Peacenet Balkans Desk

Searching for People: Introduction

Online Databases Introduction to Online People-Finding: On these pages are collected links to sites that may be useful in searching for friends and relatives lost in the various Balkans wars. We will attempt to update the page frequently, and give some indication of the relative usefulness of each resource. This page is primarily for the use of those who seek some guidance in organizing their online searching. But also there are suggestions for netizens who wish to volunteer a little help to searchers, and a request for more input from the online community.

Since the onset of the Kosovo-refugee crisis, a number of independent grassroots efforts to use the internet to help people search for missing friends and relatives have sprung up, and these new (1999) efforts are more sophisticated than those first efforts done during the war in Bosnia. Still, using the nets to search for missing friends and relatives is a tedious, uncertain business, requiring looking through a lot of unrelated places on the Internet, and perhaps posting requests to a number of mailing lists or newsgroups.

There are several different search mechanisms, each requiring a different technique.

Mailing Lists
Books, Yellow Pages
Search Engines
Other Resources
Individual netters
can help
Your Suggestions
Online Databases: Names of displaced and lost people are entered into these, and you (the searcher), looks through them in hopes that the person(s) you are looking for are amongst those that have been entered. But also, in many of these, you can also enter your name and contact information, in the hope that someone for whom you are looking is also looking for you, and will come across your name in the database.

How often to revisit a particular database is a matter of experience; after a few times you will get an idea of how frequently you should return to any one. Each database is organized a little differently, and each has its own labor-saving tricks. Learning the peculiarities of the databases you use may seem tedious, but it will save time in the end. Current list of databases


Newsgroups and Mailing Lists: These are mainly places to send requests for individual help to pursue a search where you believe the person for whom you are searching may be living. Readers of the mailing list or newsgroup will be more inclined to help you out the more specific your request is. Before posting to a newsgroup or mailing list, it's wise to "lurk" in it for a while (read the traffic, without posting yourself), to get an idea of how useful a request for help would actually be.  (Current list in preparation)


Online Address Books and Yellow Pages: These are probably the least useful resource, as they go out of date quickly and are difficult to update. Nonetheless, if you believe the person you are searching for is living in a particular city, an online address book may point you to netters who will be able to help you by looking in a local phone book, or perhaps make inquiries at local refugee organizations.  Current list


Search Engines: The usual online search engines may help, by allowing you to find a refugee- or other public-service organization in a city where you believe the person you are looking for might be. Most everyone has his/her favorite search engine. If you don't know where to start, try MetaCrawler.


Individual netters can help: Searching the missing-persons databases is a first step in looking for someone lost in the Balkans wars. However, sometimes a searcher narrows his/her search down to a distant city or region, but then has no way to actually go there to continue his/her search. In such cases, a resident of that region who happens to be online can often help out, if only by taking the time to look through an up-to-date telephone directory in response to a request. If you want to make yourself available for such occasional help, please send us your name, email address, and the city/region whose telephone book(s) you have access to. Also let us know if we can list your information here.

Another way that netters can help is by publicizing this site and the online databases to refugee and emigre groups in their area, so that more names can be input to the databases and more people will take advantage of these resources. Many refugees, particularly older people finding themselves in unfamiliar countries, are not too comfortable with the internet, and netters can volunteer to help them out.


Other Resources and Your Suggestions: If you discover or develop an online method of searching beyond those discussed above, please let us know about it! Also, if you come across databases, etc., not listed here, please send its URL to us, so that we may include it. A good place to discuss missing- persons work in general is the zamir-chat-list mailing list.


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M.P. Site est. 18 Apr 1999
Last rev. 5 Sep 1999