Did you know that there are millions of government records available for public viewing? Many people aren’t aware of this or are unsure of how to view or utilize them. In the pre-internet days, it was necessary to visit the courthouse to request records in person or make a phone call to request records from outside your area. Nowadays, there are many ways to view these records online. Some may be available on government websites, while others may be accessed via search websites designed for that purpose.
A Quick Note on Legality
Before we begin, it’s important to keep in mind the legality of using these records. Obviously, using them to commit crimes like stalking or identity theft is not okay. Less obvious though is that it is also illegal to use them for business or professional reasons, such as screening a job or tenancy applicant. There are other services for that purpose, and they must be approved by the Federal Trade Commission. However, personal use of this information is generally totally legal. If in doubt, do some extra research before you start.
How to Utilize Records
You may wonder how these records can be useful to you. There are many types of public records and they may be helpful in different ways.
We all have those friends or distant relatives we’ve lost touch with. Whether you wish to reconnect with someone or are simply curious where they’ve ended up, a public records search may be the perfect tool. You may find that your second cousin moved to Alaska, or that your former classmate ended up marrying her high school crush!
Start a Family Tree
There’s never been a better time to research your family history. Public records are essential to genealogical research, and they can be used to find out or confirm birthdates, deaths, maiden names, and the existence of other family members. Census records can be particularly interesting as they can provide a snapshot of that time in a family’s life. They usually list each person living in the home along with his or her current age, job, or even country of origin. You might find that you have other cultural roots you were never aware of, or that an ancestor had a very unique profession.
If you’re in the market for a new home, you may be able to find appraisal or other information for the property you’re interested in. If you’re curious about the history of the house, you may also be able to find out who has lived there previously.
On the other hand, there are other records available that may help you maintain your safety or that of friends and family. Check out your new neighbor, the parents of your child’s friends, or your online date before meeting up. Most criminal, court, and arrest records are open to public viewing. Sex offender data may also be available. While these searches aren’t guaranteed to be totally comprehensive, they can help give you peace of mind.
Today’s technology has given us these amazing tools to look up almost anyone. Just ensure that you use them responsibly, and know that you may be surprised at what you find!