Public Records Search

Obtaining public records is not the chore it once was. In the past, digging up public records like birth certificates, divorce decrees, marriage licenses, and criminal records oftentimes involved paying in-person visits to courthouses and other public records buildings and waiting for those requests to process. But today, all of that has changed considerably with the Internet. It’s possible to find or request an incredible amount of information, from vital to property records, often immediately, thanks to free online government databases and websites that provide background checks for a nominal fee.

Vital Records

Vitals records document key life events, and include birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, and divorce documents. They are maintained by governmental bodies and are fairly easy to find online if you need to produce a copy of any, such as a marriage license to change your name. Most major counties and cities have websites through which you can order copies of various vital records. If you’re interested in genealogy, you can also perform thorough family histories through websites on a trial basis or for a fee.

Property Records

Before investing in a property, it pays to know what kind of history it has. Property records, including mortgages, liens, leases, encumbrances, and taxes, are public information and can be requested through city or county departments, such as the county courthouse or city hall. Property information can also be obtained online for free through a number of websites, including Realtor.com, Trulia.com, and Zillow.com. Other sites offer thorough backgrounds on properties and their owners, but for a fee.

Criminal Records

Many state department of corrections maintain websites through which you can conduct inmate and offender searches. A variety of different background check websites also can provide an in-depth criminal history on a person for a fee, though a basic search through a state-maintained website often is all that’s needed. Criminal records will include any sexual offenses, but you can also look up known sex offenders by name and also by area through the National Sex Offender Public Website. Since the late 1990s, as part of Megan’s Law, the F.B.I.’s national sex offender registry has been available to the public, allowing you to search the latest information from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Puerto Rico, Guam, and numerous Indian tribes, for the identity and location of known sex offenders.