Saturday, February 05, 2005

~ free public record databases are the future ~

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PI buzz

There's an increasing trend toward offering public records indexes and documents, for free on the internet. Paradoxically, there's a parallel thrust to close or curtail access to some or all of the content in court, real property, voter registration, motor vehicle and other government records, either in the electronic form, or in hard files. In an earlier posting I wrote about the debate currently underway in Utah and in other states. New Hampshire and Oregon have recently opened previously closed adoption records. Everyday more government agencies are expanding the range of records on the Internet, which assist those of us who do people searching and background development on people and companies.

A new specialized search engine on the block,, aims to make the task of retrieving public record information more streamlined. Pretrieve offers the user the ability to simultaneously search by name, phone number or address across multiple free public record sites. It takes your search terms, goes to the site, enters the terms and returns a list of the types of data that might be available, based on the online records for that state.

Example: In the name search, I entered "Tamara Thompson", California. The first screen provides a phone directory listing of 10 different possibilities. The name search appears to be pulling from white pages residential listings. After I select the Oakland entry, I can retrieve targeted search results based on the correct Tamara Thompson. The records are categorized into folders with tabs named Criminal, Court, Financial, Professional, Local Info and Miscellaneous.

Pretrieve points the finger at free government Internet sources that may house your search terms. Here's a prediction. The aggregating of the public record sites and pulling the information to the user is the next big wave in the online public records world.

Pretrieve is the logical step beyond the service of, which has done a good job of indexing links to the free government public records websites. But the professional searcher can't afford to get lazy. Neither of these sites, or any others that compile links, have a complete list. Always go to the website that generates the original data. Always use a search engine to find possible government sites that may have public records information which may not have been incorporated into any other web pages.

Pretrieve is a freshly minted company that hasn't yet cleaned up the glitches or added some of the most useful types of sites on which investigators rely. (Pretrieve plans to have the court indexes linked, in about 2 months.) But it's a product whose time has come. Watch for wildfires. You heard it here first.