Public records are documents that are publicly and legally accessible. It’s not particularly consoling to learn that anyone who is interested in their content can download and read them. They are filed or created as an element of business processes or public law. When someone searches for public records, they will find publicly available documents. They can learn something about people with whom they have an existing or potential relationship. People who want to know what personal information is available about them can also search public records. It can reveal crucial data about people. Someone can check the background of a new partner, a friend, or a neighbor.
While public records are open to anyone, that doesn’t necessarily mean they can be downloaded online, are easy to access, or are available for free. There are three ways to search for such records.
Search for records on the internet
To find public records online, you need to go to the official website of the court, the county, the state, or the federal government, which is relevant to your search target. The person performing the search needs to have the subject’s full name – in this case, yours – or the full name of the person whose records they are searching for.
Usually, you can find records of marriage and divorce at the state or county level. The local secretary of state’s website will typically provide access to death records. You can search for civil or criminal court records in county, state, or district archives. Finally, you can use the National Archives website to check for immigration records.
Request a public record
Not all information is accessible through public databases. It can be viewed through them, but you might have to make a request to the county or state for access to specific types of public information, such as financial records or driving history.
To request a public record and find out something about you, someone would need to send a letter or an email to the respective institution. Some platforms will accept a public record request via an online form based on the government agency’s requirements.
It’s possible to make requests on your behalf and on behalf of others under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This law grants people in the US the right to ask for access to public records on a federal level.
In most cases, the data will be provided. Exceptions are if the records are deemed to be in violation of the law or to compromise personal privacy or national security.
Use people search tools
Finally, you can use people’s search sites to get more information about someone who is of interest to you. These platforms are data brokers, which scrape the web for publicly available data and aggregate it. It’s possible to save time and effort by using them, but the data they retrieve isn’t always 100% reliable.
Other ways in which people search services find personal information is via social media profiles and the user’s location.
Types of records
Here are some typical public records you can access, among others:
- Birth certificate
- Marriage license
- Divorce records
- Driving history
- Death certificate
- Credit ratings
- Rental and eviction history
- Real estate ownership
- Civil case records
- Criminal records
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Getting sensitive details about someone by searching public records isn’t that easy. If you’re doing it on your own, it can take weeks. It’s important to have at least some basic background information in advance. Public records can be used to find personal information, but it tends to be very broad, and people would probably know it about you without searching.