The Best Way to Find Information About a Person
By Jessica Hughey
It can be very interesting to "play detective" and find out information about people. Whether you're looking for a long-lost relative, checking up on a new employee or just want to know more about a new love interest, there are many online public records resources that can help you to find information about a person. Public records can provide a wealth of information, such as addresses (both current and former), birth dates, employers, income and even criminal histories. Some sources will be free, but others will require payment to access their databases.
Start with what you already know
Gather all of the information you currently know about the person. Write down the person's full name, birth date, address, telephone number and any other information you might be aware of. This can give you a good foundation on which to build your search.
Do a Google search. Use keywords like "finding people," "personal information" or "public records search." These should pull up a good list of places to start. Check to see if these sources are free or if they require payment. Start with the free sources. They should give you more information to add to your list. Search for your subject by name and enter as much information as you have about that person. You will want to narrow down your list of search results to make sure you are targeting the correct person and not just someone with the same name.
Once you've exhausted this search, do another search for the same name, but spelled slightly differently. Also try other forms of your subject's name. For example, "Bill" could be listed as "William" or "Willy" or "Will." You may find results where the subject's name was spelled differently or simply misspelled. If you find a name that matches, be sure to cross check all other information, such as birth date, to make sure it matches your subject. If the other information does not match, move on.
Take a moment to record and organize all the information you've collected so far. By this point, you may have found addresses, telephone numbers, the marital status or relatives of your subject. All of these can become sources of information, so be sure to keep notes of everything you find. It may become useful later in your search.
Some paid, online databases charge by the search, whether or not you obtain results or find the information you are seeking. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of the database you plan to access before you enter your credit card number. Most databases will allow you to do a preliminary search for your subject's name and may tell you whether or not someone with that name is listed in their database. Some may not. Enter as much information as you can about your subject to avoid pulling up a gigantic list of irrelevant information. You want your search to be as focused as possible.
- When entering your credit card number, check the URL of the page you are on and make sure it starts with "https://." This will ensure that your credit card information is secure.
- There is nothing wrong or illegal about accessing public records. That is why they are public. However, be careful about contacting any other people you may find in your searches, such as relatives or spouses of your subject. Many people will feel you are invading their privacy.
Jessica Hughey has been a freelance writer since 1995. She is certified in Microsoft Word and Excel and has worked as a technical support representative for a major software publisher. Hughey maintains several personal blogs and her work has appeared in various online publications. She attended Cleary University in Ann Arbor, Mich.