Use Voter Records to Find Someone

That’s right.  Whether your long-lost friend or relative is a Democrat, Republican, or Independent… if they vote you can find them.  Especially in an election year, most folks update their voter registration if they’ve recently moved.  This gives you a chance to pinpoint their current residential address.

Ever notice that when you move and update your voter registration, you get a jury duty summons a few months later?  This is because your updated voter information triggers the jury services department.  You’re back on the grid.  Why not use that same trigger to verify the new address of your old buddy?

On our Voter Records page, we compile links to the Registrar of Voters and Supervisor of Elections databases in as many states and counties as we can find.  You’ll see resources for voter records, registration, polling precincts & locations, absentee ballot status, and provisional ballot status.  These public databases are intended to provide you a means to check your own registration, but if you have enough information on your person, you can look him or her up too.

Let’s look at Bradford County, Florida as an example.  If you can provide the voter’s last name, birth date, and street number, this database will verify that there is a current registration matching that name and address.

Let’s be very clear: This database won’t give you a brand new address you were unaware of, but it can verify an address you may suspect is your subject’s.  So if you’ve run a people search report and you have a list of potential addresses for your person, you can run each through voter registration databases to find the current match.

Checking Up on Richie

Interesting criminal records research today. A customer called us after running a nationwide criminal search through our Premium service. She wanted to know why her ex-husband Richie’s (not his real name) multiple convictions did not appear.

We asked her for the regions where she expected to find records. They included San Diego, CA, and Miami, FL.

First we checked the San Diego County Superior Court online database. Our Premium database also includes this resource, but it helps to double-check directly at the source. This is one reason our website is so helpful for criminal records research. Both free and fee-based databases are available from the same interface.

No records appeared for San Diego County.

Next we checked for Miami-Dade County, Florida criminal records and infractions using this database. Two cases appeared.  Unfortunately the date of birth listed in the Miami records did not match the DOB that our customer ran in her search.  And though the name and middle initial matched the record, we still didn’t know if these records were for the correct person.

We then took a look at federal district court records nationwide through the PACER service. This proved to be the lynchpin in solving the matter. We located a filing in San Diego County relating to an immigration board appeal case. It wasn’t a criminal case, but it did list one party as Richie. And the clincher? The exact name matched the records we found in Miami-Dade County and our customer’s name appeared on one of the docket entries, as the (then) wife of the subject.  So even though the birth date for the Miami record was different than what we’d been given, we knew it was the right person.  What’s likely is that this person either lied to his wife about his true birth date or lied to the police.

We ran another nationwide search using our own Premium database, but this time we input a partial first name as a non-exact name search (e.g., entering “RIC will give you results for Rick, Ricky, Richie, Richard, etc.).  We also input the new birth year we’d found. We received 15 records, all from Miami-Dade County, showing a long criminal history of drug sales, resisting arrest, felony weapons use, and other charges. The new date of birth we found linked the name to additional AKA’s, each with alternate birth dates, and each with convictions.

It seems this person is something of a chameleon, which explains why our customer was not able to get the full picture by doing a Premium search on his exact name and (incorrect) date of birth.  By using both the Premium and the free databases, we got to the bottom of the matter.

A Little Traffic Jam

On Monday, October 29th, 2012 our site was hit by a major wave… of visitors!

Recent improvements made to our public records site have boosted our Google rankings.  This is great news for Search Systems, but the sudden influx of traffic on our site did have a down side.  Our servers are not accustomed to so many visitors on the site at once, which has resulted in a slowdown the last few days.

We are addressing the issue by bringing on more servers, which will increase our capacity and redistribute the load. If you experience delays while navigating the site, please accept our apologies.  We are working as fast as we can to optimize the site to accommodate all of our new friends.

Also, if you notice that any of the database resources from the Northeast are down, it could be due to the hurricane.

Please have patience and we’re sure these issues will be resolved shortly.

Don’t Forget the Fed

Most researchers who use Search Systems to find court records know that we provide links to court databases at the municipal, county, and state levels. While those are key databases, don’t overlook the federal court system. Federal civil and criminal cases are handled by the U.S. District Courts.

So how does one research federal cases?  There is only one resource – the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system.  PACER is a service of the United States Judiciary, and operated by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.  The information found on PACER is not available anywhere else. This is why we provide helpful links to many PACER access points, such as on our main Court Records page.

If you pay for a nationwide criminal record search from any online service, you’ll find that the results will not include any convictions for federal crimes.  This is because federal cases will ONLY appear on the PACER system.  It is well worth your time to set up a PACER account and run the names of your subjects through this system.  Not only will you find federal civil and criminal cases… PACER includes ALL bankruptcy filings in the U.S.

So how much does PACER cost and how does it work?

Fortunately, PACER does not charge a sign-up fee, but you do need to establish an account.  Their search and download charges are quite reasonable at 10 cents per page.  You can obtain dockets and documents within the same search. So if your name search brings back 3 pages of results, you will be charged 30 cents. If you open the case details for one particular name, and the docket is 2 pages long, you will be charged another 20 cents.  Then if you want to open the document for one item, and it is 10 pages long, you will be charged another $1.00.  You total thus far would be $1.50.  Hardly breaking the bank.

What’s more, PACER will cap your billing for single documents and case-specific reports.  So if one document was written by a long-winded attorney and came out at 75 pages, you will only be charged the cap of $3.00 for the document.  Basically they charge you for the first 30 pages but you get the entire document.

PACER invoices customers quarterly. You can set up your account with a credit card for faster registration and automatic billing.  PACER includes a field on the search page where you can input a client code.  This is helpful if you need to conduct research on a number of matters and you need to track the expenses for each of your clients or projects.

There are a few different ways to search the PACER system.  You can search all of their courts at once, using the PACER Case Locator or you can search at individual court PACER websites. Many states are divided into federal districts. For example, Alabama has a Middle District, Northern District, and Southern District U.S. District Court.

For U.S. Bankruptcy Courts, you can search by name, case number, Social Security number, or tax identification number. For the U.S. District Courts, you can search by name, case number, or filing date range. For the U.S. Courts of Appeals, you can search by name or case number.

Broken Links on our Site

If you’ve used our public records site, you’re probably aware that we offer over 55,000 links to free online databases.

How did they all get there?  One at a time.

Since 1997 we’ve looked for available public record databases on the Internet at the national, state, county, and city levels.  When we find a database, we test it and write a description for that link explaining what you can input and what the database provides.  Then we put that up on our directory at SearchSystems.net.

Along with accumulating databases for our directory, we also regularly test the existing database links using special software that detects broken and redirected links.  On average, about 250 links in our directory go bad each week.

This isn’t our fault – this is due to the government agencies that control these databases.  They often change their URL structures or redesign their sites and interior pages.  Sometimes their databases go offline for maintenance or other reasons.

So fixing broken and redirected links is a full-time job here at Search Systems, and a natural part of URL database management.  We rely not only on our link-checking software, but also on users like you to report problems with the databases.  This is why you’ll see a small blue link titled “Report Broken Link” after every database description in our directory.  Click on that and you’ll arrive at a page like this one where you can report to us any problems, such as a link that goes to an error page or non-useful page, a database listed under the wrong category, or a database that simply doesn’t produce results.

While we test the URLs, we don’t have the resources to run test searches on all the databases in our directory.  So if a link gets you to the right search page, but you are not able to get any results from that database, please let us know.  Use the Report Broken Link feature, or send us an email using the Contact Us feature.  We can’t fix an outside website’s database, but we can try to contact them.  If we conclude that their database is not functioning properly, we might remove that resource from our directory and place it on a temporary hold until the database is functioning again.

There are instances where a user reports a broken link to us and we find that it works.  This may indicate that the link was down temporarily and came back online by the time we tested.  Or it could indicate that the database works better with certain web browsers.  We encourage users who submit broken link reports to include their email address so we can check back with them to find out which operating system they are using, and which web browser.  Sometimes that can help us troubleshoot the problem if the database itself is not really broken.

So if you stumble across a broken link while using our directory, don’t despair.  Send us a notice and typically we can fix it quickly.

Video Demos now available

Sometimes it is easier to understand a process by seeing it rather than reading about it.

Search Systems now offers brief online video tutorials to help you with your research.  We have established channels on YouTube, Vimeo, and other online video sharing sites.  Soon these online demos will be available on the SearchSystems.net website as well.

These videos will cover a range of topics, such as navigating the site, getting to particular types of public record databases, and using Premium pay databases.

You can visit our video channel by clicking on the link below:

Search Systems YouTube Channel

Please let us know if there is a topic you would like us to address in future video demonstrations.

Finding Canadian Records

Some visitors to our site have asked if we provide access to public records from Canada.  The answer is YES!  Not only that, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police helped us put our Canada public records directory together.

To start, use the “Worldwide” drop-down menu at the top right corner of our home page.  Then click on Canada Public Records.  The lower half of that page displays many public record resources nationwide in Canada.  The upper half of the page has links to Canadian databases organized by type of record.  Corporations & Businesses is one example.

To search for databases by area, click on the link for “Province & Territory.”  There you will find resources for Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Islands, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and the Federal Territory of Yukon.

You can drill down further.  By clicking on the Alberta link, you will arrive at a page with databases for that province, along with links to the sub-directories for cities and counties within Alberta.  Use our links to find accountants in Alberta, or utilities in Lloydminster, or property records in Strathcona County.

If you are looking to do a “people search” in Canada, be advised that most internet companies offering people searches only cover the United States.  This includes the services that we advertise.

Why are there no people searches for Canada?  The local and national Canadian governments do not resell Canadian citizen address data to third parties and private companies.  In the United States, people search data comes from a variety of public record sources such as property and voter registration records, which are then resold to online companies.

If you are looking to locate someone in Canada or confirm an address, start with the property databases in Canada.

Looking for criminal records in Canada?  Criminal record searches can only be ordered from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  For more details, see this page.

Eviction Records Now Available

Search Systems now provides access to an eviction records database.  For just $5 per search, you can find out if a person or business has ever been evicted from a home, apartment, or office building.

Eviction records are court records, and can be found in a county or state court record search (depending on the state).  What this service provides is a fast, simple way to search an entire state for court records that only pertain to evictions.  We zero in on the eviction records for your subject so you don’t have to sort through dozens of other court filings to get to this information.

The easy-to-use interface allows for a statewide eviction record search.  If the tenant name you are searching is common, you can use an advanced search feature to narrow your results to a single city.

Result details typically include case number, filing date, filing type, court name and address, plaintiff name (the landlord), defendant/debtor name (the tenant) and address, and also the book and page number, if applicable.

Currently the search page allows for a search by tenant name only, but if you wish to search by landlord name to find evictions initiated by the landlord, feel free to contact us directly.

How Do I Find Out if I’m Divorced?

This question was posited by one of our visitors.  It is an excellent question with many potential responses:

If you’re a man, look around your kitchen area.  If you see mostly pizza boxes and plastic microwave dinner trays, or if your “guest” towels have hotel names on them, you might be divorced.

If you’re a woman, if your home is suddenly spotless, and you know where the TV remote is, you might be divorced.

You get the idea.

All kidding aside, last week’s call was typical.  Our visitor wanted to search the national divorce database.

There isn’t one.

But there are quite a few state and local resources that will help, and our directory can point you to the court sites that where you may search “Family Court” records for divorce filings and many have options for downloading or ordering document copies.

Divorce records are usually filed at a civil court in most counties.  It could be a superior, district, or circuit court, depending on the court structure in the state.  Some county courts have a family law division that handles divorces, paternity, and child custody matters.  Keep in mind that not every county provides divorce records online.

Some states (e.g. Kansas) provide a statewide vital records office where you can obtain divorce records from any county in the state.  Other states will do a statewide search for you to verify a divorce, but will not provide copies of the documents.

Then there are difficult states like New York, where divorce records are sealed for 100 years, unless you are one of the spouses, OR you have a NY State Court Order allowing you access to the divorce record.  Check out the New York State Department of Health for more details.

Alaska makes divorce certificates available 50 years after the divorce date, but in the meantime you can access court records to at least see evidence of a divorce filing.

When starting your search, it helps to figure out what each state offers in the divorce record area.  We feel that our divorce records directory page is a logical starting point.

Or you could look outside your window and see how many cars are in the driveway.

Criminal Records – The Beast with 12 Heads

The most common misconception about public records is that “Nationwide” criminal record services (even ours) provide access to ALL records in the United States.

The truth is, each jurisdiction, county, and state has different rules and opinions about what records should be accessible, who may access criminal records, and if they will provide the public access at all. In fact, NO ONE has access to all of the criminal records nationwide, aside from the FBI. So unless you have a friend at the Bureau, you must face the beast with 12 heads. One head is the states like Massachusetts, California, and Louisiana that don’t allow the general public to have access to statewide criminal records. Another head is states like New York that do allow statewide access, but only through an expensive New York State service; no one else may provide access to their records. A third head is jurisdictions like Washoe and Clark Counties in Nevada who provide access to their records online for free—but like New York make sure that they’re the only online providers. The list goes on and on. Get the picture?

We helped a customer who was frustrated after paying to access a few reputable online criminal background databases, only to wind up empty handed. He knew the subject of his search had convictions in the state of Michigan, yet his Nationwide search at one service turned up nothing.

It is easy to understand why the customer was frustrated. We had to reveal the truth about the beast with 12 heads. You cannot enter the Gorgon’s lair with eyes averted and slay the beast with one swing of your sword. You have to go after each head until you know you have dispatched them all.

We put on our research helmets and asked the customer for details on his subject. The man with the criminal record – we’ll call him EDDIE SMITH – was born on January 1, 1970. The customer was certain that Eddie served some time in jail, and was convicted of a felony in Genessee County, MI. The customer needed proof, which is why he paid good money for online background searches.

The first thing we did was bring up the Michigan coverage page for our Premium Criminal Record database. Michigan provides us with data from their OTIS system, which is a tracking database of prisoners, parolees, and probationers who have spent time in the Michigan State prison system. We noted that the OTIS system does not include records for persons who spent time in county jail. That is a different system. The Michigan State Department of Corrections runs the state prisons. Each county runs their own jail. This is true for most U.S. States. If Eddie Smith was sentenced to county jail time only, then OTIS would not have records for him.

That was the situation with state prison records. What about county records and county court records?

Genessee County’s 67th District Court does provide records to outside agencies, but only the misdemeanors. Felonies are not included. This explains why Eddie’s Genessee County felony did not show up.

We assured the customer that paying for a statewide criminal search in Michigan was not a complete waste of time… if Eddie Smith had other types of convictions in Genessee County or other counties in Michigan, the statewide search might have brought those to his attention.

We pointed out to the customer that he could complete his search of Genessee County by using our free criminal records directory, which provides links to databases maintained by the county courts. Using the directory links, he could find other records not included in the statewide databases, like arrest records, jail records, inmate records, etc.

We walked the customer through the steps needed to find those web links on our directory. Starting with our FREE PUBLIC RECORDS LOCATOR tool box on our home page, we asked the customer to use the drop-down menu of the “By Type of Record” tool, where he then selected “Criminal Records.” At the following page, he selected “Michigan Criminal Records” from the list of states. On the Michigan Criminal Records page, we pointed out the link to the Michigan State Police service, where he could pay $10 for an “Official” Michigan criminal history.

Scrolling down further on the page, we found the link to the Genessee County 67th District Court site, where we ran a free search for Eddie Smith. This court site includes both felonies and misdemeanors… and there we found the record for Smith’s felony conviction, which indicated that state prison time was not required. The customer printed out the details for free.

Feeling empowered now with his free SearchSystems.net membership and newfound knowledge, the customer thanked us and went on to research criminal records for other subjects in his file. There may be 12 heads to this beast, but we provide the weapons to find and strike them down.