I am a widowed, retired career Army officer trying to locate some friends from the 1940s--Sylvia Miller and her sisters Ann and Eve. Sylvia and I were engaged but broke it off because of the war. When their mother Zina died on May 10, 1943, the girls lived in Manhattan. The last address I have, from 1948, is for a Sylvia Levitt at 601 W. 160th St. I tried writing and did other things but had no luck. If I can find the Millers, I will fly out to see them, hoping to renew our lives together. I know it may not happen, but at age 80 hope is one of the few things one can cling to. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions you might be able to offer.
--Sidney Blum, El Paso, Texas
The older we get, the sweeter it is to be with those who knew us way back when. It's not unusual for seniors to track down and marry their first loves after decades apart. The Internet makes that easier, with sites that will do a search for $50 or less, like findpeoplefast.com You may have difficulty finding such common names from so long ago. But the Web has also lowered the cost of hiring a professional, says licensed investigator Ann Flaherty of the R.D.D. Detective Agency in Pacifica, Calif. A detective might charge $125 to $500 but will have access to databases not open to the public.
Even investing that much, you might come up empty, but your chances are better. Think of it this way: many people gamble away as much at casinos just for fun. For hunting on your own, Flaherty offers these tips: the correct spelling of family members' names is essential, so look for written records with their names and birth dates. Check high school records and Zina's death certificate or obituary. Thus armed, you can explore websites like ancestry.com classmates.com and rootsweb.com At the library, look up the Millers' old addresses in the R.L. Polk directories, which provide census information back to the 1930s, and check the New York Times indexes (available online for a fee) for obituaries and marriage notices. Another possibility is Social Security's letter-forwarding service.
At Washington Heights Nostalgia http://members.aol.com/ heightsmemories/Heights7.htm), you can write to people who lived in Sylvia's neighborhood in the '40s. It's a long shot, but maybe one of them just bumped into her at a Florida condo. Whether you find your old chums or not, you might make some new ones--folks who also remember the Broadway trolley's cane seats and the pizza at the Monarch Grill. Who knows? Maybe someone will write to me with news--even Sylvia, wondering, "Sidney, all those years, where were you?" --By Francine Russo
Got a question? E-mail Francine email@example.com