How to Find Someone's History

By Viola Horne

Whether you need background information on a person for financial, employment or personal reasons, finding someone's history is not difficult. Records are available online and are easily accessible to anyone with the right information. If you can obtain vital information from the person himself, conducting a background check or history is much easier. If all you have is a name, the process may take more time and skill.

Ask For Details

Get the person you are trying to investigate to give you as much information upfront as possible. Get the person's full legal name. Make sure you have the proper spelling of full first, middle and last names. Find out if the person is a junior, second or third (e.g. Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Donald Trump III). Ask for proof from an official document such as a birth certificate or driver's license.

Ask them for additional statistical information such as date of birth, location of birth, driver's license number and Social Security number. Birth information is on a birth certificate. You can obtain Social Security numbers from a Social Security card or tax return. Is the person married? Get any spouse's full name, birth date and Social Security number, if possible.

Obtain other verifiable information. Ask for any maiden names or other names the person might have used. You may be able to turn up information on Mikey Brown as well as Michael Brown, for example. Verify current address by asking for a current utility bill. Ask for previous addresses, especially any in other states. Get phone numbers and email addresses, if possible. Ask for names of parents or siblings. All of these can be used to narrow down identities in a search.

Ask for any other pertinent information. Get current and previous employers, schools or member organizations. Find out if the person was a member of a church, synagogue or service organization. Was this person enlisted in the military? If so, find out what branch and get contact information to verify.

Be nosy. Ask outright for previous criminal history. Was this person ever arrested or convicted of a crime? If so, what was the penalty? Is he currently on probation? Get as much information about the crime as possible, including time served or fines paid.

Get past and current financial history. Has the person ever had a foreclosure or filed for bankruptcy? Some information is only available to the public for a given period of time, so asking may reveal what a search will not.

Start Searching

Begin by doing a basic Google search. Type the person's name into the search field. Try adding a city to the search, such as "George Bush Crawford TX." To narrow it down further, add quotes. This will eliminate irrelevant search results. A search on "Joaquin Phoenix" will turn up fewer, and more accurate, hits than Joaquin Phoenix without the quotes.

Many people over 18 can be found somewhere on the Internet. Start with www.pipl.com or www.whitepages.com. Whitepages.com will give you current and some previous addresses and will sometimes give you names of other residents in the household. Make sure this information matches the information the person you are searching on gave you. Pipl.com searches the deep Internet and unearths pages the person may have created on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. These two popular sites can deliver a wealth of personal information, much of it offered by the author himself.

Search public records. You can search for birth, marriage, divorce and death records using online vital statistics sites such as www.publicrecordfinder.com. However, many of these sites only allow the information to be shared with the parties involved. You can also conduct searches of financial, court and driving records, but again, some states restrict access to the information.

Engage an online professional background check service. For a fee, these companies will scour databases and records to turn up information on criminal records, vital statistics, and previous addresses and aliases. The small cost could be worth the time you would have spent. If you are searching on more than one person, use a service that offers unlimited searches for one price.

If you need a thorough criminal background check, you can get more information from city and county criminal records, state criminal courts, databases for the National Department of Corrections and Sex Offenders and the OFAC Patriot Act database. The information available varies from state to state. Some of this information can be purchased from online search companies, and some must be obtained in person. Most counties also maintain a sex offenders list that can be accessed for free. Start by searching the state's ".gov" web site.