This step will provide you with information and tools to enable you to access public records online. The purpose of this step is to help familiarize you with some of the different types of public records that are available, and what type of information they contain.
The term 'public records' is very broad and encompasses billions of records. For the purpose of this step, when we talk about public records we are referring to Court Records, Vital Records, and Voter Records. We have separated some of the other types of public records into separate dedicated steps in our guide because they are broad enough, and important enough to warrant a separate discussion.
Court Records - Court records with the exception of criminal court records (which was covered in step six) includes: Civil Court, bankruptcy court, divorce court, and probate court records. Civil court records are created when one legal entity sues another. A legal entity can be another person, corporation, group, institution, or organization. Probate court is where a wills are contested and the distribution and allocation of assets of someone who has died are decided. Bankruptcy and divorce court are self evident, and excellent sources of information.
In each of these different types of courts, when records are found online, they are usually in the form of docket sheets. Docket sheets are kind of case summaries. Docket sheets typically include the name of the court, case number, names of the defendants, plaintiffs, judge, and attorneys, and a brief description of the case.
The information that is available in these court record docket sheets can provide clues to other resources for information about the person you are searching for; such as names of other contacts and information sources. Besides providing good basic information, docket sheet can provide enough information to indicate if you want to invest the time to go to the applicable courthouse to request more details about the case.
Vital Records - What are vital records? Vital records are major life event records. Vital records are general associated with birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce records, and death certificates.
These records are packed with great information. Typically these records will contain information not only about the person that you are searching for, but provide names of friends and family members as well. Birth certificates and divorce records can be particularly loaded with information including the names of employers, addresses, assets, child custody, and more.
Vital records are not necessarily easy to access online. Access to vital records online depends on the type of vital record (Birth, Marriage, Divorce, or Death), as well as the particular restrictions imposed by the state, city or jurisdiction authority that created them.
Voter Records - Voter records can be a great source of address and telephone number data. Different states have different rules about what kind of information can be release. The best bet for fingering voter record information is to start with the state commission or division of elections. Then look at the local (city, town, district) level. Much of the information is available to the public. Some of this information is online, some will require you to show up in person to review the data.
In many cases, these public records are available online, and it is certainly worth your time to investigate what is available to you. We have compiled a list of vital record and other public record sources to help make this easier for you in our free public records searches tools and resources page. You can also access this page from the upper right hand navigation menu from any page on this site.
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