By Josh Saunders
Online super sleuths dubbed ‘The Dream team’ claim to help find thousands of long lost family members for free.
The detective trio behind Facebook site ‘Discover Me’ can spend up to as many as 200-hours-a-week tracking down relatives.
After conducting searches for their own missing family members online, the group started helping others to ‘bring happiness into the world’ and give back.
Each has their own specialism – relentless Jude is known as ‘Miss Marple’, record analyst Lisa called ‘Grave Finder’, and Dave their resident ‘Genealogy Researcher’.
Setting up their group three years ago, they help people without the funds to pay for ‘extortionate’ sites and private investigators that they claim can charge thousands of pounds.
Dubbed the ‘Dream Team,’ they claim to have solved up to 100 cases within a week, with some taking as little as a minute and others as long as a year to crack.
Jude said: “It’s the thrill of the search, it’s like being a detective and we absolutely love it.
“It feels like Sherlock Holmes with some of the stuff we do. It’s very interesting.
“They call me ‘Miss Marple’ because I don’t give up, Lisa is a ‘Grave Finder’ as she rings all the cemeteries and Dave is our ‘Genealogy Researcher.’
“A lot of our information comes from public data online, we also use a lot of information online from electoral roll to other sites.
“Many companies rip people off and they will pay it because they are desperate – some are charged thousands of pounds by some sites, which is totally wrong.
“We want to bring a little happiness into the world, there is enough madness out there so if we can make at least one person a day happy we’ve done our job.
“For searches we can’t solve, we always go back and try again. We never give up basically, we go through old posts searching again and again.
“That ethos goes for us all not just our team, there are others too who help and are absolutely brilliant.”
Jude, 48, from Chelmsford, Essex started helping people online after the devastating discovery that the half-brother she spent 20 years searching for had died at birth.
Since developing lung disease COPD, Jude has to remain seated for much of the day and at home, meaning she is spends up to 20 hours a day helping others online.
The grandmother of three believes it’s her way of giving back to society and loves the ‘thrill of the search’.
Jude said: “It’s my way of giving something back because I can’t work. I don’t want to feel useless. I get a sense of belonging when I’m able to find someone.
“I’m on my computer as early as 8am and can be up as late as 11 at night, I don’t have anything else to do.
“One lady spent years looking for her dad, paying private investigators and other search companies, none of them could find him.
“We found him within 39 days and recently she was able to get on a plan to Canada to go and meet him.
“Another lady with the surname Williams told me I wouldn’t be able to find her family member, as she had tried for years without luck – within 24 hours I had found him.
“They call me Miss Marple because I don’t give up, I search and search and search some more.”
Lisa Brightwell, 50, from Southwark, London, honed her skills after her grandmother’s death in 2006, revealed her mother was adopted.
Her research concluded that her mother’s aunt was the biological mother and her sister had taken care of the baby.
Lisa, a full-time caregiver for two of her children that have autism, is nicknamed the Grave Finder as she will investigate deaths and contact the graveyards
The mum-of-four said: “I also have the gift of the gab on the phone, so I make first contact and am always the first one to ring up. I have been shouted at a few times.
“I realised I had a knack for family trees and do a lot of adoptions, we all have our specialities.
“For example, sometimes I will search for all of the people named ‘Paul’ born in 1964, then rule them out one by one.
“It’s an addiction, it’s something you can’t not do after you start, there’s no rhyme or reason to it.
“People who go to the gym two or three times a week, miss it when they don’t go, others have hobbies like trainspotting, but for us our hobby is finding missing family members.”
For David Parker, 50, from Liden, Swindon, never finding the identity of his biological grandfather led him into the work of being a search angel.
With both his father and grandmother dying young, all that is known is that David’s dad was a ‘war baby’ and the unknown parent was an American named ‘Barney’.
Project manager David said: “Successful searches give me great joy, I like trying to put families back together again. I can solve others, but not mine.
“Searching can take as little as a minute, dependent on the quality of the information, others where we need DNA tests can take a whole year and more.
“I really enjoy the mystery and resolution, when you find someone that a person has been search for a long time to find – it’s so rewarding we get tears in our eyes from some of these cases.
“One woman would never have been able to afford professionals in a million years, we were able to reunite her with her family only spending £68 of our own money.”
None of the search angels foresee themselves quitting any time soon and hope their group Discover Me will be granted charity status – so they can help more people.
Costs are incurred from obtaining birth and death certificates, electoral roll data, DNA tests, internet charges, a shared Ancestry and Genes Reunited account, and more.
Currently their only funding stems from a small donations pot and their own money.
Lisa added: “When you charge for something it becomes monotonous, but if you can bring happiness to people and don’t charge that’s a great thing.
“When I’m stressed but have a case load to do, it takes all of that away, then when you find someone their happiness is enough and that to me is priceless.”
To donate visit: https://www.gofundme.com/help-reunite-family-and-friends