Tips for Successful Public Record Searches

Posted by Team - 10 August, 2016



Public records offer a wealth of knowledge to those who know how to use them to their fullest potential. The ability to download courthouse records, deeds, mortgages, oil and gas leases, bankruptcies, and more straight to your computer is an excellent resource to have at your disposal. Here are six tips for how to maximize your success with online and in-person public record searches.

Know Public Record Laws

If you request public records through a county agency, be prepared to have them turn you away or ignore your request completely if you aren’t versed in a few basic rules. Read through your state’s public record laws to gain a solid understanding of what public records can and can’t be used for. Become as knowledgeable about the law as public officials so you can provide a strong argument for making information public rather than having them withhold it from you.

Make a Personal Appearance

Always check online first to see if you can access the public records you need without having to go anywhere or speak with someone in person. If this doesn’t work, however, visit the agency’s office and ask to look at records instead of submitting a virtual request. When you’re right in front of a clerk, it’s much more difficult for them to ignore you or deny your request. A personal visit is more effective than a virtual request if you can’t find what you need online.

Be Polite to Clerks and Agencies

If you must speak or interact with a clerk in person, always be polite. Don’t take no for an answer, but don’t start out being unnecessarily brash. First, ask for the records without citing the laws that support your endeavor. Clerks may already know you’re allowed to view the records and won’t be impressed with your assumption about their know-how. If they deny your request, calmly refute their decision with the state laws you learned about your particular type of search. Be polite and patient with the people you encounter during your search to help streamline the process.

Use Online Public Records Tools

Thanks to the convenience of the internet, historical records are now easily accessible online. Select the state in which you want to find information, and then narrow it down by county. An online public records database immediately shows you available records for the location, making your search easy and effective. Instead of visiting your local public records agency and grappling with clerks, you can download the information you need in a few clicks.

Optimize Your Search Based on Type

Online public records databases are classified according to the type of records they contain. For example, gives you instant access to real property documents, historical deeds, liens, oil and gas leases, and grantor indexes. This database is geared toward records for landowner information and is ideal for attorneys, appraisers, banks, landmen, mortgage lenders, and real estate agents. If you need criminal records, you might use a different database. Starting your online search with the most appropriate category for your needs is the best way to find the required records.

Know the Best Practices for an Online Search

One of the best online search tips is to use special characters to search for word variations. An exclamation point stands in for characters at the end of a root word, while an asterisk is a symbol for any single character. Searching for “bankrupt!,” for example, will come up with search results for bankrupt, bankruptcy, bankruptcies, bankrupted, bankrupting, and bankrupts. Performing a search for “Anders*n” will come up with Anderson and Andersen. Putting quotation marks around your search will give you the exact phrase you search for.

Using the Internet for your public records search makes the entire process more efficient and results-driven. You no longer have to wait for a response from an agency or deal with a clerk in person. Take advantage of online public record search tools, and use them to their fullest potential for fast, easy, and reliable records acquisition.

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Topics: Courthouse Documents

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