As a Public Records Specialist, I am certified to analyze, and collect Public Record information from government institutions for my clients. I analyze tens of thousands of records per year, and it has provided me ample opportunity to learn of the benefits they provide to genealogy research, and the roles they play in other fields as well. In particular, if you are searching for someone that is of the living, Public Records can help you locate them. The information that can be gleaned from the documents could in fact, lead you to them. 

I have decided to create a series of blog posts focused on Public Records. Each post in the series will focus on one type of record, including it source, and what type of information you may find in it. In PUBLIC RECORDS NO. 1, I will focus on a criminal record from the local county courthouse.

*** I am updating this blog post to reflect that as of 1 JUL 2019, citations of all kinds are now a sealed document in the State of Idaho. Although this will make it more difficult to identify if a record that you are viewing pertains to your search, I would still recommend using Public Records to assist you in your genealogy research. ***

It is important for you to understand that all records are not considered Public Records, and just because it is a Public Record, does not always make it accessible to you. 

A conversation that I had with a friend the other day was my inspiration for this post. The situation that was explained to me was; an individual she knows, had at some time within the last few years obtained a small claims judgment against another individual. He was having trouble contacting the defendant, because he did not have current address information for him, or any other way to contact him.

We happened to be at a local courthouse public viewing room when this conversation took place, so I was sitting in front of the public access portal for the courts right at that minute. I asked her if she knew the full name of the plaintiff or defendant, and after plugging the name into the portal I was quickly able to ascertain that the individual whom they were seeking information on had received a citation for a DUI in February 2017, just a short time ago. 

BINGO! I simply viewed the case, and reviewed the ticket that was written by the police officer issuing the DUI offense. From that one page in the file, I was able to quickly obtain the following pieces of information; his address, his phone number, his date of birth, driver's license #, and information regarding his vehicle including a license plate, and a VIN #. It is never safe to assume, however, there is a good chance that the information on the ticket was current, and probably pretty accurate.

If you are dealing with a name that is common, and find multiple entries for the same name try to see if there are any verifiers in the case documents that match the individual up, such as a date of birth. 

Keep in mind that many types of criminal cases are sealed, and not available for public view. The person you are searching for may have records in more than one county. The counties each keep their own records, and have to be researched individually, unless you are using a public access portal that covers more than one county (rare, but changing all the time).  

Some counties will have an online access point, usually somewhere on the counties official website. Still, many do not, and if you can't visit the county yourself, then you will need to contact the county court clerk, and inquire about their research policies. Any time you are seeking the assistance of a clerk for your research, please be kind. If they cannot provide the research for you, I suggest you inquire with the court clerk to see if there are any local researchers that research there. You of course can also contact me, I can potentially assist you with your research, depending on the county, 

Whats the take away from this? Life happens, and when it does it often generates a paper trail. You just need to know where to look. 

In closing, I hope that you find something in this article that will provide you with some direction for your search. I wish you the best of luck. I have had much success with this method. Should you be in need of professional assistance to further your research please contact me for your free 30 minute consultation, I would be happy to assist you in your endeavor.

Questions? Comments? Please feel free to start a conversation. I am happy to take suggestions for future blog articles. Thanks for reading, and don't forget to subscribe today, so you won't miss any future posts. - A Research Guru