The gaping hole in public record databases

Searching a nationwide database of court judgments and tax liens may not return all the filed records, even recent ones. You must search the county Recorder official records to do a comprehensive search.

Many County Recorders’ indices are available at their official Web site. Real property documents are found here, but there are also financial records, including court judgments and, state and federal tax liens, which can often be accessed remotely, that may not be found anywhere else. [More on this in a moment.]

Earlier I wrote about a company that has free access to a database of current real property ownership.This site also has a fee service providing instantaneous remote access to images of recorded documents, a service not usually available at a county Internet site.

Netronline has a few free features –one is a county lookup by zipcode or city–and a fee service for aerial maps by address.

Regional proprietary databases may have an online index, which may not available at the county site. TitleX has searchable indices for Texas, but this is a fee only site.

Okay, here’s the gaping hole in the widely available nationwide bankruptcy, judgments and lien searches.

The completeness and accuracy of the judgment and liens databases provided by vendors – LexisNexis, ChoicePoint and others – rests on the work of thousands of data entry people and document retrievers. Since the two major providers have obtained their data through the acquisition of smaller and regional companies over many years, the information each has will vary. Also, you may have noticed different results are returned depending on the formulation of the search. Plan on running each search term through multiple data sources and at those county Recorder’s indexes in counties where the subject has a footprint.

I wrote about similar issues in criminal and civil records in, Electronic Criminal Records Indexes, Criminal Records Site Surveys and California Civil Court Proprietary Databases.

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