Persistent, far-reaching investigation
When a nonprofit group representing families and veterans needed to locate thousands of beneficiaries of veterans who were injured by Agent Orange, a highly toxic herbicide used during the Vietnam War, so as to pay them funds from a government settlement, they hired us to help them. With sometimes only the name of the veteran to go on—and in many cases when the veteran died before investigative databases were even invented—we began by scouring decades old newspapers, phonebooks, city directories, and even 1930’s census records to reconstruct the past and identity the beneficiaries who are alive today.
We began contacting local newspapers, funeral homes, and libraries, scanning old city directories in hopes of locating potential neighbors with a distant memory that might provide a clue.
In one particular case, we were tasked with locating the daughter of a man who died nearly 20 years ago. We did not know her name, age, or address. Believing that the father lived in or around a town in the Midwest, we began contacting local newspapers, funeral homes, and libraries, scanning old city directories in hopes of locating potential neighbors with a distant memory that might provide a clue.
Eventually, after dozens of inquiries in the case, our persistence paid off, as a small-town newspaper editor whom we contacted unearthed a forgotten obituary buried in his hardcopy paper archives, which were never posted online. The brief article identified the daughter’s name. After even more searches and calls, we figured out that the same obituary had inserted a typo in the woman’s name, which temporarily threw us off track. But, finally, we found her.
The woman not only confirmed her father’s identity, but she told us the story of a wartime veteran she knew only for a few years, and of old photos, scrapbooks, and memories of him to which she still holds tight.