Tips for Finding a Lost Friend or Relative

Is there someone in your life with whom you would like to reconnect? Troy Dunn, otherwise known as The Locator, is a professional people finder who helps find missing parents, siblings and long-lost friends. He and Dr. Phil share tips for conducting a search of your own.

Start the search now.

If you don't start your search soon, you may regret it. Troy explains that he meets many people who have thought about searching for a loved one for a long time, and sometimes it's too late. "I have to find their loved one and tell them, 'I'm sorry. They passed away three months ago. You just missed them,'" he says.  

Start where you stopped.

"People try to outthink the situation too much," Troy says. Start looking for the person at the place you last knew them. If the person you're looking for was your high school sweetheart, start looking at your high school. The same applies if this person was a co-worker or church friend.

Keep your privacy.
"There are some evil people in the world who exploit the needs and wants of others," Troy says. "Too many people, in their desperation to find people, will get online and tell their whole life story and name everything about their lives, and there are people who are predatory and will take that and pretend to be the person you're looking for and exploit you." To avoid being taken advantage of, post minimal information about yourself. Another tactic is to hold back a few facts about the person you are looking for, so if a person comes forward claiming to know the missing, you can test him or her.

Be discreet.
Respect the privacy of the person you are seeking. He or she may not have told family and friends about the situation. "Sometimes, reentering somebody's life is like the [Space] Shuttle reentering the atmosphere," Troy says. "If you don't come in at the right speed, you can burn up."

Once you reunite, take it slowly.
Allow your long-lost friend or loved one the time he or she needs to adjust to the reality of the situation. Ease into his or her life. "I think it's so important that people realize there are two points of view," Dr. Phil says. "When your phone rings and somebody says, 'I'm somebody from your past, and I want to come back into your life,' you need to respect their life and their rights to put up fence lines and put up boundaries. If you come into it with a sense of entitlement, if you come into it with expectations that they're just going to shut their life down and put you in the center place, you're setting yourself up for failure. You have to let these relationships get traction and start to move on their own. I think the hardest thing for people is managing expectations."

Troy's Three Quick Tips:

1) When looking for a woman, it is best to find the closest male relative to her: a brother, an uncle, a father. 

2) The best research is always using someone who has passed away, since they leave a death certificate. Drop back one generation and use genealogy to come forward. “Dead people are my best investigators,” Troy says.

3) Never lose faith that someone can be found. "No matter how many years it's been, everybody is findable," he says.

Troy's book, Family: The Good F Word, is available through Bird Street Books. Click here for more. (Bird Street Books is owned by Dr. Phil's son, Jay McGraw.)

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