner or a married partner you wanted to trace to divorce them, that would be a different service we provide and a different article.

This is more about finding a childhood sweetheart or someone you dated many years ago. This is out most popular search regarding finding old friends. It is very common for both men and woman to want to do this search. As we get old we can become nostalgic for the past and want to know how people we cared about are. Many clients enjoy the way we do these searches. We can do them discretely, ethically, and legally.

  • An old Work Colleague

Again, this is popular. We work with many people over the course of our career and some of those people we remember very fondly. Wanting to find an old friend from work is a common search type.

  • Friends you’ve lost touch with.

Life gets in the way sometimes. Its easier now to keep in touch via social media but when you lost touch with a friend 40 years ago when we she 20, chances are she will have married so finding her will be harder.

Regardless of the friendship type our service can find 92% of old friends within 14 days. Our research team will take the information you have about your friend and find them quickly and discreetly. Once they have found them, they’ll report back there findings to you for the next steps.

Next our intermediary team will make discreet contact with your old friend. This is the unique part of our service. It means we can deal with any initial reactions, and we find that your friend will be grateful for the sensitive and discreet approach we make via letter.

Like we said, services do differ. For example, there are services that don’t include the intermediary part of our service. They will find your friend and provide you with their address to make contact yourself. We don’t believe that is fair on you or your friend, so we don’t do that. We’ll talk about possible outcomes and safeguarding later on but if you don’t read any further please give some thought about how you make that all important first contact with your friend.

Over the last 14 or so years we believe that the importance of that first contact means it should be done by a third party and not by the person doing the finding. We believe that gives the best possible chance of a positive outcome.

Here is what to consider if you’re thinking of using a professional service to find your lost friend.

  1. Ensure you carry out your due diligence on any service you are considering.
  2. Make sure any service has good contact details on their website. This like a current trading address and phone number are useful. And make sure you call them, and they answer their phone.
  3. What experience do they have of doing the thing that you want them to do?
  4. Do they have lots of good reviews?
  5. Can you find out how long they have been in business?
  6. Are they just a marketing company?
  7. Do they search in a way that is fair to you and to your old friend?  
  8. Do they offer any support you might need? This could be via regular updates, emotional support, or advice.
  9. Do they just provide you with your friend’s address leaving you how to figure out making contact?  
  10. Have you checked their credentials?

Advantages of using a service to find an old friend

  1. They will do all the research, the contacting and support you.
  2. It is in their interest to get you the best outcome
  3. You don’t need to waste your time looking for them
  4. Agencies who find old friends can do so with only small abouts of information from you. So, you don’t need to worry if you only have a maiden name for example.
  5. They can do the important part which is the contacting of your friend. Ensuring any initial doubts and concerns are dealt with.

How to find an old friend yourself

If you want to find your friend yourself then read on. It is possible but instead of paying a company to do it for you, you will be spending your time (and still some money).

Depending what you know/remember about your friend will depend on where you will start your search.

As we said early searching for an old love is high on our list of requests, so we’ll use that as the example but hopefully regardless of who you are looking for you’ll learn how to find them.

What you should start with is writing down everything you remember about your old friend. Lets do a list of things that will help you find your old friend,

  1. Their name at the time you knew them and if female, their name now as far as you know.
  2. Their age or date of birth. Even an approximate age can help.
  3. Partners name or children’s names. It is easier to find a two people than one.
  4. Work details, hobbies, or interests.

Once you compile this list ideally on your computer, on a note on your phone or in a notebook you can start to build a picture of your friend. You can add to your notes as you go on.

Here is a list of things to do and try, and why and when to try them.

  1. If your friend is female and could have married you can look for marriages on Find My Past. The site is easy to use. Don’t be ordering loads of marriage records you shouldn’t need to and this can become really costly. Instead, just make a note of the possible marriages and the new possible surnames. You can also search by location and date so that can be useful.
  2. We’ll talk about possible outcomes later but for now in terms of searching it can be useful to run these new possible surnames through the death register on Find My Past. If you are looking for a male, then you can do that without any marriage searches.
  3. You can still do the marriage searches for males, it’s good to search for two people and not one.
  4.  If you find an obvious marriage you can look for their children via a birth search.
  5. You can look for a more accurate age for your friend via a birth search.
  6. Once you have some confidence that you have your friends current name, and their age. You can start to look for them.
  7. Facebook is a great place to start, as is LinkedIn if you know what they do or did for a living. You can also use Facebook groups to ask if you know their hobby, let us explain. Facebook has groups about most things. So, for example you could join a group about Scooters if your friend liked Scooters. To find a Facebook group use the search bar, type in Scooters or Ex Pats Thailand as two examples. You’ll soon find the relevant groups. Then ask to join a group. Fill in the small questionnaire and be honest, tell them why you want to join. Once accepted you’ll be able to ask the members of the group if they know your friend. We’ve had some great success with this method.
  8. Other social media can work too so try Twitter and things like YouTube.
  9. At the stage you can also start to look for your friends address via an electoral roll search and the BT White Pages.

The emotional side of finding your friend.

Finding a friend can be emotional so it is good to prepare for that. You could discover that they have passed away or that they don’t want to have contact with you. So, it is a good idea to consider these events before you start your search.

Just a side note on finding they have died. It is really important that you know 100% that you have found your exact friend and not just a name sake. For us as an agency it is a critical search if we find out someone has passed away. We can’t get that wrong when we are passing that to our client so we must double check everything. We would advise you to do the same.

When you are carrying out your own searches there is a possibility that you could get frustrated. Despite the efforts of the article to give you the tools to do a search yourself, the truth is it may not be possible. That doesn’t mean a specialist service wouldn’t be able to help. There are many examples of us being asked to find an old friend when the client has spent years looking. They then doubt us when we find them in a matter of hours. The truth is we have access to better information and do so many searches that frankly, we’ve seen it all before. That allows us to find old friends quickly and effectively. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and frustrated it might be time to call in the experts, whether that is us or another agency only you can decide.

There are other emotions that you can feel. Many of our clients looking for old friends are doing so because their partner may have recently passed away. That leads to them thinking back over there life and feeling fearful that maybe the best is behind them. It’s natural to them think about a friend from the past and want to meet back up. That’s why sometimes with old friend searches that can be just as much emotion as with a birth relative search.

So just have a think before you start about the potential for emotion in your own search.

If you feel you are moving from feeling emotional to a state where you feel you cannot cope them, please seek medical help and in an emergency call 999.

Contacting an old friend

Once the search is done by you or by us or by someone else, its time to think about contacting your old friend. 

You will find tracing companies in the UK who will be happy to supply you with the address of your old friend, no questions asked. We are not one of them We feel that anyone who is found should be able to digest the news of your contact and feel emotionally supported. We find that by doing this we get the best possible outcome for our clients. More on outcomes later.

By contacting your old friend, we can make sure,

  1. Your friend is emotionally in a good place and ready for your contact. By ensuring it is a good time for them is greeted with such positively and makes a huge difference to ongoing communication. Trust us the tip is worth its weight in gold.
  2. They want contact and don’t need to discuss it with anyone else.
  3. That they are prepared for your contact and would welcome it.

At this stage if its an old flame (sorry that might not be a good term to use but you get the drift) and we find out they are still married, some clients decide not to make contact with their friend. The search is done discreetly so you can move forward with your pride in tact and no harm done to your old friend. A lot of times that is not the case so don’t feel too disheartened and the truth is we just don’t know until we (or you, or another agency) have a look.

In terms of contacting your friend. As we have implied, we don’t think you knocking on the door is a good idea. Maybe it is but why take the chance?

Its best to make a much less dramatic approach.

In our opinion when contacting an old friend, it is best to do the following,

We write a letter. It is simple but very effective. It is best to keep any correspondence short. The initial letter is not the catch-up letter. It confirms that they are the correct person beyond all doubt and it lets them know that you are looking for them. It works great and is always commented on by anyone who receives a letter from us.

The letter is really just to get them on the phone or provide them with an email address. So, it is obviously important to put some contact details in. We would never recommend putting your address in the letter. When we write to people, we wouldn’t even put your name in the letter. WE would just ask them to call us to discuss.

Potential outcomes

Make sure you prepare yourself for the various outcomes of posting your letter. We’d do that with you but if you’re flying solo with your search and contact this is important. If you have someone you can talk to about it that would be good.

So, what are the outcomes?

  1. Your friend doesn’t respond.
  2. Your friend responds and doesn’t want contact.
  3. Your friend responds and does want contact. – Take it slowly and calmly.
  4. They don’t want to do it now.

When you send your letter you must give people time. We have a process that involves sending more than one letter. Each letter gives a bit more information if they don’t respond to the first letter. We still wait 28 days between letters, and we send them recorded delivery.

So, what in next for you in your journey to find your old friend?

Are you looking for a service? So if you are we’d love to tell you more about our work and tell you more about what we do and how we do it. If you were looking for information about tracing a friend yourself then I hope this article has been of use to you.

If you would like to know anything else feel free to contact us our details are on the website.

Thank you for reading how to find an old friend.