Happy New Year! I'm taking a break from my break to give y'all a heads-up about my latest New York Times article, out today...Carol Cielecki wasn't looking to become an online detective. She just wanted to find her ex-husband.In May 1989, Todd Martin Smith disappeared from South Orange, N.J., after selling his motorcycle for a pittance to a local dealership. At first, Ms. Cielecki said, she was not particularly alarmed. He had vanished once before, when Ms. Cielecki was seven months pregnant.But as Mr. Smith's absence stretched from days into months and then into years, Ms. Cielecki wanted to give her young daughter an explanation of what had happened to her father.So Ms. Cielecki, a former paralegal from Whitehall, Pa., began to scour Web sites cataloging missing persons and Internet databases of unidentified bodies, looking for clues to her ex-husband's fate.She has yet to find him. But in her explorations, Ms. Cielecki started to find patterns in the data trails - connections in a seemingly endless sea of information - that led her to others long gone. And now Ms. Cielecki, 39, is at the forefront of a growing coalition of amateur and semiprofessional cybersleuths who specialize in finding the vanished and putting names to the unidentified.
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