What to Know When Searching For Public Records

In the beginning, before the gods created the internet, public records were located in the basements of courthouses, recorders’ offices, city halls and the halls of administration. News Flash: Those records are still there! Those records are either in their original form, converted to microfiche or on a computer disc.

Today many public records are online. However, most of the old records are not online. Many agencies do not have the financial resources or individual help to copy records by hand and place those records online. There are companies that will conduct on-site court research. A simple Google search will find those companies.

Private investigators and independent court researchers also conduct hands-on public records searches. Private investigators usually charge by the hour and court researchers usually charge by the assignment.

The National Archives is a great resource for obtaining court records, on and off-line. Generally, federal court records less than 15 years old are not held by the National Archives and are still in the possession of individual courts. To obtain access to those records, researchers must contact the appropriate federal court.

It is a known fact that not all public records are free. Online companies that provide access to public records information have to pay their webmasters, graphic designers and web hosting companies to maintain their sites. So obviously, they have to charge a fee for the public records information.

Public records for an individual may vary from site to site. That’s why it’s important to use more than one resource when verifying records. There’s an old saying, “The accuracy of online records is only as good as those who input the information.” Humans do make mistakes and one database could have someone’s birth date as one day and another database can have the birth date as a different day or even a different year. The database can even have the name spelled wrong or have names of supposed relatives listed that turn out not to be related. This is why it’s important to be diligent and use more than one source when searching for public records.

Finally, public records cannot be removed from the internet; hence that’s why they are public. There are consumers that ask to have their address or phone number removed from a database. The problem is that once the address or phone number go public, hundreds or even thousands of websites pick up that information. So remember not to publish your unlisted phone number or cell number in a blog or website unless you want that information to be available to everyone online.