A year ago in early March, I inquired on Facebook if anyone had heard about plans for my class’s fiftieth high school reunion this year. No one knew anything, but two days later, I received an email through www.Classmates.com announcing the date of the reunion: September 6, 2014.
I volunteered to try to account for all of our 600+ class members. This was a particularly challenging undertaking because I started from scratch.
The school was less than helpful. We gave the office the details, but when another classmate called to ask if they had any information about the reunion, she was told the school knew nothing.
Several months later, I talked to the gal who had kept the school’s alumni records for years. When she retired a few years ago, another person took over. When that person died, apparently all the data was lost.
Different people had organized the previous reunions, so we had no continuity within the class itself.
I began with the school’s 1995 directory of the alumni from all classes in the school’s history. They create a new one every ten years, but I didn’t get the 2005 one. In the back, I found a list of the graduates in our class. So I took the first half, Larry took the rest, and we created an Excel spreadsheet. (I couldn’t have done any of this without his support!)
Next, I went through the books we’d received from past reunions, starting with the most recent, and entered the information they contained working from the latest backward. (I had only attended the ten-year and the twenty-year ones, but I had purchased the books from the others.)
My brother had borrowed my annuals previously, so a few weeks later I got them back. In the front was pure gold: our graduation program. It contained everyone’s middle names. This allowed us to narrow down the possibilities.
By this time, several people had volunteered to make phone calls, and a couple of others said they’d help locate people. After I received new data, I entered it and sent out the updated spreadsheet.
As we contacted people, starting with those we knew. We asked for and received information on others, and they were added to the database.
But what about the rest? Fortunately, I already had an account with www.Ancestry.com for my own family research. That helped a lot with the gals. I tracked some of them through four or more marriages, but I was usually able to find their current names and then look them up.
Where? www.Whitepages.com was a good source. So was www.Spokeo.com. I paid to join the latter because their listings showed email addresses. (Many of them were wrong, including my own, but we contacted a few this way.) Another of our ‘sleuths’ used www.Anywho.com. I finally subscribed to www.BeenVerified.com because it allowed me to search by age. It also showed the addresses from most recent to oldest. This and Ancestry were the best sources I found. (Keep in mind, we only used public records. We had no access to any hidden private information.)
I already had a paid account with www.EmailFinder.com. I sent many, many requests through this site, and some were responded to.
A month or so into our search, the gal who had helped organize our last reunion contacted us. That one combined four classes. An outside company did the planning, and she still had their contact list for our class, which she provided to us. It contained some helpful data, but even by that time, we were aware they had many names, addresses, and other information completely wrong.
Unfortunately, we also discovered that many of our classmates had died in the intervening years. As of today, ninety-three of them. We created a website for our class (www.ahs64-alumni.com) including a page devoted to those who have passed.
Of course, the last ten percent of our peers required the greatest effort. We explored relatives (siblings, cousins, children, ex-spouses, etc.) as well as neighbors and others. We ‘googled’ them, and found them listed in various places, including in the obituaries of relatives. We looked on www.LinkedIn.com, www.Classmates.com, www.Facebook.com, etc. We created a class group on Facebook where we exchanged lots of information. Today, over 160 of the members of our class are on that site, and we’ll keep the group going long after next weekend.
Today, just a few days prior to the reunion, we have located all but thirteen people. (We even found our two foreign exchange students. Unfortunately, both of them have passed away, but at least we know what happened to them.) Of those last few, we have addresses for more than half. We’ve sent several letters. They were not returned, but we haven’t heard from them either. Nevertheless, we believe they’ve received word about the event. Only about one percent are truly ‘lost.’
At the beginning, we were told we’d be lucky to find twenty percent after fifty years. As of today, we’re down to just over two percent.
The private detective in the class keeps saying he’d like to hire me. While I’ve enjoyed the process, I think I’ll go back to writing and editing!