Locating public records is one of the most popular search activities on the Web, and millions of people look for vital, historical, and other publicly registered documents every day online. Find a birth certificate, locate census records, track down land use documents, and much more with this list of the best websites for finding public information on the Web.
Note: These resources only cover publicly available records that are made accessible online. Some kinds of public records, such as birth certificates, are not made freely available online and must be accessed via your local records office. DO NOT pay for information that you find online, unless it is from an approved, secure state or federal resource. Read “Should I Pay to Find Someone Online?” for more information.
Yes, Google definitely belongs on this list of free public records search sites. Not only is it free, it’s also one of the world’s largest databases of information. For more info on how to use Google as your own public documents locator, read these articles titled Google Search, Google Cheat Sheet,Google Reverse Lookup, and How to Create a Google News Alert (a great way to track mentions of your topic across the Web). More »
Obituaries, both present-day and historical, can be found online with a little bit of sleuthing. Most obituaries are placed online, eventually, via the newspaper that originally published them. It can take some considerable patience and preparation in order to find many obits, but they can be found on the Web. This tutorial, How to Find an Obituary, takes you step by step on how to research obituary records both on the Web and off. More »
Google is one of the most useful places to start looking for all sorts of records, simply because its index is so incredibly large and can pull in details and resources you might not have thought to include otherwise. This article, How to Use Google to Find People, delves into the specifics of using Google to find people and people-related information on the Web. More »
Zabasearch is somewhat controversial because it brings back so much information. However, all of this information is publicly accessible; Zabasearch just puts it all in one convenient place. Zabasearch is considered a good “jumping off point”; it gives you a lot of publicly accessible information that you can use to track down even more public data using other Web search tools(such as the ones included in this top ten list). More »
FirstGov.gov is is a search portal that gives users instant access to all sorts of information from the United States government, state governments, and local governments. Every agency that handles public information in the United States can be found somewhere in this huge database. The site can be somewhat overwhelming at first simply because of the volume of information available; use the FirstGov tutorial to get an overview of what this incredibly useful site has to offer. More »
One of the more common public data searches pertains to finding grave information: cemetery records, interment information, even images of the gravesite. The website Find a Grave is extremely helpful in this regard. Celebrity interments can also be found here, with accompanying information and photos. More »
For the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, Census Finderis a free public records search site that can help you track down all sorts of interesting demographic information. For genealogy researchers or anyone looking to track down vital records, census information can become some of the best and most often utilized sources for content, especially since most censuses in the last century are recorded or transcribed online. More »