Ain’t Nothin but a Corporate Hound Dog

Need to track down the registration of a Corporation or Limited Liability Company (LLC)?

How do you find it f you don’t know where it’s registered? Where should you start?

Most U.S. Corporations still file in the U.S. and choose a state to file their primary registration. That state then considers it a “domestic” corporation. If it subsequently files in other states, those states considers it a “foreign” corporation in their state.

If you’re looking for a registration and you know the domestic state you can easily find it on our “Corporations and Companies” page where we provide an easy link to all of the searchable online state corporation (and LLC) databases.

So what do you do if you don’t know where a corporation is filed domestically, in other words, where their primary registration is located?

The best option is to pick a state that provides excellent access to online registration AND is a state where many U.S. Corporations want to do business because it’s so populous.

That state is Florida.

The Florida Division of Corporations Document Searches page is easy to use, provides you with a large number of search options, and even gives you copies of filed documents– all for free!

We were asked recently to find the registration for G.A.C. Financing, the company that provided lending for Chrysler automobiles thirty years ago.

It turned out to be a daunting task as there have been a large number of mergers in, mergers out, domestic state transfers, involvement with Daimler Benz (Mercedes), separation from Daimler Benz, and all manner of complicated transactions along the way.

All of this was traceable by using the Florida Corporations database. That either provided us with the documentation for each merger or transfer, or gave us enough information about where each corporation was filed domestically so we could go right to that state and get all the details.

In the end it took no more than an hour’s work– all done online using SearchSystems.net, and at no cost.

So check it out when you have a chance. Here’s the URL again:

Florida Division of Corporations Document Searches

By the way, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that corporations are people, but we’re beginning to have our doubts. We say good morning each day to Search Systems, Inc., but it has yet to say good morning back. Just rude.

Deeds and Mortgages and Documents, Oh Yeah!

A woman called us for help because she suspected that her boyfriend was married.  She had looked up marriage records in her county and didn’t find anything.  She knew that he may have married elsewhere, but didn’t know where to search. He was originally from Boston, and he could have married there, but neither the City of Boston nor the State of Massachusetts has an online marriage database.

She just wasn’t sure where to go next.

We suggested that she use our site to go to the recorded documents database in her county to see if he owned a home and how the property was vested (owned).  Sure enough, she found his address and all the documents that have been filed in his name at that address.  The documents showed that he had purchased, financed, and recently refinanced the property with his wife.  The vesting was “Married, filing jointly,” meaning that it was very likely that he was married.

The woman who asked for help thanked us, and promised that the man would get an earful the next time he called for a date.

What makes recorded documents so valuable?

Recorded Documents are generally considered to be deeds, mortgages, liens, and judgments, but they often contain so much more.  You can often find military discharges, bonds, trusts, child support enforcement, business registration, power of attorney filings, financing statements, Uniform Commercial Code filings, 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—for free.

Try it yourself at the Maricopa County, Arizona Recorder’s database:

Maricopa County Recorded Documents

There’s no need to sign in and you can view the documents without paying a fee.

Or try the Cuyahoga County, Ohio Recorder’s offering found here:

Cuyahoga County Recorded Documents

Compare the two and you’ll find that many of the documents they provide are the same, but each provides additional categories that the other doesn’t offer.

Florida has a statewide service that they provide through myfloridacounty.com, but the database they provide isn’t as robust as what the local Florida counties provide directly.  But if you’re looking statewide for information it can’t be beat.

How do you find these treasures?  One of the difficulties in trying to find these databases is that they have so many different names.  Many people call these “grantor/grantee indexes.”  Florida calls them “Official Records.”  Georgia calls it their “Real Estate Index” (available statewide).  In some states you have to search the county “Clerk of Court,” while in others the records are filed at the “Registry of Deeds.”  The other problem is that the search engines have gotten so large that often the link that you want is buried behind hundreds of thousands of other results—if it even exists.

As you might know, we’ve been working since 1996 to find public record databases and provide an online directory of public records on our web site.  To make it easy for our visitors we try to keep the link titles as consistent as we can.  All recorded document links on our site are labeled as “Recorded Documents.”

To help you find the kind public records you want, we’ve grouped the most commonly used categories together.  Go to the left-hand column of almost any page on our site and you’ll find helpful search fields.  The drop-down menu on the top left in U.S. States says “By Topic.” Click on that and go to the “Recorded Documents” section for that state.

Or better yet, just click here:

SearchSystems.net Recorded Documents

Alternatively, pick a state and then county page that you want to search and check to see if that county makes recorded document information available online.  Or do a search by zip code, city and state, or county and state and click on the link to the county you want to search.

Keep in mind though that not every county provides their recorded document information online.  And many that do now charge a fee for document copies or contract with a third party for fee-based searches.

One last thing—all of our links are handpicked and qualified by our staff.  We also write a brief description of each link and add any helpful hints so that you’ll know what to expect from each database.

Let us know if you need help or know of anything we’ve missed.

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.

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.

There Goes the Neighborhood

Another one from our customer service archives…

Dear S.,

Hope you are well. I have another question for you. We are looking to buy a new house. We’d hate to move next door to someone who had barking dog complaints filed against them… or people who were reported for loud music, etc. Any way to research an address and find out more about the neighborhood?

Hi J,

Good luck on the possible new home purchase. A surveil of the neighborhood would be a good move. Do you have a particular house in mind or neighborhood/town/city? You can look in our directory to see if that city’s police department posts a “blotter” of incident reports. In big areas like LA and its suburbs, these incident reports are likely to contain only the more dramatic incidents, like burglaries, arrests, etc. But you never know. In more rural areas of the country, where the police have more time to update their websites, and less crime going around, you may find incident reports about noise complaints, altercations, or even runaway goats. Here’s one example of a police incident database, from Little Rock, AR. This site allows you to search by date, address, and incident type.

Pasadena, CA has a daily crime mapping site but I suspect it only reports major crimes. Still, you might want to find that neighborhood on this map and see if it is getting any unwanted “action”.

To see if your city has a site like that, click on the United States Free Public Records by State heading on our home page, then select your State. On the state page, you’ll see a link for Cities & Towns. Another way to get to links for your city is to use the “By City” search field in our Free Public Records Locator tool menu.

Once you’re looking at a specific home on the market, I might suggest taking a walk around the block at various times of day. Afternoon, after dinner, etc. That will give you much more observations about the street than just driving by. If dogs are a concern, you might want to walk near the house with your own dog (or borrow a friend’s). That will get every dog on the street out to the side gates, barking at you. Then you’ll know where the loud dogs are, and whether the owners keep them indoors or outdoors. There is a difference between a good guard dog and a yappy nuisance, so take that into consideration.

Another idea, if you’re bold enough, is to knock on a few doors and introduce yourself as a potential neighbor. It would take tact though, to ask about noisy residents on the block, as the person you’re speaking with might BE the noisy one. One idea is to ask around if the street has a Neighborhood Watch program and find out who runs it. Talk to that person and you’ll have a line in to all the gossip in the neighborhood. We have a person like that on our street and she knows all the issues between all the residents.