Backgrounding People And Companies

by Anna M. Gonzalaz, @WebAnna on Twitter

Special Projects Executive Producer Aaron Wishce recently attended a workshop given by Margot Williams, a researcher/librarian at the New York Times. She compiled an impressive list of websites and databases that she uses to track people and background companies. The list was presented at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference.

For the most part, they’re free or free with registration.

Enter a name and search dozens of public records sites for Texas court records, OFFENDER INFORMATION BY FACILITY, census info, corporations, criminal history, state bills and statutes, unclaimed property, government salaries, land records, etc. Most of the searches are free. Very cool one stop shop.

Find people and companies. Company background info, including key people, # of employees, annual sales, personal bios, education and employment history of high profile people.

Search names, phone numbers, email addresses and website profile names.

Search blogs, blog trends, Twitter, MySpace, news articles, images.  I clicked on Twitter search, entered my name and it pulled up my latest “tweets.”

Enter a name and search for people who have profiles on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Plaxo and LinkdIn. Good one stop shop when looking for profiles in breaking news situations. It located my Facebook, LinkdIn, addresses dating back 12 years and pictures of me.

Who owns a domain name? Search all current, deleted, and expired domain names for over 9 years worth of history. Free registration gives you full access.

Is the person you’re investigating a licensed contractor, engineer, cosmetologist, massage therapist, pharmacist or EMT? Listing of professional licenses nationwide. Dozens of categories. Check multiple states at the same time

Information about aircraft owners, registration info, engine info, documents filed, aircraft dealers, and more.

If you have a case number, you can search this site for state, federal and even international case dockets. It’s free. PACER costs money, so this is a work around IF you know the case number. There is no name search capability right now. The site is growing every day with new cases posted.

Looking for an obituary? This will search newspapers worldwide.

Looking for statistics on retail sales, average earnings, building permits, minority owned firms, home values? You name it, this website probably has it. Narrow down by state, county and city, congressional district. You can also search for statistics by category such as crime, transportation, environment, health, etc.