6 Public Records You Have the Right to Access

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act of 1967 (FOIA), Americans have the legal right to access records from any federal agency so long as they do not fall under the very strict exemption list.

Luckily, a lot of the information you might be looking for, and would generally need an official FOIA request to receive, is readily available online. This is especially true for those looking to conduct an online people search.

Today we are going to look at some of the most common public records you might want to view. This way, should you ever become curious about your newest friend, partner, or even yourself, you’ll know exactly what kind of information is made available to the public without having to make official FOIA requests.

Common Types of Public Records

Before jumping into what types of public records you might want to see, let’s first clear up exactly what a public record is.

A public record is any county, state, or federal record that is not considered confidential. Public records can be in the form of paper, photographs, maps, or even electronic media such as CDs, DVDs, or computer databases stored in the cloud.

1. Marriage Record

Once an officiant performs a marriage ceremony, and then signs and submits the official marriage license, the marriage is now a matter of public record. Generally, this record will contain the names of the married couple, birthplaces, location and time of marriage, and marriage license numbers.

2. Divorce Records

Just as your marriage becomes a public record once official, so does your divorce. In fact, finding these records may be as simple as accessing your state’s Vital Statistics department and conducting a quick name search. Your full name, marriage and divorce locations, divorce date, reason for divorce, number of children, and any court judgments will be included.

3. Death Records

There is some debate whether death records are actually considered public record or not. This is because some states require that you have a personal interest invested in your reasoning for wanting to access a death record. That said, they are often part of what are called “vital records”, which also include birth records, and can sometimes be accessed by the public.

4. Criminal Records

These records are important if you are looking to protect your family from someone you may think has a questionable past. Here are the types of things you might learn when you access someone’s criminal records:

  • Arrest and court documents
  • Sex offender registrations
  • Inmate records
  • Personal information including name and age
  • Residence history
  • List of all known relatives
  • Property ownership

The only types of criminal records not available to the public are those involving minors.

5. Bankruptcies

Unfortunately, your personal financial downfalls are a matter of public record. In fact, many states print a list of personal bankruptcy notices in the local newspaper, complete with name, address, and bankruptcy type, for everyone to see. In addition, any credit report that is pulled on you by one of the three major credit bureaus is sure to have your bankruptcy filing on them.

6. Driving Record

Your driving record is a public account of your driving history. It will include things such as:

  • Personal information such as name, address, and gender
  • DL number and state of issuance
  • License classifications
  • DL status and date of expiration
  • Any driving violations
  • Penalties incurred
  • Collision information

In the end, you may be curious about yourself and want to know what exists in your own public records. Or, you may be wanting to a do a little background digging on someone new in your life to make sure they are who they say they are.

No matter the case, there are plenty of public records readily available to you so that you can ease your mind when someone tells you about their past.