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How to Look Up Addresses

Online phone directories and cell phones are two alternative ways to look up addresses.

There are many valuable online sites to look up addresses. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
There are many valuable online sites to look up addresses.

How to Look Up Addresses

Knowing how to look up addresses online has its advantages. Traditional phone books only cover limited areas, are quickly outdated and may not be readily available -- particularly for travelers in need of an address on the go. By contrast, a few keystrokes on a computer or cell phone can produce addresses and even directional information for businesses and residences -- both nationwide and internationally.

Online Phone Directories

Online phone directories are databases that provide both phone and address information. Similarly to standard telephone directories, they generally separate information into Yellow Pages (business) and White Pages (private residence). Some directory sites feature road and satellite mapping (discussed below). Other service's e-mail lookups may require the user to register or pay a fee.

To find an address, users input as much of the name and address as possible into the phone directory. Many sites require a surname or business name, along with either the state or country as the minimum requirements to perform a search. The site then searches the online database and returns the closest address and phone number matches.

Some online phone directories offering assorted free services include AnyWho.com, WhitePages.com and YellowPages.com. AnyWho.com and WhitePages.com have international search options for certain countries.

Reverse Lookups

Reverse telephone directories look up the name and address that corresponds to a known telephone number. The above sites all offer free reverse lookups for landline phones. Unfortunately, not all telephone numbers are catalogued in the online databases, particularly unlisted and cell phone numbers. Sometimes flawed results can occur due to outdated information on the Internet. Some sites also offer a reverse lookup by address, which allows the user to find the name or a business or person and phone number associated with a particular known address.

Search Engine Assistance

Standard search engines are powerful informational tools. A simple name, preferably entered with the city and state, may produce a current address. If not, Purdue University suggests widening the search by using metasearch engines, which comb other search engines and specialized sites.

Specialized search engines that are dedicated to people searches also provide addresses and other contact information. Although they sometimes boast free trials, these sites typically charge to display full addresses. One notable exception is ZabaSearch, which combs public records and returns any contact information uncovered. They explain that sometimes the search yields old or incorrect information because search engines cannot update records.

Searching With Satellites

Satellite mapping sites, such as Mapquest or Yahoo Maps, provide tools for locating a given address. Options for displaying address information usually include a roadmap, driving directions and satellite photo imagery. These sites are accessible using an Internet-capable cell phone, enabling lost travelers to obtain quick driving help.

Users enter a complete or partial address for a residence or business. Partial information may be enough, such as the name of the business or category (plumber) along with a city and state. The database then displays possible address matches. Once an address is selected, the user can figure out how to get there. Using the roadmap, the user can zoom in to street level or out to see where major highways are located. Detailed driving directions include estimated driving time and miles.

When little information is known about the address, or when too many possibilities are returned by the initial search, users can use the interactive satellite and mapping tools to scan for a landmark located near the address in question. If the home or business being searched for can be seen on the satellite imagery, it can be selected. Next, the user chooses the tool for driving directions to see the address information for that location.

Tips for Improving Address Searches

Search engines look according to specific information inputted by the user. Small changes in search terms can yield considerably different results. AnyWho suggests the following tactics to improve search results when locating an address on a phone directory:

  • Input only the first four letters of a business or surname
  • Use an initial rather than a first name, or the spouse's initial
  • Change spacing or spelling when appropriate (e.g., McDonald, Mc Donald and MacDonald)
  • Remove additional identifiers from known portions of addresses (e.g., Eastman rather than West Eastman, Eastman Avenue or Eastman Street)
  • Perform a business address search by adding a category (e.g., Smith Brothers, Furniture Store, Chicago)


For further assistance with searching techniques, take Purdue University's free online tutorial. With patience, persistence and a few search tips, most Internet users can successfully look up addresses online.

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