What are Public Records?
Public records refer to data and information filed or recorded by public agencies that are not considered confidential, meaning they are available to the general public.
This generally includes such information as records of court proceedings, land records, recordings of births, marriages, and deaths, and statistical information for the economy or population data. Although these types of documents are considered to be public, that doesn’t mean that anyone can access them without any restrictions. The availability of such information varies by state, county, and city.
List of the Top Online Public Records Research Websites
Many records are available at the office of the clear of the court. United States citizens may visit the court during business hours to view and inspect records. In addition, many cities, counties, and state governments provide online access to such records via an online searchable website. In most cases, basic information is available to the public for free. Sometimes, a small fee may be charged for miscellaneous costs such as printing, shipping, handling, etc.
The following are miscellaneous search tools and databases that may be helpful for private investigators. Private investigators spend a great deal of their time searching through public records databases and court records and running search reports on a variety of online sites and tools. The following tools may be helpful in certain situations:
BeenVerified’s online public records search tool allows you to search billions of public records online in just a few seconds. Search for addresses, phone numbers, related persons, social media profiles, bankruptcies, and more. In addition, you can search for people using an address, phone number, and email address. BeenVerified offers an easy and affordable way to run a background search.
If you have the first and last names, you’ll get the best results by running an online People Search using BeenVerified. This simple online tool will search billions of public records in just a few seconds.
Intelius – Intelius is a powerful search tool that allows you to search Nationwide Public Records by such data points as maiden/spouse name, age, date of birth, social security number (SSN), unlisted numbers, addresses, roommates, and family members.
Lexis-Nexis – LexisNexis® is a leading global provider of content-enabled workflow solutions designed specifically for professionals in the legal, risk management, corporate, government, law enforcement, accounting, and academic markets. LexisNexis originally pioneered online information with its Lexis® and Nexis services. A member of Reed Elsevier, LexisNexis serves customers in more than 100 countries with more than 15,000 employees worldwide.
Through integrating information and technology, LexisNexis uniquely unites proprietary brands, advanced Web technologies, and premium information sources. Across the globe, LexisNexis provides customers with access to billions of searchable documents and records from more than 45,000 legal, news, and business sources.
Pacific Information Resources
Pacific Information Resources – Offers access to free Canada and other International records, United States Nationwide, State and County public records, criminal records, court records, death records, marriage records, birth records, property databases, divorce records, business filings, deeds, and mortgages, license verification, unclaimed property, and much more.
Spokeo is a search engine that aggregates and organizes vast amounts of people-related information from various public sources. The public data is amassed with lightning speed and presented almost instantly in an integrated, coherent, and easy-to-follow format. A fee is associated with this search, but the results are worth it.
RecordsProject.com provides access to relevant state and county public records. The Records Project is an online community dedicated to building the largest free public records encyclopedia. Skip confusing government red tape and become your own public records expert. Learn how to retrieve vital, court, and genealogical records online.
Search Systems is an extensive directory of links to free public record databases on the Internet. Use this resource to find business information, corporate filings, property records, unclaimed property, professional licenses, offenders, inmates, criminal and civil court filings, and more.
Search Public Records – Search records for Bankruptcies, Tax Liens, and Judgments, Amount associated with Bankruptcy, tax lien, or judgment, Corporate Record Summary, Company address, UCC filings, UCC Debtor, UCC collateral listed, Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN).
TruthFinder is a public records research service that searches billions of records and compiles reports. For example, data sources include federal, state, and county records, social media data, and the deep web. Use it to search for people, relatives, and related persons quickly. Also, find information such as vital records, criminal history, employment credentials, etc.
ZabaSearch – This is an excellent and powerful public records search engine. First of all, it is a free service. Second, it aggregates data and information from many public records databases and presents the information in an easy-to-use and coherent fashion. It’s an excellent site for the busy private detective.
Public Records Research Books
Public records come in many forms – court documents, property records, land records, tax filings, vital records, marriage licenses, and more. Public documents and files are available at your local courthouse or free online through public records research websites. As a private investigator, you’ll spend a great deal of time sifting through public records, performing research at the local courthouse, and searching online databases.
Having a good understanding of where to look and how to search is critical. Several great books on the subject can help you pick up the skills you need. Public records search books provide helpful information on:
- Public information research websites – how to find them, which ones are the best, and how to search for the free public records you need
- How to navigate the county courthouse to find the info you need
- How to gain access to databases and search systems that aren’t completely “public” information
- How to understand the laws related to accessing public files and data, especially related to the Freedom of Information Act
Government Accountability Office Investigators Guide to Sources of Information
Public Records Online, 6th Edition: The Master Guide to Private & Government Online Sources of Public Data – Book Description – This book claims to be the Master Guide to online public record searching. The sixth edition details nearly 10.000 research websites, both government agencies and private sources. This new edition is completely revised and updated.
The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records – Written by a journalist, this helpful book explains how to use the law and legal ingenuity to obtain access to public documents. Learn how to get past roadblocks and overcome illegal denials to access, how to find better online resources and mine them more effectively for the information you need. Has a comprehensive appendix with a list of all resources. We highly recommend this book.
Find Anyone Fast – This book will help private investigators learn techniques for locating people, info, and data. The book, published in 2001, is a bit dated, but it still presents the reader with good ideas for finding information.
The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook: A Guide to Documents, Databases, and Techniques – This book is an indispensable reference guide for private investigators, students, journalists and reports, and teachers. The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook is the most comprehensive classroom text available for courses in investigative reporting. An excellent read for new detectives.
Buy these and other books at Amazon.com and start building your library of reference materials today.
What do Private Investigators need to know?
Private investigators will encounter the need to conduct some records search almost daily. Private eyes may need to gather the facts of a court case, conduct a background check, track down a missing person, or verify property ownership records. Knowing how and where to search can save you valuable time and money.
Private investigators should understand the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that gives people the right to access information from the federal government. It is often referred to as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.
Federal agencies must disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine exemptions that protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement. The FOIA also requires agencies to proactively make specific categories of information available via online access, including frequently requested records.
Note: It is important to note that, due to the nature of the origin of certain records, the information and data sources used in reports may contain errors. Source data is sometimes reported or entered inaccurately, processed poorly or incorrectly, and is generally not free from defects. Before relying on any data, you should verify the source and determine if it is considered official.
If you are looking for a private detective to perform lookups for you, please visit our Private Investigator Directory to find a local PI.