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Studies in Creative Writing - The Writer and the Archive: ENG 4096

Research help for the course, The Writer and the Archive.

Accessing Public Records

File folders

Public records may or may not be online.  It often depends upon the state or country resources from which the records originated.  You may need to contact or visit the physical location, such as a county court house, in order to actually see the records.  Check online first, but be prepared to call or travel to the location if necessary.

Public Records & Libraries

Libraries typically do not have any more access to public records than you do; however, libraries do subscribe to specialized databases that help with some kinds of proprietary information, such as corporate and industry profiles. 

Good Sources for Locating Public Records

  • Large public libraries (often have local historical and genealogical sources)
  • Historical societies
  • Archives
  • County courthouses
  • City Hall of any municipality
  • State agencies, such as Dept of Health, Dept of Motor Vehicles, etc.

Confidential or Private Records

Public access to records such as employee records, student transcripts, patient health records, etc. may be restricted by the agency holding them; an FOIA request may be requred. You can usually see your own records by request with proof of identification.

-- Content adapted from Diana Nichols, Librarian at Ohio University

PA & Philly Property Records

PA Vital Records

Other Public Record Sources (Commercial)

NOTE: some parts of these sites may not be free, or the site may refer you to other sites that are not free.