Personal Records Online

Searching Individuals

University of Florida Professor Cory Armstrong shares tips for searching personal records online.


NBC on Personal Records

This is a retro NBC news video discussing public records found online.

InSpectigate People

Searching for people can be very difficult or very easy depending on how much you want to find and how far you're willing to go to find it. Just about everything official a person does is recorded in a document, and many of those documents are available online. Whether you're searching a childhood friend, a long lost relative or an old flame from high school InSpectigate is going to give you some tips to help you in your search.

Search Yourself First!

This helps you get your feet wet in the pool of searching. Besides, you'd be surprised what information you may or may not be able to find about yourself online. Remember, if you can find it, so can an employer, family member, friend or investigative journalist.

1. Go to Google, or your search engine of preference, type in the person's name you are searching and click the search button.

For the most part, you're not going to find everything you're searching, but what you will find is valuable. Google will most likely give several links to websites claiming to have all the information you could ever want about the person you're searching. While these website may have wonderful information, you're not likely to get access to it for free, bummer.

2. Select one of the links provided by the search engine you have chosen, usually www.usa-people-search.com or www.anywho.com will be provided.

If alternatives show up, don't be worried because just about any people finder will provide what you need.

The value of the websites that result from this search is their ability to give you additional information to help you in your search. They typically have an advertisement attempting to get you to register or pay money, but it's not necessary for you to employ their service.

The websites will typically list several matches to the individual you are searching and while this doesn't narrow you're search completely, it provides some additional areas for you to search, areas where the person you are searching may have lived and potential relatives to the person you're searching. If you have an idea where this person has held residence or whom they have been related to, this can greatly narrow your search field. A key piece of information to help you in your search is the state and county of residence, past or present, of the subject of your search.

Once you have narrowed down the area where the person you're searching lives or has lived---or if you've narrowed down their relatives, you can track the relatives residencies to aid in your search---use this information to find government websites in their county of residence.

3. Once you have found the county, or at least a possible county, for the person you are searching, revisit your first search engine (Google) and search for county websites including the county property appraiser, clerk of the court and any of the local newspaper websites for the area.

The county property appraiser website will give the names of anybody who owns property in the county and the address and details of the property listed under the said name. From this you can usually use the address and the name to find the persons phone number from county phonebooks, but this can require you to physically visit the county records office for property directories.

The clerk of court for the county you are searching will have the records of anyone who was in court, why they were in court and what the result of their appearance in court was. Did the individual go to jail? Get married? Get divorced? Get traffic tickets?

The newspapers usually keep some form of records of stories written in the past. If you can find the site's archives you can search a person's name and see if they've been in the news. Remember, newspapers are about facts and details and those are what will help you in your search.

4. Continue your search until you have the information you're looking for!

While not all the information about a person is available online, certainly a good amount of information is, and all it takes to find it is a little digging.

If you're having trouble with you're search, or if you know of a website or other tip to improve InSpectigate, e-mail it to me.