Search the World and Never Leave Your Seat

In its early days, the Internet was called the “Information Superhighway.” Its access to endless “off ramps” connected to wonderful resources remains one of its greatest benefits.

Here’s an example, Brother Craig here wanted to read about St. Radegund (518-587), a saint and queen not well remembered. He typed “St. Radegund” into a search engine and, soon enough, he had printed out a long and very interesting biography written by a university scholar. Not bad for a few minutes’ work.

There are a few sites I visit to find out more mundane things—like someone’s zip code. At the U.S. Postal Service’s Web site, usps.com/zip4, you can enter the address, city and state and out pops the zipcode (along with other information that seems useless to me). Or if you know the address and zip code, you can find the city and state.

Another thing I find useful is looking up an individual or business. If you are into convenience, Internet Explorer has a “Search” button at the top. A separate pane opens up in your browser window with several options. You can choose from a number of search categories. “Find a: Web Page, Person’s Address, Business, Map, Word or Picture.”

For this example, I’m going to try to find myself. (No I’m not having a midlife crisis—I mean I’m looking to see where my name is on the Web.) The more information, the better. When I tried just my last name and state, the search tool returned more than 250 matches. Adding my first name narrowed it down to 37—but none were me. Of course, I am a hard person to track down since I live in a monastery. When I click on the other John Raymonds in Florida, I got their mailing addresses, telephone numbers, maps with driving directions to their houses and their e-mail addresses. Perhaps I should visit my namesakes.

If you are not satisfied with the results you get, try the “Next” button at the top of the search pane. This will look up the same information on anther site. (To see what sites are used for each category look-up, press the “Customize” button. You can pick which ones you want to see.) Perhaps you only have someone’s telephone number and want to find their address. Try a reverse lookup at AT&T’s AnyWho.com. I tried it with our telephone number and our mailing address came up right away. There are some other useful features on AnyWho.com like the Yellow Pages, Toll-Free Number look-up and even links to International directories broken down by country.

Verizon hosts SuperPages.com. One of the features I like here is under the “People Pages” tab. All you are required to enter is a person’s last name. Even better, you can do a nationwide search for him. This is helpful if someone has moved and you don’t know where to look for him.

The Ultimates at theultimates.com gives the convenience of entering your search in more than one search engine at the same time.

For instance, their White Pages lists six search engines. You type your information in the first (Whitepages.com) and its automatically entered in the other five.

Once, I had to track down Robert Farrell, the copyright holder for a unique musical arrangement of the “Ave Maria,” one of the Marian hymns we used on our recent CD, “The Chanted Rosary.” Instead of using any of the methods already mentioned, I simply typed his name into the “Exact Phrase” search option under “Advanced Search” on Google.com. I found several sites with information about him including biographical details, present mailing and e-mail address and telephone number. I knew I had the right Robert Farrell when the sites mentioned his Ave Maria musical composition. This search-engine technique can work well when you know almost nothing more than the name of the person you are searching for and some incidental information about them.

Public records hold tons of information that can be useful. Search Systems at searchsystems.net has 11,771 free searchable public record databases broken down by state. Besides finding out about people, you can get information on businesses, doctors, dentists and lawyers. You can even find out about lawsuits brought against abortion clinics.

We were thinking of doing a one-time mailing to solicit funds for building our new monastery and wanted to target people on a particular street near there. How were we going to get those addresses? We went to the county property appaiser’s Web site, typed in the street name and up came more than we needed. Besides resident names and addresses, we could even see plenty of detail about their houses and land.

Now it can make some people paralyzed with fear to realize how much information about them is floating around on the Internet. However, the same information can be used for good like tracking down old friends with whom you’ve lost touch. One time I called a religious community to order something for our gift shop. Fr. Virgil answered. Recognizing his name, I thanked him for teaching me about the value of wearing the Brown Scapular and enrolling me in it more than 30 years ago. (This had taken place at a seminary that held a two-week summer camp for boys in the seventh and eighth grades. We began the day with Holy Mass, then had an hour-long religion class followed by recreational games the rest of the day.) I wear the Brown Scapular to this day.

Given the hostile environment priests and religious are facing these days, you might consider using the Internet to seek out that priest or religious who had a profound effect on your life. Just say “thank you.” He or she could use the encouragement right about now.

Monthly Web Pics

For this months picks, we will concentrate on Catholic news sites.

Zenit, the Catholic news service at zenit.org, titles its Web site “The World Seen from Rome.” Here you will find Catholic news in six different languages. Choose among the latest news, daily news dispatches, weekly news analysis and Church documents. You can search the news archive and sign up to receive news by e-mail as well.

Catholic World News at cwnews.com has the current day’s news of interest to Catholics. Archived news is organized by geographical continents and categories like “family.” Archival searching is available, too. Subscribers get complete Catholic news coverage, a headline digest from major secular news sources, commentaries, resources and more. Webmasters might be interested in looking into their free “News Ticker.”

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has an English-language news site at fides.org/eng. Here you can find “360 News,” meaning coverage from around the world.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a news section at usccb.org/news/index.htm.

The Vatican has its News Services listed at vatican.va/news_services.

            Want more Catholic News? See my “News Agencies” category at monksofadoration.org/newstext.html.

Brother John Raymond welcomes
e-mail at john@aplusconsultingnow.com.

He is author of Catholics on the Internet: 2000-2001,
Webmaster of www.monkofadoration.org