Friday, May 18, 2007

People finders and public records

(Update: please read comments on this posting, from Search Systems' Tim Koster, explaining why it became a fee service, and offering hope some of it will be free again. He also explains why it's worth subscribing too, if you can.)
An email from asks me to post notice of their public records finder database, Free Public Records Directory. I've known about this site for a long time and have linked to it from here before. I certainly use it often and have featured it on links pages I've done.

At any rate, this is probably the best free directory of online public records around right now. It also features a collection of free searches and a public records blog, both of which I've linked recently.

It replaced -- for me -- the directory at, which I used for years and still see recommended by researchers. But that directory is no longer free so not useful for many who once swore by it. You can still use it to discover if a record exists but must subscribe to see the link. Unfortunately most other directories don't have the international section that made Search Systems even more useful.

The most important thing to remember, though, is that no directory is complete. New records go online all the time and finding out that a particular county has put marriage licenses, for example, online, can take months. Besides Free Public Records, I also check directories from BRB, Merlin, and NETRonline.

For news of new online public records, The Virtual Chase's (link fixed) newsletter often lists them, as well as PIBuzz.

There are a couple free search sites that help find public records on people at times; Pretrieve and ZabaSearch. You will have to pay for details, though.

As far as people finders, last week I mentioned a new subscription service, Reporter's Edge, which does a great job of providing info previously available only in more expensive services. A couple free ones that have caught my eye (they give just enough detail to determine where to search, at least) are VoomPeople, and the search at Free Public Records Online, which leads to

Even more interesting, notice of a new search engine just for people, called PIPL. This finds references to people in blogs, news, some public records, besides phone and address and email directories. It's been reviewed in SearchEngineLand, and by Mark Schaver at Depth Reporting.

I've tried to keep up with public records search links -- especially Florida links -- on my public records reference page, and am in the process of updating it now (some links may not work).

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  • Dear Liz,

    It's true that we're forced to charge a fee to access But it wasn't by choice. We're in a legal battle against a number of internet scams, with no one to help us. Because it's an ongoing case I can't say much about it other than you can find it at the Northern U.S. District California, case 3-06-cv-2306.

    I'm very proud of the service that we provide and hope soon to return to a model where we can at least provide casual users free access.

    I see that you know Sheila Lennon. She's wonderful-- and was kind enough to contribute to the book that Dr. Karen Manners Smith and I just had published through Prentice Hall-- "Time It Was: American Stories from the Sixties."

    Tim Koster
    Search Systems

    By Anonymous Tim Koster, at 4:48 PM  

  • I forgot to mention that we've been working on our public records directory since 1996-- when there were only a few dozen public record sites on the internet. Since then we've continually searched each state, county, and city web site for new databases which we evaluate and then write a description (including helpful tips) on each one we find.

    We then work daily to make sure that the links we have are updated (we run a program that evaluates the entire site for dead or moved links-- and then we fix each one).

    We organize the public record links both geographically and by type of record, and provide it all for only $4.95 per month. For that we also get rid of all advertising, and provide discounts on our premium multi jurisdictional databases-- criminal records, bankruptcies, judgments, and tax liens.

    If that isn't worth 16 cents per day, somebody please let me know so that we can stop rolling this rock up the mountain each morning.

    Tim Koster

    By Anonymous Tim Koster, at 5:04 PM  

  • I think you've hit on some really good ones though, even though some are pay sites, they still furnish proper reports.

    On the other hand, if you do comparisons between the information you pull up on the free sites like ZabaSearch with those you find on the pay sites like PeopleSearch, you can put together a pretty big piece of the puzzle for free. Then when you are ready to pay for a report, you already have the correct search parameters.

    By Blogger Christi, at 3:38 PM  

  • Access public records county records and criminal background history at

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:45 PM  

  • Public Records sure is very useful to check someones records specially when hiring and business

    Nice Post

    By Anonymous Public Records, at 9:14 PM  

  • I know a detective named Tim Koster and I want his help in locating Melvin Straus and "Geraldine". I know nothing abourt either after 1978. Others, too. like the fat pld white architect and his kicky wife who made the original "Beak-into Bonnett-and Back" headware. Glad I found your service. do you take paypal?

    By Blogger Andrew H, at 8:11 PM  

  • Performing a public records is really a big help for the security of business especially in hiring people. A useful one in looking for relatives that we haven't seen for a long time and don't know where they are. I've a public records that can be useful

    By Anonymous public records search, at 8:59 AM  

  • public record marriage
    This is the first time I’ve read about this. I keep learning new things everyday!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:53 AM  

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