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Monday, 14th January 2008

Resource of the Week: Finding People

Resource of the Week: Finding People (via The Virtual Chase)
By Shirl Kennedy, Senior Editor

This was a "by request" Resource of the Week. And it is a good suggestion. Something everyone seems to want/need to do at some point is track down a person or certain types of people. There are proprietary databases that make this relatively simple, but these are not cheap, and most people do not have access to the best of them.

So I was going to pull together a list of sites...until I rummaged around in my bookmark list and realized that this had already been done -- by an acknowledged expert, who is also a good friend of ResourceShelf. Genie Tyburski's Virtual Chase website is, without a doubt, up there among the creme de la creme of Internet resources. Perhaps you've been fortunate enough to hear Genie speak at a conference or, perhaps, read an article she has written. The Virtual Chase, which Genie started as hobby, is now owned by Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll. Genie, whose background is in law librarianship, is Web manager for this amazing resource. And ResourceShelf contributing editor Pete Weiss is The Virtual Chase mailing list consultant.

There is much to see here, but we're concentrating this week on the "Finding People" section of the site. This collection of richly annotated resources is organized into five categories:

The Public Records area starts with a brief Introduction to Public Records Research, in which we find a snippet of information from BRB Publications' Public Records Online, that tells us "only 35 percent of public records are available online, and many of these contain insufficient information for verification purposes." "Moreoever," the caveat continues, "data in the online records is often erroneous. To be certain you have found information about the right person, you should verify it with the source." As a news researcher who regularly works with public records databases, all I can say is, "Amen."

In this section, there is a page of Tools for Finding Public Records and Public Information as well as a large collection of actual public records sources. Should you have any question about the currency of this information, check the bottom of the page for the date it was last revised. Both of these pages were updated on January 10, 2008 (as of the date this ROTW was written). Additionally, each resource annotation includes the date it was added.

Many of the public records databases are state-specific. If you're looking for this type of information, you may also want to check the wiki-based site we featured as Resource of the Week last August -- State Agency Databases Across the Fifty States, from the ALA Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT). Daniel Cornwall, Government Publications/Technical Services Librarian at the Alaska State Library, the mover and shaker behind this particular resource, recently alerted me in to State Agency Database Highlights, a related weblog which draws attention to special resources in this wiki.

The Phone Lookup & Reverse Telephone Directories section lists a few you may not have heard of, along with evaluations of same. Generally speaking, it's been my experience that if you can't find someone's listing in a standard online phone directory, it's probably not findable on the Internet (for free). But you could get lucky.

The Finding E-mail Addresses page is essentially a chart of directories and major features. Note that this page has not been updated since March of 2006. Same for the White Pages Outside of the U.S. chart. The State Library of New South Wales (Australia) has a good annotated list of these, or take a chance with Numberway, which bills itself as "the easy way to find phone numbers all around the world." If you know of any other good collections of these directories, we'd like to know about them.

Finishing up with The Virtual Chase People Finder Guide...the Public Disciplinary Actions collection comprises mostly state-specific resources. If you don't find what you're looking for here, try the GODORT State Agency Databases wiki mentioned above.

By the way, don't miss the handful of authoritative "people research" articles at The Virtual Chase:

Other resources worth a look:
+ SearchSytems Directory of Public Record Databases (Over 30,000 sources)
+ NetrOnline Public Record Databases (excellent for Real Estate Info)
+ BRBPress and BRB Press Blog

+ Emailpattern.com --- Find a Company's Email Pattern

This site (Wiki) can help you find a prospect's email address if you have the following information:

  • Prospect name
  • Prospect company

Search by company name (search box on left), and you can pull up the email pattern for the company - which will allow you to figure out your prospect's email address.


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