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Looking Up Public Records: The How To Guide


Dec 12, 2018

Finding information on a person or people can be important for safety, hiring purposes, and many other reasons. There is a growing list of sites that will provide you with free and low-to-mid cost public records quickly and easily.

Each state and even county may also have their own restrictions, guidelines and policies for public search information, and how easily files can be obtained. For more information on state or county public records, check with the government state records site that the person who is being searched for may be in.

Most searches will need basic information about the person being searched, such as a full name including first, last, a middle name if any, and his or her age. Any other relevant information will also be helpful, including previous or current addresses, or at least the state and/or city they may be in or have lived in.

Known family or any other associated people may also assist in finding the public records. Each website provides their own additional search tools and databases for narrowing options down to relevant information to find an exact match. The following is a direct way to assist you looking up public records.

6 Steps for Finding Public Records

  1. Gather Basic Information for Your Search
  2. Check Legitimacy of Public Record Search Databases Before Searching
  3. Search Free on Social Media Sites
  4. Search Through Free or Low-Cost Government Public Record
  5. Search on Free Public Record Websites
  6. Search on Paid Public Record Databases

Completing a Search Using the 6 Guidelines

The basic information you need to have will allow you to perform at least a simple public record search. You'll need the subject's full name- first, last and a middle name or initial. You will also need their approximate age.

If you have any other information such as his or her full date of birth with month, day and the year, and/or any possible addresses, this will assist in narrowing down choices from multiple, similar people in the search results.

Once you have all your information, you'll need to choose one or several of the options for public record search. If you do not have enough information to successfully find their specific file, you can start with guidelines two and three.

Checking the validity of a public records search site is important, in case a site may have spam, viruses or any factual errors and misinformation to their database. Both free and paid sites can have these issues, so a simple BBB check or Google search for "best public record search sites," or similar wording can go a long way.

After checking for valid sites, you can gather more information about the subject from social media sites. Each social media site and individual will have their own settings for privacy. This can change for those who do not have an account and are trying to view information on other people. Searching social media is a good go-to if you don't have enough information to find the right file during a full public records search.

The fourth guideline is searching for public records on government sites. This applies to the government website for each state and sometimes cities or counties that he or she may be listed in, not where you are performing the search from. These often will show criminal, and any legal public records. Any additional information depends on the restrictions of each site, and many are free or a low cost per page of information.

Number five is one of the most common types of public record searches. Checking on free websites may take a little more time and work-around, as many sites may have old, incomplete or no information available. It's always a good practice to cross-reference with another free site for accuracy of information.

The last guideline is a little easier to get public records from, but each site has their own cost, some on different tiers for specific "packages" of information. However, it may be easier to receive the most accurate information by paying for it, and there may be less requirements for details on the search subject.

With all your resources at hand, and lots of databases to choose from, a public record search should be easier to understand and navigate. Always keep note of what information you enter and how, and what databases give you the best information.

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