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Four Types of Public Records Everyone Should Know About


The internet has made public records available in a way that was unheard of before. Gone, for the most part, are the days of having to go to the county clerk's office and sit in a musty room searching through microfilmed records to find what you need.

Many of the public records you need are available for online viewing. Records that cannot be viewed online can usually be ordered through a government or private website. Here are five types of public records that you might find useful in your business, profession or personal life.

County and real property records

Deeds, mortgages, judgments and liens, and other real property documents are maintained at your local county clerk's office along with records of births, deaths and marriages. Whether you are searching for a copy of the deed to your own home or trying to get a copy of your birth certificate, a public records search of at your local county clerk's office is the place to begin.

The online availability of public records at the county clerk's office is a hit or miss proposition depending upon how updated the system of record retrieval is in the county in which you are conducting your public records search. Some counties might have systems that permit you to search and view their public records online using your computer or mobile device, but the cost and effort involved in upgrading have left some counties with websites that only permit you to order manual searches.

If you place an online order, county personnel conduct the search for you and mail you the results or notify you when they are ready to be picked up. An option is to go to the county clerk to conduct or request the record search in person.

Licensing records

Most states offer searchable databases of professional licenses issued by the various departments or agencies within the government authorized by law to issue them. Some of the professions that usually require licensing include:

  • Attorneys
  • Physicians and other health care providers
  • Real estate brokers and sales agents
  • Funeral directors

You can usually search the sites using the name of the license holder. The search will normally reveal the date the license was issued and the date of expiration.

Military records

As a general rule a public records search about a current or former member of the military requires authorization from the individual to obtain personal information. Public information that is available includes the person's name, rank and dates of service obtainable through the National Archives and Records Administration.

Corporate and business formation records

There are databases containing information available to the public about corporations, limited liability companies and partnerships formed and doing business within a particular state. Official websites of each state permit the public to search these public records databases to obtain the legal name of a business, the date it was formed, the type of business structure under which it was set up and, in some cases, the names of the principals of the business or organization.

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