The National Archives provides links to all the state archives, which sometimes have online indexes of public records that are not at the local jurisdiction’s Web site. While these may be of more relevance to genealogists, private investigators often are charged with developing social histories for criminal defense cases, tracing beneficiaries for real estate matters, rooting out unclaimed assets or developing background on people and companies.
After you get to the state archives site look for a link to online databases or family history records if you don’t see the type of record listed you’re interested in. If the index isn’t online you can review the index and records at the state archive or receive microfilm through inter library loan. The California list of family history records includes:
COUNTY RECORDS 1850-1987. Includes probate court case files, wills, naturalizations, deeds, homesteads, and vital records for 28 counties. Not all records are available for all counties.
MENTAL HEALTH RECORDS* 1856-1972. Records may include registers and case files for Stockton, DeWitt, Modesto, Mendocino, and Sonoma State Hospitals. Some indexes available.
The Delaware Archives house state historical documents and have created an online index of probate files covering the years 1680 -1925. Search by last name, first name is optional, for a list of full names, date and county of filing.
These are not indexes to all the names appearing in the records, but only the names of the deceased for whom the files were created. Contained in each index are the individual’s name, and a date or dates. The dates correspond to the date of the documents within that individual’s file and may refer to a date of the will or to a date for probate to begin. New Castle and Kent County Probates are on self service microfilm available in our Research Room, and Sussex is in the process of being filmed (inquire with Research Room staff for details). Copies of this microfilm are also available for sale.
The Wisconsin Historical Society has an online Wisconsin Name Index to their holdings. Order document images for a fee.
The Wisconsin Name Index includes 150 county and local histories, dozen of professional directories and biographical encyclopedias, more than 60 scrapbooks containing 30,000 obituaries, and selected articles in Wisconsin magazines and newspapers. These publications were indexed by Wisconsin Historical Society librarians between roughly 1870 and 1970 but contain information on individuals from earlier date ranges. You can search the Wisconsin Name Index and purchase full text copies of available items which will be mailed directly to you.
Glance at more posts for links to other sources.
I have used this method and found it to be, at times, very informative. It should be a tool used by anyone doing such research.