FIRST, make sure you have utilized EVERY worthwhile resource available for your missing loved one. You need to know as much as possible about the resources you are using before recommending them to others. There are wonderful nonprofit resources such as the National Center for Missing/Exploited Children ( NCMEC) and National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) working together to help in the search for missing people and the identification of John/Jane Does. However, for these resources to work effectively, all of the missing and unidentified cases need to be included in their databases. You can make a tremendous difference by making sure all of the authorities in your area are aware of and utilize these resources. (Check out my list of resource links listed to your left on this blog and let me know if you think another one should be added to the list or have a specific reason why you think a resource needs to be removed from the list).

Then, PLEASE “Adopt A Doe” and make sure your Doe is listed with each resource with the best possible profile. Every Doe is some family’s missing loved one!


Find an unidentified person case in your area and do all you can to search for that person’s identity while you are searching for your own missing family member.

1. Do an Internet Search for the Doe case you would like to adopt. If a case is available in the same area where your loved one disappeared, PICK THAT CASE, because you will most likely have already developed contacts within your local system at the police department, sheriff’s department, state police and Coroner’s Office or Medical Examiner’s office AND media.

2. Collect all the information that has been made public about your Doe. (Keep in mind that news stories and internet postings many times contain errors. This search is just to get you as familiar as possible with your Doe’s case before you approach authorities about “adoption”).

3. Write your letter to the law enforcement department with jurisdiction over your Doe’s case (See sample letter here.) Don’t just copy this letter. Add specific information you have learned about your Doe and ask the questions that occurred to you as you read about your Doe.

4. Set up a Facebook Page and/or WordPress blog for your “adopted” Doe with links to your pages/web site for your missing loved one. Make sure to come back here and post a link for your Doe.

5. Follow Up! Do what you want someone to do if your missing family member is listed somewhere as “unidentified”. Family members of missing persons have a VOICE that is HEARD. Use your voice wisely. Do everything that you promise to do in your letter. When you are searching NamUs’ Unidentified database for matches for your missing loved one, take the time to also search the NamUs Missing Persons database for possible matches for your “adopted” Doe. Contact the police department with jurisdiction regularly for updates. Most people in law enforcement are sympathetic to your plight and very much want your missing loved one’s case solved, but it is up to YOU to keep reminding everyone that that “case” is about a person you care very much about! Ask questions. Find out what has already been done and what more can be done. Don’t forget to thank the authorities for what they have already accomplished and make them aware of resources that available to help, such as NCMEC and NamUS. Use your voice and media contacts for your missing loved one and your adopted Doe!