How to Search Court Records for Free

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Find the court records you need without paying a professional. Court records are considered public record and are available free of charge if you locate them on your own. Most court jurisdictions now have some indexes and records available online to make the process even easier. Availability varies slightly by jurisdiction. Contact the individual court to determine which records are available before visiting the courthouse. Types of records typically available include criminal and civil court proceedings, marriage records, deeds, wills and land plots.

Use the court's records search feature on its website to find information on available records (see Resources).

Sign up for a Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) account. The account is free, though it will ask you to optionally enter credit card information, should you wish to purchase records in the future. Search the database and you will receive some details about the case(s) found. The advantage of PACER is nationwide searching capability. You must purchase full records, though your opening search is free and this will enable you to find the records at the individual courthouse without paying.

Visit the courthouse for the city, county or state where the records are located. Take pen and paper with you to write down file numbers and any information you find.

Locate the index for the type of record you seek. Most records rooms are divided into deeds in one section, wills in another and so forth. Some courthouses have indexes and document images on computer, but records workers will provide free assistance.

Write down the file number or reference found in the index. This will tell you where to locate the file you seek. Most older references are coded to have the book number, then page number or item number. Newer files are coded by year, then item number. Again, records room employees will provide detailed assistance upon request.

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