What does the Charley Project do?

It might be easier to explain what the Charley Project does NOT do. The Charley Project does not have any offline presence. It is not affiliated with private investigators or law enforcement. It does not distribute fliers of missing persons. It does not actually investigate missing persons cases or homicides. It does not try to match missing persons with unidentified bodies. It does not accept tips from the public about any missing persons cases or homicides.

Okay, so what does it do then?

The Charley Project serves as a publicity vehicle and clearinghouse of information for missing persons. It attempts to catalog as much information as possible about as many cases as possible into a database as a publicity/investigative aid for the public and law enforcement to help solve cases. A wide variety of sources are used, such as other databases, news media accounts, law enforcement, information supplied by friends and family members of the missing, and books, and all the information contained therein is summarized on each missing person’s Charley Project casefile. In this way, instead of having to track down, say, twenty different news articles from five different news sources about a missing person, an interested party can simply go to the Charley Project and find it all in one place.

Who is Charley?

Charley was the nickname of Charles Brewster Ross, who was abducted from his home in Germantown, Pennsylvania on July 1, 1874, when he was just four years old. His family spent the rest of their lives looking for him in a search that extended over the world and gained international attention. His was by no means the first kidnapping in the United States, but it was one of the first highly publicized ones. Sadly, the search was unsuccessful; Charley would remain forever lost. There is no evidence at all as to his fate, and his story has been nearly forgotten today. He may have died shortly after his disappearance, or he may have lived out his life under some other identity with some other family, and never learned he was missing. This site was named in honor of Charley so that his memory, and the memories of all other long-missing people in this country, would not be forgotten. His pictures also appear on the website banners.

A history of the Charley Project can be found here.

My loved one is missing. What should I do?

If the person is a minor (under age 18), contact your local law enforcement agency immediately. Contrary to popular belief, there is no waiting period if reporting a missing child. The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) also provides extensive information regarding missing children’s cases.

If the person is an adult, contact your local law enforcement agency as soon as possible and inquire about their protocol in such cases. Some agencies may only allow the missing person’s family member(s) to file a report. Other agencies require a certain time period to have passed (usually 24 to 48 hours) before they accept a report, unless the missing individual is disabled or there is clear evidence that he/she is in danger.

Is the Charley Project on social media?

Yes. The administrator has a regularly updated blog which is open to readership and comments from everyone, and there is also a Facebook page and a Twitter feed that posts two cases a day.

Are you in touch with the family members of the missing persons featured on the site?

Usually, no. The Charley Project has a policy of not “cold contacting” loved ones of the missing, in order to protect their privacy. Occasionally, friends or family members of missing persons will write to the administrator.

How many members comprise the Charley Project? Can I volunteer?

The Charley Project is not an organization. It is solely an online database for cold case missing persons from the United States. There are no members in The Charley Project. The site is maintained by the administrator, Meaghan Good, who writes all the cases alone. Visitors can, however, email the administrator to provide additional details or more up-to-date information regarding profiled cases if they wish.

Can I sell advertising on your website?


Does the Charley Project feature every missing person in the United States?

No, not by far. It is impossible to determine how many people are reported missing every year; there is no centralized database, and many reports are misplaced or closed without being solved. In any case, the Charley Project profiles only a minuscule number of all the people who disappear every year.

Why does the Charley Project feature only cases that have been active for a year or longer?

For practical reasons, mostly; the site is written by only one person, who also does most of the research, and there are so many missing persons that the administrator has a very difficult time keeping the casefiles current. It would be much harder if the timeline was reduced and more recent disappearances were also profiled.

What about people like, say, Dorothy Arnold, who are obviously dead due to time factors, and other cases which due to age or other reasons will almost certainly cannot ever be solved? Why does the Charley Project post those cases?

Just because a person is missing doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist once. Really, really old cases and other cases where it’s obvious the person will never be located (i.e. cases where the missing person’s body is presumed to have been destroyed) are posted in part as a memorial to the missing individual; they deserve to be remembered too. The historical cases are also posted for their historical value.

How are the cases selected for the database?

The criteria page explains the guidelines for case inclusion.

Why are some of the photos on the casefiles of such poor quality?

The Charley Project has to use whatever photographs are available. The administrator uses a free graphics program to improve bad photos, such as by fixed contrasts and colors and painting over crease lines and spots. Retouching can only do so much, however, and the administrator is not a trained artist or graphics designer. The Charley Project would never refuse to accept a case just because of the only available photo is of poor quality. For really poor quality pictures, try contacting Carl Koppelman, a forensic artist who, regarding photos of missing and unidentified individuals, has impressive skills and sometimes basically created something out of nothing.

Does the Charley Project accept donations?

Yes. There is a PayPal link for donations on the front page as well on other pages throughout the site. It should be noted that, as the Charley Project is not a registered nonprofit, any donations received will not be not tax-deductible.

How many donations are received?

Not many. Not even really enough to pay the expenses involved in running the site. Although there’s no accounting taken or itemized list, these expenses include such things as domain registration fees, fees for web hosting, subscriptions to newspaper archive sites and the like to look for information on cold cases, repairs for the computer whenever it has problems, and, very occasionally, expenses incurred in traveling to missing persons’ related events.

I can no longer find a case that was profiled on the Charley Project’s site and it is not featured in the Resolved Cases section. What happened?

Certain resolved cases may not be featured in that section at the request of family members or law enforcement officers. In addition, the individual or their family may have requested that his/her privacy be respected. Or a file may be removed for other reasons. Contact the administrator if you want to know about a specific case, although you might not be able to learn anything more.

Why don’t you accept tips or possible matches between missing and unidentified persons, or other tips to help solve a case?

As the Charley Project is solely the work of one administrator, and this administrator is a private person who has no law enforcement affiliations, it’s simply not an appropriate venue for tips. Contacting the administrator with a tip wastes your time and theirs, because there’s nothing she can do with the information. If you think you have information that might be helpful in solving a case, contact the law enforcement phone number(s) given at the bottom of each missing person casefile. In particular, you wish to submit a possible match with an unidentified body, either the appropriate law enforcement agency or NamUs, a government database that helps match missing persons with John and Jane Does, would also be a good place to go to.

I found a factual error in one of the Charley Project cases. What can be done to fix it?

Write to the administrator at administrator@charleyproject.org with details about what you found, and appropriate action will be taken.

Can I link to the Charley Project on my own website, blog, social media account, etc.?

By all means, do so.

I, too, write about missing persons on the internet. Can I use information from Charley Project casefiles?

Of course. No prior permission is required, just as long as you credit the Charley Project as a source. A simple footnote or endnote or something like that is all that’s required. The administrator, however, is very much against using Charley Project information without any mention of where it came from. This policy as pretty generous; legally it would be within the Charley Project’s rights to not allow any information from the database to be used at all. It isn’t too much to ask for a credit, even in tiny print in and inconspicuous place, it’s appropriate “netiquette”, and it’s just the decent thing to do. The same applies to print books: if you want to use information from the Charley Project, just please cite it. Using someone else’s research without citing it is not only dishonest, it’s also a form of theft.

I am a journalist or other person affiliated with the media. Can I interview you and/or mention the Charley Project in an article?

The Charley Project’s administrator would be happy to grant interviews and (just email administrator@charleyproject.org or sending to message on Facebook or Twitter). And just as was explanationed in the answer to the previous question on this FAQ, Charley Project gives permission for all journalist to mention the Charley Project (see above) in print or television or other media, as long as the website is given credit.

I would like to post advertisements on the charleyproject.org domain. These should provide money for both the ad company and the Charley Project itself. Is this a possbility? And if it isn’t, why not?

No. For personal and private reasons as well as practical ones, the administrator doesn’t want ads. Repeated solicitations will not change that “no” into a “yes.”

I am listed as a “missing” person, but I am alive and well and do not want to be “found.” How do I get my listing closed?

If you are an adult and you do not want to be found, contact the investigating police department and identify yourself. Once they have verified that you are who you say you are, they are legally obligated to close your file and not to tell your relatives where you are, due to privacy laws, although they will say you’ve been located alive. Once your file has been closed, and you want it removed from the Charley Project, contact the administrator and explain the situation and it will be done. The same thing applies if you ran away from home as a minor but are now over the age of 18. People who are under 18, however, are a different story; they too need to contact the law enforcement agency assigned to look for them, and depending on the situation, they may be made to return to their parents or legal guardians. As long as law enforcement still lists the person (either under or over 18) as officially missing, so will the Charley Project.

I am a so-called “abductor” of my own child who is listed on your website missing. I want my child’s name and photograph removed immediately.

Abducting a child, even your own relative, is a crime. The administrator does not kowtow to criminals. The Charley Project will not remove a family abduction casefile at the request of the non-custodial relative and, if the administrator receives any such requests, they will be forwarded to law enforcement. This applies even if you’ve taken your victim to another country and somehow managed to get custody there; the Charley Project only honors custody issues issued in the United States.

I am a family member of a missing person, or law enforcement person investigating the missing person’s disappearance. I would like the casefile removed, or certain information removed, even if the person is still missing or that information is accurate. Can this be done?

In this case you should email the administrator with your request. Such decisions are made on a of a case-by-case basis, but usually those requests are honored.

Why are there occasional lapses between database updates?

The administrator spends the majority of her online time working on the Charley Project. However, she does take temporary “breaks” from the site when she needs to devote additional time to other pursuits, or is dealing with health problems, or when she does not have access to the internet. However, she always returns to the Charley Project; it’s been running since 2004. If she has advanced warning that she will have to be absent for awhile, she will post a notice on the updates page and/or the blog.