The SearchSystems.net Guide to Finding People
Locating people may be challenging, but it can be easy and fun. Think of it as a puzzle with more than one solution. The trick is in knowing where to start and what steps to follow. Here are some basic tools to help you locate someone:
Search using Public Records
Before the Internet became popular the easiest way to find someone was with Directory Assistance. All you had to do was pick up a phone and dial. It still worksthough less so each year as more and more people request unlisted or non-published numbers.
No country does a better job of providing easy and inexpensive access to public record information than the United States. The amount of online information available is dizzying. And no web site has done a better job of finding and organizing access to these databases than SearchSystems.net.
Weve been searching for and building our directory of public record databases since 1996, so feel free to use them to aid you in your search.
Where to start? Here are some suggestions:
The most useful government-held data about citizens is kept at the county level. To find what public record databases are available in your county, go here and click on your state, then click on your county.
Know the name of the city, but not the county? Use the By City and State field. Once you start typing the city name it will finish the city and state for you. Then click Go to get a list of public record databases available for that city and county.
Or try using the By Zip Code field. Type in the zip code, press Go, and it will give you the city and county public record databases that are available for that zip code.
Once you find what public record databases are available, check each database to see which ones might be helpful. Here are the ones we find most useful:
1) Property Records
Many counties will still allow you to search by name, as well as by address, or parcel number. Access to name searches is becoming less common though. But if you have an address you can still use it to check to see if the person youre trying to find still owns it. Or if the county provides owner histories, you can tell from that when that person might have moved. Some areas (such as Virginia and many of the New England states) provide property record information at the local level, so dont forget to check whats available for your city as well.
2) Recorded Documents
Recorded Documents are generally considered to be deeds, mortgages, liens (of all sorts), and judgments, but the counties that provide access to them often provide so much more. You can find military discharges, bonds, trusts, child support enforcement, dbas, power of attorney filings, financing statements, trusts, partnership documents, leases, and wills. Some counties also provide birth, death and marriage certificates, and quite a few will give you copies of the documents online. Try it yourself at the Maricopa County, Arizona Recorders database: http://recorder.maricopa.gov/recdocdata/. Or try the Cuyahoga County, Ohio Recorders offering found here: http://recorder.cuyahogacounty.us./Searchs/GeneralSearchs.aspx. Compare the two and youll find that many of the documents they provide are the same, but each provides additional categories that the other doesnt offer.
Our SearchSystems.net Directory of public record links includes a category for Recorded Documents, organized by state and county, to help you locate the link to the appropriate clerk-recorder database. Many counties offer searches free of charge (document copies often cost extra).
If your subject owns property, you can verify the ownership and address using the clerk-recorders records. If the subject is renting, you may still be able to bring up owner information. Try Directory Assistance to locate a phone number for your subject, or for the property owner. A friendly phone call may provide the next clue in your quest.
3) Voter Registration
Some counties and states offer free websites to verify voter registration. This can help you match a name and address. We have links to these sites in our Voters category on our Directory, organized by state and county. Some states even have a statewide voter registration database, making your search that much faster.
4) Professional Licenses
If you know that your subject is a contractor, accountant, attorney, doctor, security guard, or other licensed professional, you have another tool at your disposal. Many occupations require licensing at the state level. Most states provide free online databases for all types of professions. We have links to these databases in the Licenses category on our Directory. A search here may give you a current home or office address, and possibly a phone number for your subject.
5) Are they Deceased?
The best place to determine if someone has passed away is Social Security Administration Death Records. But they dont have every death record in the United States. There are a number of reasons why people may not appear in that database. To be thorough, check to see what other death record databases are available in your state.
6) Did they get Married? Divorced?
See if you can find marriage and/or divorce records. If you are searching for a woman by her maiden name and she has recently married, she may be using a new last name. Alternately, a divorced woman may resume using her former last name. Our directory includes categories for marriage and divorce databases. Typically these records are found at the county level.
7) Relatives, Roommates, Neighbors
Your People Search or other research results may include relatives, roommates or neighbors. Most people want to help others reconnect, so a phone call or letter to one of these people might produce the missing link if you have not been successful in locating your subject. Try Directory Assistance if you dont have a current phone number for a relative or friend. Or try any of the other tools described here.
8) Post Office
You can also put the postal service to work for you. Simply write a letter to your subject at the last-known address and below your return address, write "Address Service Requested. You may also write it above the delivery address, to the left of or below the postage area.
This instructs the post office to send your envelope BACK TO YOU if the address written on the envelope is no longer current for the subject and they still have a forwarding address. If there is a forwarding address, the Post Office is supposed to put the new address on a sticker, put it on your envelope and return it to you.
The Postal Service does charge a fee for this, which you pay when you receive the new address.
If the post office for that address isnt far away, you can go there and complete a Freedom of Information Act Request Form to obtain the new address.
Without that Address Forwarding Information Requested notice, the Post Office simply forwards mail on to the recipient and the sender has no idea it has been redirected to a different address.
For more information from the USPS about this topic, go here: http://www.usps.com/ncsc/addressservices/moveupdate/ace.htm
9) Other Avenues
There are so many more ways to locate people that its best to just explore our web site to see what you can find. Try starting here:
Search Public Records by Type of Record
Try searching Unclaimed Property if you dont know where to start as that may give you an old address. Try court and criminal records, business filings (corporations, fictitious business name filings, LLCs), or Uniform Commercial Code filings. Some cities and counties provide building inspection databases, or even online access to utility information.
There are many more ways that you can find people. Try calling the local moving companies, or check (nicely) with neighbors. If the person youre looking for lived in a rural area, try the local grocery store or bar (we found someone once who lived in a cave in the Sierra Nevada Mountainshis buddies at the local bar were happy to tell us how to reach him).
Social Networking Sites
Every day more people join social networking sites and post data about themselves. This is becoming a very useful tool to find and connect with people. Below are links to a few of the more popular sites, where you can search for names. Viewing full profiles and sending messages may require registration with these sites.
And keep checking back at SearchSystems.net. We continually hand-search, add (and verify) our links to public record databases daily. Well also be adding more helpful guides and additional useful Premium databases to make it easier for you to find the information you need.