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Online Guide to Public Records

Posted on June 23, 2021 by Manuel Yoon

Are you interested in if your business colleague led to the presidential campaign? Wondering who owns the abandoned lot on the opposite side of town? Or on a more character note, are you attempting to trace your family tree and can not recall Great-Aunt Susie's third husband?

You may find your answers through an online public records search. Due diligence applies, as the information at some sites can be obsolete or inaccurate. The sites below are good bets, but the list is by no means inclusive.


Public Access to Court Electronic Records is a government website that provides electronic access to case and docket information from Federal Appellate, District and Bankruptcy courts, and from the U.S. PartyCase Index. The majority of PACER's documents are available on the world wide web, but a few must be dialed directly via communication software and a modem. Most jurisdictions provide toll-free amounts for modem dialing.

PACER provides a range of information, including a listing of all parties involved in a situation, compilations of case related information, dates of events recorded in a case record, a claims registry and much more. Criminal court records aren't available through PACER.

PACER registration is free, but a service fee applies.

Effective 2005, Web searches are levied at a rate of eight cents per search page, including pages telling you that there are not any results. Dial up PACER systems bill sixty cents per minute. You pay nothing until you accrue over $10 in a calendar year. Accumulated prices of under $10 are erased at the end.

U.S. Search

This highly rated search website employs patented technology to get billions of public records. Search categories include confidential investigative services, criminal records searches, background investigations, financial services, family and home, real estate reports, company searches and court documents.

To enlarge upon only some of the applications you could make of this website, you could find out whether a house contractor has liens, judgments and bankruptcies before contracting with them.

You might do a background check on a child care provider before expecting your kids to their care. You could find your old military buddies, find your lost sweetheart, figure out if Cousin Bruno is out of prison yet, look up the status of a civil lawsuit filed against your former supervisor and several other tidbits of information. Moreover, you can search your personal public documents to help protect yourself against identity theft.

To protect people from identify theft, U.S. Search does not offer social security numbers, date of birth, credit history, and employment documents, nor to they provide bank account information or other personal financial information.

U.S. Search is a fee-based website. Searches vary from about $3 to $300, depending on the complexity of the search that you select.

Search Systems

Search Systems aims to be the Internet's primary source for free public records. Site access is free of charge, even though some of the linked sites may charge a user fee. Yahoo Internet Life and PCWorld magazines ranked this site as one of the most useful online.

Search Systems categorizes its connections by state, state, and worldwide databases. You can look for adoption records, birth, marriage and death records, campaign contributions, copyright and trademark information, foreclosures, and a seemingly endless list of additional documents.

Real Estate Websites

Along with the typical searches for listings, realtors, etc., you may even conduct a search of thousands of property records to find out the prices that buyers are paying in your area. According to site info, this revenue data lets you examine the value of your house or other homes.

The outcomes include price, square footage, bedrooms and the year built (if available). The School Search tool provides you information about colleges in a specified area.

GPO Access

"The U.S. Government Printing Office disseminates official information from all three branches of the Federal Government," states the Web site, adding that their duty is to keep America informed. The website offers electronic access to files from numerous government branches, agencies and databanks. By way of instance, you can get Congressional reports and documents, private and public laws, Federal laws, Presidential documents, and other relevant materials.

Additionally, the GPO makes books from three levels of government available for free public use in Federal depository libraries throughout the USA. The Access site includes links to the libraries and sometimes, to their own collections.


Run by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system (EDGAR) is an internet database containing registration statements, periodic reports and other forms filed by domestic and foreign companies. Businesses are required by law to submit these documents, which you may access and download at no charge. If you're contemplating buying shares in a company, you may want to check out the compulsory yearly report on Form 10-K or 10-KSB, which comprises much of the same information as the yearly report issued to investors.

Electronic Reading Room

Courtesy of the IRS, the Electronic Reading Room creates an array of public records available for downloading. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires the IRS (and other government agencies) to create certain documents publicly accessible. The IRS records consist of final opinions made if adjudication, statements of policy and interpretation not printed in the Public Register, administrative manuals, copies of documents previously released under the FOIA and many others.

Local Public Sites

Finally, check your regional public web sites if you're searching for advice specific to your town, state or county.