How To Access Public Records

by C.M. Stewart - Date: 2010-10-18 - Word Count: 494 Share This!

Why Access Public Records?
People access public records for any number of reasons including for geneaological research, curiosity, employment verification, rental verification, and many other reasons. Geneaologists rely heavily on public records as they research their family histories. For example, immigration records can reveal when an ancestor arrived in the United States as well as which country the ancestor came from. This provides additional clues for geneaologists to pursue as they trace the histories of families. Employers and landlords regularly access public records to determine if a potential employee or tenant has a criminal past. People may search through public records out of curiosity, too. For example, want to know how much property tax your neighbor is paying compared to you? Accessing public tax records could reveal this information.

Is it Hard to Access Public Records?
It's not overly difficulat to access public records. In fact, you may have already done so without realizing it. For instance, have you ever looked up your home on This site pulls information from public records databases to detail a home's past selling prices and property tax information. When you look up phone numbers online, the online phone companies use the public phone utility information to provide you with the information that you seek. You can also access public records in person by visiting public agencies such as the city clerk's office.

How to Access Public Records
First, you need to know what type of public records you want to access as that will guide you in how to find and access them. For example, if you need a birth or death record, you'll need to deal with the state where the person was born or died. If you're looking for public tax records, those records are stored at the county level. If you're looking for criminal records, you'll need to narrow your search down to the state or federal court system. Once you know which entity you are dealing with, you can then begin your search in earnest. You may need to visit the entity's website in order to access those records online or you may need to fill out an application.

How Much Does it Cost to Access Public Records?
While public records are public, this doesn't necessarily mean that they are free. You may need to pay a search fee or a copy fee, even if the records are accessed at a public agency. Many public records are freely available online such as the property tax records that power sites like Many geneaological websites also provide free access to public records databases. For example, you can look up death records in the Social Security Death Index for free on Most law enforcement agencies post sex offender profiles online so that parents can have a better understanding of the threats in their neighborhoods. For comprehensive access, you might consider joining a records registry where you can access public records databases covering just about every record type imaginable.

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