Most counties allow private citizens to view their public records at no cost. Although many public records are available online, records over ten years old may only be available in print or on microfilm at your county's offices. As you conduct your search, keep in mind that while most counties permit researchers to view public records for free, there may be a fee if you need photocopies of the documents.
Do an online search. Many jurisdictions are making their recent public records accessible for free on the Internet. You may be able to find free public records at the website of the clerk of the court, sheriff's office, registrar of deeds, and department of vital records. Keep in mind that not all counties have made their records accessible on the Internet and even in locations where records are available electronically, websites may not offer comprehensive records searches.
Go to the courthouse and county offices in person. The records office at your local courthouse and county office building can give you access to public records at no charge. Although most offices can accommodate walk-in requests for records during regular business hours, you may want to call ahead to verify the hours of operation and determine whether the office will require any identification to access public records.
Check your local public library. Most public libraries have hard copies of public records holdings or access to county electronics records databases. Reference librarians can also point you in the direction of resources specific to your county.
Visit private genealogy websites. Most genealogy websites offer free trials or no-cost limited subscriptions where you can access your county's marriage, divorce, birth, and death records.
- The availability of electronic records will vary by county. Some jurisdictions may ask for photo ID such as a driver's license before permitting you to access public records.
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