How do I find someone’s email address?

It can be extremely difficult to find the email address of someone you want to contact. To begin with, they must want to be found.

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How do I find out my friend’s email address?

I’d like to get in touch with my old college roommate. How do I find out her email address?

I’m trying to get in touch with a business contact, but I’ve lost his email address. How can I find it again?

As you can tell, I often get variations of this question. Most people know someone and want to send them email, but they don’t have their email address. What do you do?

Well, I’ll be blunt. Nine times out of ten, you’re simply out of luck.

But sometimes, you can get lucky.

It won’t be easy

Finding someone’s email address is typically very, very hard for several reasons:

  • There’s no central database or “phone book” for the internet. An exhaustive search could have you looking in tens or hundreds of different resources.
  • The planet is bigger than you think it is. If all you have is a name, that’s not enough. There could be perhaps thousands of people with the same name. In most cases, you’ll need more than just a name.
  • Not everyone wants to be found. It’s easy to set up a free email account with information that has nothing to do with who you really are. So even if you know a lot about the person whom you’re trying to find, they still may not be findable.
  • Not everyone has email. Heresy, I know, but many people are not on the internet at all.

What’s worth trying?

My first reaction is almost always Google. For many people, Google might take you straight to them. For example at this writing, searching Google for me, Leo Notenboom, will get you six pages of results that are all right on target. If you’re looking for a different Leo Notenboom (I know of at at least two others), you’ll need to do more work.

Now, I have a relatively unique name and a very big “footprint” on the internet. If you’re looking for something more common (say “John Smith”), you have a lot of work ahead of you. You’ll need much more information to narrow down your search to exactly which John Smith you’re trying to locate. You could include anything from the city he lives in, the place he works, the school he went to … anything that might help narrow down the search. But even then, you’re unlikely to get the right person, unless they already have an internet presence and your information really matches well.

I have a case where I occasionally look for the best man at my wedding, whom I’ve lost contact with over the years. His name is somewhere in the middle – not as unique as mine, but certainly not as generic as “John Smith.” I have yet to find him. I keep finding people with the same names in other places but they are obviously not him.

SearchingSearching the services

If they want to be found and you suspect that they have accounts with services like MSN, HotMail, Yahoo, Facebook, or others, it might be worth checking the member directories within those services if they have them. If their place of business has a directory, that might be worth a look. Similarly, if you have reason to believe that your contact might have joined any of the social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, or others, you might check there as well.

What’s important to note is that for member directories to work, the person must want to be found. Even if they have an account, they may elect to keep their information obfuscated or private and searching the directory will do you no good.

You can always try the phone book. All of the major phone companies have online phone books that include both the traditional white and yellow pages. You may not get an email address, but you may be able to locate your contact in the real world. Once again, if they’ve elected to have an unlisted number or they do not have a telephone of their own, you may be out of luck here as well.

And finally, there are for-pay services that claim to be able to find out all sorts of information about people. These are mostly culled from public records also accessible elsewhere. I’ve never used one and cannot recommend any specifically.

In a nutshell, I’ll reiterate: it’s often practically impossible to locate someone’s email address. You can get lucky, but it’s rare and can often require a fair amount of effort and legwork.

Important: Do NOT post comments to this article of the form with “I’m looking for some name‘s email address. Please help me.” Please read the article above. Posting people’s names and personal information here will not help and in fact, it violates the privacy of the person whom you’re trying to locate.

This is an update to an article originally posted : February 21, 2006

There are 20 comments:

  1. Greg Bulmash Reply

    Also worth noting are themed directories that people register with, such as linkedin.com (past co-workers) and classmates.com (former school friends) as well as individual alumni sites for the schools you attended. I located a couple of college friends through an online alumni directory run by the university I attended.

    Additionally, sending out a call to friends you and this person may have had in common also helps. Considering the “six degrees of separation” theory. It’s possible that someone you know has the contact info for the person you’re seeking or they might know someone who does.

    - Greg

  2. Christian Reply

    I need to find a hotmail address, i know its simply a name and i know the persons first name but can’t remember how to spell the second, i would recognise it if i saw it in a list. Can such a list be found? Thanks

    • Mark Jacobs Reply

      In a way Google might help. If you type in the misspelled name, Google often comes up with alternative spellings.

  3. dahlia Reply

    I recently found a long lost friend on Myspace, although they haven’t logged into their account in quite some time. I was wondering if there was a way to find out which email address they used when logging into their Myspace account? That way I would be able to email them directly instead of trying to contact them with the Myspace account they never use.
    Thanks,
    Dahlia

  4. den Reply

    1. Yes, as mentioned in the article, do Google search.

    Do a search in several different ways : variations of the persons last, first, middle names, state, country, etc. Today, search engines contain billions of records listed MySpace, forums, blogs, etc.

    2. Here’s another free people and email address search resources :

    http://www.anywho.com
    http://www.people.yahoo.com
    http://www.whitepages.com

    Find the person with military, college or professional affiliations :
    http://www.militaryconnections.com – for military personnel
    http://www.facebook.com – find college students.

    or by high school
    http://www.classmates.com
    http://www.reunion.com

  5. cuong vo Reply

    How do you obtain the hotmail member directory? I was trying to email this person and accidentally discarded my draft. All i remember is the first word of the email addy and their first name.

    I’m not aware of a Hotmail member directory. It would be a resource that spammers would use to send Hotmail accounts even more spam than they get already. Regardless, even if there were one, I’d also guess most people would opt-out, or use obfuscated information.

    -Leo

  6. yanna Reply

    I have a hotmail email addres (xxxx@hotmail.com), how do I found out, who it belongs to?
    thanks,
    Yanna

    You can’t. (Unless you are the police with a court order.)

    -Leo

  7. Nicole Casiano Reply

    Can you find out someone’s e-mail address if you have their myspace URL?? The person has their account set up so that you have to know their e-mail address in order to friend request them…Is there anyway around that???

    No.

    Leo
    17-Dec-2009

  8. wendy Reply

    I found someone recently opened an account in MyLife ,using one of my e-mail addresses. none of the info matched but the address. How did this person get it? Haven’t used it in years but it’s still mine…when you click on that person’s name, which there are several listed, it now goes to MY information and name. I think it is for ID theft, linking their name to my address so my info will pop up when a thief needs the info. What do you think?Had MyLife delete it but it was set up 1 1/2 months ago…

    Well, it’s certainly easy to do. I have no idea what the legal ramifications are, if any.

    Leo
    30-Oct-2010

  9. wendy Reply

    Also, what good is finding someones’ e-mail address? Think most people will be sent to junk mail, since the person is not expecting that contact. I think most want it to spam the holder of the address. Anyone looking for someone should find out where they worked, find a person who knew them( old boss?), and see if THEY can initiate contact. Stalkers and ex-cons look for ways to contact people who moved away,too, it’s not all innocent inquiry.

  10. Walt Reply

    Excellent article, Leo! I spent most of a day trying to get an email address of an old friend & I have her prior address, phone #, city & state, even her age & all I get are , I believe, come-ons or bait to purchase info that I already have. You’re right about it being nearly impossible to obtain email addresses. I think I’ll try another approach, like calling that old phone # (LOL). Keep up the great articles!

  11. Ken B Reply

    I once tried to find an old high school friend with whom I had lost contact, and his parents had since moved from their old home. Fortunately, it was a relatively uncommon name and spelling. I found several people with that name, and picked the one that sounded “most likely correct”, based on the information given.

    In order to sound very “non-spammy”, I started the e-mail with “My name is [my_name], and I went to [school] with [name] back in [years]. If you are the correct [name], please let me know. And if you’re not, please let me know, too, and I won’t contact you again.”

  12. Bernard Winchester Reply

    Another possibility is to try https://pipl.com which is a “deep web” search engine for people with name/location/email address modes.

    • Connie Delaney Reply

      Bernard,
      That’s pretty cool. Also a good way for people to search and see what is posted to the internet about them.

  13. Saikat Reply

    Sir i want to find a hotmail user profile. i am new to all this.. i have my friend’s id.. but i dont know where to put it and search for it.. i want to surprise her so i cant email her first

  14. Mumtaz Ali Reply

    Hello sir i hope you to help me.sir some time ago i buy a iphone mobile then when i restart my phone then it was disabled then the system require the email address of this phone owner and now i want to find the account of my phone owner his email is(s…..@hotmail.com)if you can to help then i will be very happy with you i am waiting hopfuly……….

    • Leo Reply

      If it’s someone else’s email address then it’s not your phone. You should return it to the place where you purchased it.

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