Public records and newspaper databases – Are they what you think they are?

Words of caution when you’re searching public records online:
Online repositories of official records may not be what you think they are.

Washoe County is one of those rare government agencies that has its Marriage Index online. They’re nice people over there. I had a friendly chat with the records supervisor because I wondered why the date of marriage for a couple was recorded as 2001 when the groom had died in 1984. I’m quick on my feet. There was a really good explanation but it wasn’t on their website so you wouldn’t have known it without talking to her.

The county records generated in the paper-only era, before a computer system was operational (1982), suffered a Y2K-like hiccup when they were entered into the computer. The dates of marriage applications filed prior to December 1983 are incorrect, unless they’ve been manually adjusted, which happens if the discrepancy comes to a staff person’s attention. Yet another reason why it’s still worth talking to people. The electronic record date was 2001 but the actual date of the application was 1948.

When in doubt, verify, nicely
Searching Florida recorded records? If you access these through myfloridacounty (a private site) to search multiple counties at one portal, first select the link “Click here for counties current range of dates.” In yet another friendly chat, I found out that 1. The date range for their records is more limited than that at the government county site; 2. The county doesn’t necessarily send the private site every type of record that is in the official Recorder’s index; and 3. Not all Florida counties participate.

Is blue always blue?
Google Archive News includes newspaper sources aggregated by NewsBank but not all content within those sources is indexed and not all NewsBank newspapers are included in Google News. I don’t know if that is written somewhere by an official source but that’s my experience. Your local library NewsBank database may have content more relevant to your search, and it’s free, searchable, with remote access. Also collect library cards from other regions so you can use their area-specific resources.

Support (with money) organizations that advocate for open records or the government may privatize their maintenance – potentially removing the “public” from public records.


2 thoughts on “Public records and newspaper databases – Are they what you think they are?

  1. Yes i agree, because only the newspaper and social medias are the voice of public and i think they are what we think.

  2. It’s a good point. Despite all the advances in technology and the various databases and social media outlets that exist – sometimes you cannot do any better than the standard traditional methods of investigation. Talking to people: it get’s you a long way. 

    We are an organisation that always try to mix new and traditional methods. If you need any help in the UK, have a look here:  <a href=””>UK Private Detectives</a>

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