There is no master index of public records available online, on the web or in print. However, there are a number of fee-based services that provide access to public records electronically, and a number of websites provide links to some of the free public records sites you might tap.
Accurint® is a LexisNexis service that provides one-stop shopping for public records and is widely used in news libraries. AutoTrackXP is a ChoicePoint company that combines public records with consumer profile information. SearchSystems.net and NETRonline are two web-based sites that provide links to free public records databases.
Most U.S. county, state and federal jurisdictions now provide digital services to search for court records. Again, SearchSystems.net and NETRonline provide links to the databases of court records that are available in any county and state jurisdiction. PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) (http://www.pacer.gov/) provides access to records from federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts.
Because the staff in the offices and agencies of the U.S. federal government are concerned about maintaining their credibility, the government has developed a tool that allows you to verify that a social media site purporting to be from a government agency or official is legitimate. Produced by USA.gov, the U.S. Digital Registry site allows you to verify accounts managed by federal agencies, elected officials, heads of agencies or members of the President’s Cabinet.
Recall also the tools and resources we discussed in Lesson 12 that help you locate publications from the institutions that generate public record information.