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Public Records

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FOIA RESOURCES

The FOIA Machine
Automate your FOIA requests.

iFOIA.org
From the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, this is a one-stop management tool for public-records projects and filing FOIA requests.

FOIA Online

MuckRock
From its site: "MuckRock makes it easy file Freedom of Information requests, taking out the hassle and only updating you with the results. No need to stamp an envelope, look up an agency address or learn how to properly draft a legal demand: Just type what you're interested in, click submit and then receive your documents scanned, searchable and sharable. We'll even help you analyze them."

The Associated Press and Freedom of Information

Federal FOIA Appeals Guide
From the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

How to Use the Federal FOI Act
From the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Investigative Reporters and Editors FOI Center

National FOI Coalition

APME: The People's Right to Know
A good FOIA guide.

Society of Professional Journalists: Freedom of Information Resources

ACLU Free Speech Resources

The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information

National Security Archive: Freedom of Information Act Resources
From George Washington University.

FOIA Illinois
Blog and resources for filing FOIAs. Twitter handle is @foiaillinois.

American Library Association: Key Principles on Government Information

Census QuickFacts
Look up state and county census stats using this image map.

U.S. Department of Justice Freedom of Information Act Information

FBI's FOIA Website

Society of Environmental Journalists FOI Resources

ProPublica: How Much Stimulus Money is Your County Receiving?

University of Missouri's Freedom of Information Center
Links, international FOIA laws and more.

Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press: FOIA Letter Generator
Just fill in the blanks.

Student Press Law Center: FOIA Letter Generator
Just fill in the blanks.

FIRE: Guide to Free Speech on Campus
Book/ebook from the Foundation of Individual Rights on Campus.

Investigative Dashboard
A treasure drove of research and public records tools, both U.S. and abroad.

The Art of Access
Charles Davis's blog that accompanies the book by the same name. Full of tips on how to use FOIAs.

Guides to Understanding Open Records
.PDFs from the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.

FOIA Shaming
A fantastic Tumblr blog that shines a spotlight on universities that stonewall FOIA requests. Share it on social media.

The FOI Advocate

SPJ FOI FYI Network

FindtheData.org
Search nine broad categories for relevant data, stats.

Sunshine in Government Initiative

The FOI Advocate

Sunshine Review: WikiFOIA
Free online encyclopedia about freedom of information at the state and local level. Court cases, open records history, legislation on public documents and more.

WikiFOIA


PUBLIC RECORDS RESOURCES

PublicRecords Online Directory
Good first-stop in records searching, with an image map of the U.S. to guide you in finding the records. The site is a portal to official state web sites, and those Tax Assessors' and Recorders' offices that have developed web sites for the retrieval of available public records over the internet. For example, some Recorders' offices have marriage and birth records available online. Although not every county and parish has data online, many have home pages, and where neither is available a phone number has been provided.

Vital Records Database
Lists links to all the state and county agencies that keep vital statistics such as birth, death andmarriage records around the country. Also lists the fee the states charge for the records.

Publicrecordssearch.com
Search database for public records by state and county. Also locate public records offices.

CIR: Who Gets Paid What in Your City/County/State?
Public employee pay database from Center for Investigative Reporting.

Property Tax Records by State

Census Explorer Tool
Search data by state, county, address. Great map/mashup.

Opensecrets.org
A fantastic site for researching campaign finance statistics.

Propublica: Nonprofit Explorer
Search Form 990s.

IRE Census Page
IRE has boiled down Census data for journalists to use.

CensusReporter.org
Filter and sort census information. Super tool.

Download Data Without Scraping
Filter and sort census information. Super tool.

City of Chicago Data Dictionary
The site "serves as a single, comprehensive database catalog for the City of Chicago and City of Chicago sister agencies. It is a resource for anyone who is interested in understanding what data is held by City agencies and departments, how and if it may be accessed, and in what formats it may be accessed."

Five Great Tools for Mining Public Records

ZoomInfo
Find backgrounds of millions of people.

Footnoted.com
Morningstar's guide to what's hiding in SEC filings.

Birth Database
Search birth certificate records for free.

Portico
Find public records databases galore.

SOS Social Security Number Watch
Match a social security number to a holder and validate. Run through the Data Privacy Lab at Harvard.

Zabasearch
People finder tool.

KDMC: Public Records Tutorials

RecordsBase
Public records search tool.

BRB Publications
Search public records by state.

HospitalInspections.org
A database of federal inspections of hospitals in the U.S. See how the ones in your area stack up.

Journalism Tools: Investigative Resources
A Pinterest page full of investigative tools and resources.

Expose Facts
A whistleblower's website.

LegalLeaks: Toolkit for Journalists on Accessing Government Information
For journalists making requests in their own country or considering filing a request in another country. It is based on a comparative analysis of the access to information of the 40 countries of the Council of Europe region that have such laws.

AllAreGreen.us Browser Extension
A free browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari that exposes the role money plays in Congress. Displays on any web page detailed campaign contribution data for every Senator and Representative, including total amount received and breakdown by industry and by size of donation. Puts vital data where it's most relevant so you can discover the real impact of money on our political system. Oh, and it was built by a 16-year-old coder.

Searchsystems.net
Links to almost 5,000 public records databases. Claims to be the largest free collection of public records databases on the Web. Formerly the PAC-Info. site, just click on a state and you'll get a list of all free public record collections for that state. Most include incorporation filings.

ComFind Public Records Site
News, laws, initiatives and activities that relate in any way to the keeping and distribution of information and public records.

Syracuse University: Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC)

SPJ National Shield Law Resources
Background on bills, etc.

OverviewProject.org
Visual document mining for journalists.

Open Prism: Data Portal Search
Search data portals from all over the world by typing in one keyword.

Atlas of Public Stocks
A map of all publicly listed companies from around the world.

InfoScribe
Unlock data trapped inside .PDFs.

PDFy
Upload and share a .PDF. Good for collaborative work.

Subsidy Scope: Searchable Database of TARP Transactions
From the Pew Charitable Trusts, links to a list of banks participating in the FDIC's Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program.

ZabaSearch.com
This site provides basic information for free, including birth year, month, phone number and address for free and deeper background information for a fee. There is a fee for queries that return a wealth of info sometimes dating back more than 10 years: residential addresses, phone numbers both listed and unlisted, birth year, even satellite photos of people's homes.

Medicare: Nursing Home Inspections
Includes complaints and inspections. Search by state to find homes with problems in your neighborhood.

Tamara Thompson Public Records Links
A treasure trove of databases, links and resources from a California private investigator.

Deteriorating Bridges Database
Sort files in Excel to find bridges and overpasses in your area that are in poor shape. Great public safety story.

Train Wrecks Database
From the Department of Transportation Office of Safety, this database allows you to find the most dangerous train crossings in your area.

NTSB Aviation Accident Reports
Great database of reports.

EPA: Toxic Release Inventory Database
Has more than 650 toxic chemicals being released into communities. You can search all the way down to ZIP code level.

USDA Database: Ag Commodities by State, Country and ZIP Code

LegiStorm
A database of congressional staff salaries and other valuable public records, such as the most comprehensive database of all privately financed trips taken by members of Congress and congressional staffers.

Sheriff Alerts: Sex Offender Local Lookup and Notification

Cal Berkeley Public Records Tutorials

Rich Block, Poor Blocks: Map of Income, Rent for Every U.S. City
Search down to the neighborhood level.

RighttoKnow.org
Australia's version of FOIA Machine.

City-Data.com
This site has collected and analyzed data from numerous sources to create profiles of all U.S. cities. It featuresthousands of pictures, maps, satellite photos, stats about residents (race, income, ancestries, education, employment...), geographical data, crime data, housing, businesses, political contributions, weather, hospitals, schools, libraries, houses, airports, radio and TV stations, zip codes, area codes, user-submitted facts, similar cities list.

City Municipal Code Lookup

DeathIndexes.com
A handy state-by-state index of death records databases. A great research for quick searches.

Portico
Similar to The Toolbox: Maps, reverse lookups, public records, etc.

BRB Public Records Archive
A list of 650 state, county, city and federal (court) URL's where you can access public record information for free.

RecordsPedia
Look up various records by search or by state name.

POPVOX
Journalists can find every bill in Congress, searchable by keyword or category, with official information such as summary, sponsors, status, and a list of the organizations that support or oppose the bill, with a link to those positions.

Recovery.gov
Track stimulus money.

IC on the Record Tumblr
This U.S. government site is dedicated to helping the public better understand what its various intelligence agencies are doing.

Consumer Complaint Database

Automated Access to Court Electronic Records
Provider of United States bankruptcy data to attorneys, lenders, employers and individuals. Has a helpful press center with statistics, news and trends.

Chicago Tribune: Your Government in Secret
A Tribune story on the stonewalling citizen requesting public records get from government agencies.

Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool
From the Office of Postsecondary Education of the U.S. Department of Education. This is designed to provide rapid customized reports for public inquiries relating to campus crime and fire data. The data are drawn from the OPE Campus Safety and Security Statistics website database.

Chicago Tribune Open Records Help Desk
This site helps bloggers and citizens access public records. It features a database of complaints against government agencies, tips and an open forum to discuss issues for pulling records.

Chicago Tribune: Your Government in Secret
A Tribune story on the stonewalling citizen requesting public records get from government agencies.

Chicago Works for You
Look up 311 requests by neighborhood.

Chicago Tribune Open Records Help Desk
This site helps bloggers and citizens access public records. It features a database of complaints against government agencies, tips and an open forum to discuss issues for pulling records.

The Art of Access Blog
Tips on public records searches.

OpenGovTracker

Vanno: The Company Reputation Index
Captures gossip, news, opinion and personal insight about companies and their reputations, and turns it all into numerical scores and rankings.

National Personnel Records Center
A central repository of personnel-related records, both military and civil service. "Provide world-class service to government agencies, military veterans, former civilian Federal employees, family members, as well as researchers and historians."

History of Mathematics Archive
Searchable, and browsable by topics.

PublicRecordSources.com
Hundreds of free sites, database sources, trade organizations and private investigators.

FedStats
Studies and stats on federal government research..

Pretrieve.com
Search by a name rather than state by state.

10kWizard
Information on publicly traded companies.

Google Fusion Tables Primer
Great resource for learning maps, charts, etc. from Doug Haddix at Kiplinger/Ohio State.

FreedomInfo.org
News updates on international freedom of information news and the Open Government Partnership. Research resources on national laws and groups. A blog roll identifies sites providing FOI news in many countries.

Datamasher.org
Charts government stats and other data.

Statemaster.com

ThisWeKnow.org

GovPulse.us

Data.gov
A government data mashup that is an initiative of the Obama administration.

USCourts.gov: Journalist's Guide to the Federal Courts

CourtReference.com
Offers state-by-state links to online court record search services at trial courts and government agencies. Find court locations, other legal services offered and more.

Court Records Blog
Part of CourtReference.org's site, this blog covers some of the basics of court records, understanding documents, how a court room works, etc.

Free Public Records Directory
Free state court resources.

SPJ: Reporter's Guide to FERPA

Federal Citizens' Information Center: Privacy Resources

Census: American FactFinder
Type in a city or ZIP code and get census data.

The Scoop Blog
CAR and investigative reporting.

ZipSkinny
Enter your zip code to gather U.S. Census data.

Electronic Privacy Information Center: Open Government
Tips, guides and links galore on public records access.

State Legislative History Research Guides
From Indiana University, this site links to legislative tracking guides in all 50 states.

Policy Archive
More than 12,000 public policy documents.

Chicago Works for You
Look up 311 requests by neighborhood.

National Archive: George W. Bush Public Papers
Searchable database that complements the printed volumes.

Reporter.org: Who is John Doe? Investigative Tools
From the Reporter's Desktop, this is a simple list of resources you can access to get personal information about almost anyone in the United States.

Criminal Searches Criminal History Check
Good quick-reference, but assumptions should NOT be made solely on the offense displayed on this web site. The data includes more than criminal records, such as civil filings and traffic and other minor offenses, so people listed may not be actual criminals.

GlassDoor.com
Ratings, reviews and salaries for more than 11,000 employers. It's information posted by anonymous employees, so be careful with the information you use. Fact-check everything. It can be helpful as a quick snapshot of a company you're backgrounding.

SPJ Open Doors
Tips for accessing public records.

State and Local Governments
A directory of links to state and local government sites.

Netronline.com
Links the user with the appropriate website for a particular state or county office.

AnnualReports.com
Like its name implies, access corporate annual reports from this database.

BRB Publications Free Resource Center
A directory to free public records, and tips on searching for public records.

Data.gov Tools
This government site is a tool for helping to build your own database using government statistics.

How Can Online Research Tools Aid Investigative Reporters?

ConstructionWebLinks.com
A directory of information about U.S. companies.

Stanford Law: Securities Class Action Lawsuit Clearinghouse

LifeHacker.com: Locate Original Documents Online
A guide to finding public records, etc.

Social Security Death Records

Public Records Online
Search state-by-state criminal records, real estate information and more.

Docusearch.com
This site claims to be "the place to find, locate & track down anybody! We offer locate searches, DMV driver & vehicle searches, telephone record searches, financial and bank searches, criminal and property records. Some searches are free, others you must pay for.

Public-Information.com
This site charges a fee. Search state/local criminal, DMV, prison records and more.

Neil Reisner: Knowing Public Records Law
Tips, guidelines, etc. from Florida International professor.

Neil Reisner: Finding Public Records
A how-to on locations of records for specific agencies, from Florida International professor.

Neil Reisner: Public Records and Journalism Portals
Sites to steer your to records, how-to's, etc.

Local State and Federal Employee Information Database
You can use this database to track salaries, bonuses, etc.

Neil Reisner: Negotiating for Public Records
Tips, guidelines, etc. from Florida International professor.

Neil Reisner: Using the Web to Search for Records
A great set of search tips from Florida International professor.

FEC: Detailed Files About Candidates, Parties and Other Committees
Information on contributors, including city, state and ZIP.

Legacy Tobacco Documents Library
A great database from Cal-San Francisco that contains 20 million fully searchable documents from the1930s to the 1990s -- previously secret stuff from tobacco industry files obtained as part of the Minnesota AG and Blue Cross lawsuit settled in 1998.

CIA Electronic Reading Room
Documents can be searched from the main page or via an advanced interface that allows you to limit a search by date.

Oatis.com Reporting Resources
A comprehensive resource for reporters on deadline, this site offers links and tips for finding pubic records, business coverage resources and tips on software and how it can be used by journalists. It is run by Jonathan Oatis, an American journalist working for Reuters in London.

Political Moneyline
Track campaign finance, lobbying, and soft money with this site, developed by Tony Raymond and Kent Cooper, formerly of the FEC.

Center for Public Integrity
Tips and resources on using public documents, including campaign finance research.

60 Sites in 60 Minutes
A site full of legal research tools on one page.

U.S. National Archives

Reporters Desktop
Search and quick-reference tools site is a must bookmark.

Who is John Doe?
A great reference page for researching people and pulling public records on deadline.

Reporters Privilege
From the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, this site offers all you need to know about reporter privilege in state and federal courts.

Shield Laws and Subpeonas
Some basics from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

FundRace.org
Search by ZIP code to see who in your area contributes to federal election campaigns.

PropertyShark.com
This website which makes real estate public records in New York and New Jersey easily accessible. It is free for moderate usage, i.e. citizens, reporters.

PI Newslink
A blog for private investigators/researchers.

The Capitol.net: Online Resources
Lists of helpful reporting links by category.

CIA FOIA Search
A browsable list of Frequently Requested Records is also available.

Findlaw Breaking Documents Newsletter
A free e-mail newsletter updating journalists on the availability of public documents used in big, breaking news stories (Enron, war on terrorism, etc.)

Freedom of Information Act: Famous Persons Listing

PIBuzz.com: Government Salary Lists
This site has salaries for city, county, municipal and federal positions.

RAND Corporation Research Areas
Federally funded documents center has a clearinghouse page of links to a variety of topics: national security, international affairs, healthcare, transportation, etc.

Thesaurus for Use in College and University Archives
More than 1,300 terms used by college or university archives to describe their holdings.

NYC Stat
Mayor's office of operations for New York City. Stats, performance reports, surveys, etc.

PC World: Best People Finders are Free
This site offers advice and links on researching people.

Accurint
A backgrounder site in which a basic look-up is 25 cents. A full report, which includes past addresses, relatives, properties etc. is under $8. Find out where someone is living, what property they own, etc.

RecordsCheck.net

Society of Environmental Journalists: FOI Tip Sheet

Acc-u-data
A for-profit searching organization that claims access to 41 public record databases that they will search for a fee.

Criminal-Records.com
Search federal court, divorce court, marriage licenses, military records and more.

Online Searchable Death Indexes & Records

Electronic Privacy Information Center
A government site that offers FOIA tips and more.

BlackVault.com
Government documents revealed by FOIAs.

Your Right to Federal Records
Brochure explains how you access records under FOIA.

MSN: Jobs and Paychecks by County
Track the best and worst for jobs, pay, pay increases, etc.

National Freedom of Information Coalition
Organization info., tips, conferences and more.

SkipEase.com
A specialized directory for people and public records searching.

Justice Department FOIA Guide
Good for anticipating the other side's arguments and interpretation of case history, especially when you are appealing a denial.

Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2002
A guide for working through the FOIA/open government process. It is published by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

IRE: FOIA Resources

Obits 101
A national obits clearinghouse of links.

Forbes: Most Philanthropic Corporations

PAC-Info Public Records Locator

411Locate Public Records Search Tool
Includes marriage and divorce records, business finders and background checks.

Arms Sales Monitoring Project
An in-depth site featuring a database of notifications to congress of US arms exports to much of the world; U.S. and global arms transfers data; America?s biggest defense contractors; background on U.S. arms recipients.

SLA News Division: Surveys and Forms Section
Great resources for public documents and research.

CampaignFinance.org
Includes campaign finance research and a clearinghouse of key FOIA sites.

Lobbyist Database
Opensecrets.org, part of the Center for Reponsive Politics, has a database of registered lobbyists. Also tracks spending in particular sectors of lobbyists.

Center for Public Integrity: The Data Mine
An online series that will highlight inaccessible or poorly presented information from the federal government.

Special Interest Groups List
Opensecrets.org, part of the Center for Reponsive Politics, has downloadable lists of special-interest groups.

Council of Better Business Bureaus' Wise Giving Alliance (Give.org)

Charity Navigator
Another good charity evaluation site. Allows you to search alphabetically and by region.

Philanthropy.com: Organizations that Evaluate Charities
Breaks down the issues they look at when evaluating charities.

MinistryWatch.com
Evaluates more than 500 religion-based charities.

EPA's Toxic Release Inventory
"A publicly available EPA database that contains information on toxic chemical releases and other waste management activities reported annually by certain covered industry groups as well as federal facilities."

CriminalWatchDog.com
Provides criminal background reports to employers, landlords or anyone wishing to ensure their safety. Users can access their own private database of saved criminal record reports. U.S. state, county, national, federal and sex offender registry reports are available.

Cemetery Records Online
Maintains records from 4,307 cemeteries both nationwide and abroad. The site regularly updates users on which cemeteries have been added to their database.

Docusearch

Depth Reporting

University of Miami: Online News and Computer-Assisted Reporting Research Project

Zillow.com
Evaluate real estate value using this tool.

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Trulia
It's a real estate site that contains a lot of community demographic information. It can give you a quick snapshot of schools, real estate, etc.

U.S. City Directories
City directories, arguably one of the most over-looked resources by genealogists, have been around since the 1700s. This web site attempts to identify all printed, microfilmed, and online directories, and their repositories, for the United States.

The Smoking Gun
This is a good FOIA site that claims to find documents that can't be found elsewhere on the Web. Its material is gleaned from government documents, court files, etc.

FOI Advocate
The University of Missouri's newsletter on using the Freedom of Information Act.

USGenWeb
This non-profit Web site provides links to Web sites for every county and state in the United States.

Carroll's Government Directories and Charts
Tips on finding government agency Web sites, including labor boards, workers compensation boards, etc.

IQ Data Systems
Real estate information and full document retrieval from every U.S. jurisdiction.

International Association of Assessing
This site can direct you to a source who can help you find real estate records.

VitalChek Network
Certified copies of birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates.

Vital Records Information
Certified copies of birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates.

PFC Information Services Inc.
Site offers asset and liability searches, profiles of businesses and individuals.

Superior Information Services
Find civil court records in the Mid-Atlantic area.

CDB Infotek
Find civil court records in the Mid-Atlantic area.

SPJ FOIA Resources
History, news articles, tip sheets, etc.

MyFloridaCounties.com
Search many public records by Florida county.

UK Public Records Office
Public records databases for many European countries.

NICAR's FAA Aircraft Registry Sample
This site has examples and pay scale for full access to the database.

FamilySearch.org
Track ancestry through records online.

Roots Web
Provides a listing of searchable indexes for family history as well as a listing of federal and state resources.

Birth Rates by Country
An Infoplease chart containing both years and "selected countries."

Social Security Administration

Securities & Exchange Commission

National Registry of Sex Offenders
Links to all the state sex offender databases run by state or local police. Search by zip code for names and addresses of sex offenders in a particular community. Some of these sites, such as Illinois have fairly complete databases. However, some have less than one-third of all sex offenders registered. Be sure to double-check any information you get.

E-Law.com's Enron Documents Database
Nearly every legal document in this historical case is available free through this site as .PDF documents.

National Center for Education Statistics
A complete electronic catalog and fast facts.

Bureau of Labor Statistics
Employment, wages, unemployment broken down by region.

Social Security Administration Data on Women
A new site with demographic info. on women.

National Security Archive: Mexico's FOIA Law (June 2002)

Annenberg Public Policy Center
Press releases, background and tips on how to mine information on public policy issues.

GovernmentAttic.org
"Interesting Federal Government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act."

Great Britain's Public Records Office

Great Britain's Hospital Records Office

UK: National Archives Public Records Office

Court Info. Database Online from the Iowa Judicial Branch

Sunshine Week Open Meetings

SearchSystems.net
Great one-stop shopping for links to public records databases.

Resource Shelf: Congressional Research Service Reports
Great site to visit on a regular basis. Roundups on updates, recent reports and updated old reports. You also can get an RSS feed from this page.

SEDAR Database
System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval (SEDAR) provides databases of public company documents and investment fund documents. Includes company profiles, links and new filings.

PublicRecords Online Directory
Good first-stop in records searching, with an image map of the U.S. to guide you in finding the records. The site is a portal to official state web sites, and those Tax Assessors' and Recorders' offices that have developed web sites for the retrieval of available public records over the internet. For example, some Recorders' offices have marriage and birth records available online. Although not every county and parish has data online, many have home pages, and where neither is available a phone number has been provided.

Sunlight Foundation
Political watchdog group that tracks lobbyists and fundraising.

Sunlight Foundation: PoliticalPartyTime.org
This political watchdog group's blog tracks parties thrown at the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions as well as fundraising activities by all lawmakers running.

Society of Environmental Journalists Tipsheet
Public records tips, edited by Joseph Davis.

Society of Environmental Journalists: Watchdog Tipsheet
Story ideas with a focus on First Amendment issues of concern to environmental journalists. Presented here are expanded versions of many articles, frequent updates, and other information previously condensed and emailed to members.

Society of Environmental Journalists: State FOI Resources

FamilySearch.org
Track ancestry through records online.

OMBWatch
"Promoting open government, accountability and citizen participation since 1983." Government records and watchdog site.

Digital Vaults
A curated view of 1,200 of the most impressive holdings in the National Archives.

IRE's Extra Extra

The Scoop: Derek Willis: Database of Computer-Assisted Reporting Stories

Construction Weblinks: Public Records
Dig up records on companies.

S9 Bios of Famous People

USPS ZIP Code Lookup

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