The History of Public Records

History. Our lineage. Our heritage. From the long, deep roots of our family trees to the most recent recorded event that took place. How does anybody keep track of all this stuff? Records. Humans have been keeping records for a very long time. The earliest information found regarding ancient civilizations came in the form of cave paintings. Early humanity kept records and shared information in the form of drawings and symbols carved or colored into rock walls.

We have come a long way as a people. Modern technology has replaced rocks and hematite for most of us. Today we do things a bit differently. It seems like everything is connected to the World Wide Web. This means obtaining records and finding public information is easier and more convenient than ever.

What would YOU like to know?

The information is probably available if you look in the right places.

Table Of Contents:

Public Records - What do We Know?

Why are records so important? What would we know without them? The only detailed information we know about our past is available to us through records. If everything relied on our memories alone, things would be very confusing. Even the science we depend on for answers today was shaped by records that the earth kept within its rocks, trees, mountains, and landscapes.

What we know now is that when we write things down and take notes we are more apt to remember details correctly. When we get together as a group and create official records that have dates, times, and signatures we build a foundation of information that is available to anyone and everyone who knows how to find it.

This information can track back to whenever an event first started and keep going until whenever it ends. This is known as record keeping. The word “record” translates as if to record something (like a cassette tape if you’re that old). When these records are deemed public information they become public records, some of them are confidential, but most are not.

And there are a lot of them.

What are Public Records?

When we use the term “public record” we tap into a wide variety of definitions. The simple way to explain public records is to use an example.


Let’s say, for instance, you purchase a home. When you buy property the government gets involved.


The whole transaction gets recorded and noted within the governing factor of the area that the home is located in. It could be the county, or parish, depending on which state the transaction happens in. The details of the sale are reported as facts and officially kept as records. Most of the transactions, agreements, and everything else that the government gets involved with are recorded and made public.

There are, however, confidential records that are not available for the public to see. In a nutshell, public records are government records that are available for everyone to view.

There are many transactions that could be deemed as public records, but here are some examples of events that are known as public records:

  • Birth records
  • Marriage records
  • Licensing records
  • Court records
  • Property records
  • Financial records
  • Death records
  • Statistical data
  • Court records
  • Warrant records
  • Arrest records

Of course, these are just examples. Basically, anything the government keeps records of is public record. Email conversations, lunch transactions. You name it. Because of the need for transparency within our government, it is the law that we have access to these records. It is within this law that we are allowed to obtain knowledge about anybody who has had any transaction with the government. Arrests. Convictions. Driving Records. Whatever.

Search SpyFly’s nationwide public records and receive a comprehensive consumer background report from just a name and state.

Searching for Public Records

There are literally tens of millions of Americans that search for public records every day.

Knowledge is power.

There are a number of reasons why somebody would choose to discover information about a specific person or group of people. Say, for example, your daughter started dating some guy or girl that you have a bad feeling about.

If you have enough information about them to perform a public record search and could do it without their knowledge wouldn’t it be amazing?

Keeping yourself safe on a personal level, and even in business is a wise choice. Finding public record information regarding an individual can provide a lot of information.

Anyone can search public records to:

Doing a public record search can give you a fresh, honest glimpse of the person you are looking at. Your neighbor, your friend, even your boss at work. Who are they, really?

Where and When Did Public Records Start?

Humanity may never know precisely how and where the art of keeping records started. Science believes that our own DNA started keeping records long before we were aware of such things in order to evolve into what we are now.

Regardless of where you stand on the opinion of science, one thing is for sure. Record keeping has been in play for a very long time. The ancient Babylonians kept records using cuneiform writing on clay tablets. They would keep records of who they traded with, and laws that were established.

In the United States, concerned citizens came to the conclusion that the government needed to be transparent in all of their business dealings in order to ensure they were being fair and legal. This is how the Freedom of Information Act, also known as FOIA, came into the picture in 1967.

The Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, gives the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. This means that by law anybody can request access to public records for any reason. It doesn’t matter if the records are new or old, or what agency they come from. Access to public records is obtainable for anybody and everybody who seeks it unless the records are protected by law.

Although this Act was formulated in order to provide clarity within government policies and activities there are some records that can not be accessed publicly in order to protect national security, privacy, and other special circumstances.

Why Do We Need the FOIA?

Believe it or not, government officials are people too. Sometimes when people get put in charge they forget they are only people and try to do everything their own way. When a person of power has an agenda and has a lot of supporters behind that agenda the easiest way to force that agenda is to do it in secret.

If nobody knows it is going on, who can oppose it?

The best way to get a handle on tyranny and corruption is to keep an eye on it. With this act in place, it helps to keep secrets down to a minimum.

Here’s what happened:

According to The History Channel in 1955 John Moss, a Democrat, tried to investigate why several thousand federal employees were fired for apparently being “communists.” When Mr. Moss attempted to view the records that explained the dismissals, he was denied access.

This prompted him to advocate for transparency for all government practices.

Secrecy within the government seemed to be getting out of hand. Moss felt as if secrecy would threaten the security of the whole country and could end up giving an individual with shady interests enough leverage to change the government from a democracy to a dictatorship. The obvious solution was to have laws in place that gave the public access to records that would otherwise be secret.

Search SpyFly’s nationwide public records and receive a comprehensive consumer background report from just a name and state.

Access to Public Records is Born

Of course, just like many other things, a small shift in the system created a monumental change in the way our government handles everything. On July 4th, 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act. According to the National Security Archive, the president refused to have an official and formal ceremony to welcome the new law into the United States.

Did Lyndon Johnson want to keep things secret?

He most definitely may have, however, things were about to change. In time the bill gained steam and in 1967 began to provide the public with the right to request access to records from any federal agency.

According to, a federal agency is defined as “a special government organization set up for a specific purpose such as the management of resources, financial oversight of industries, or national security issues.”

What FOIA Means to You

You or anybody else can request records from any government agency. Here is a list of some of the agencies that are required to share information:

  • U.S Agency for International Development
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of State
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of Justice
  • National Science Foundation
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy

What this means is that any of these agencies have to, unless protected by law, show records of transactions, discussions, and other information when asked. If there is any suspicion of corruption or waste records will most likely prove innocence or guilt.

Is the Government Corrupt?

Find out for yourself by using your right to information under the FOIA. The Freedom of Information Act Statute explains, in detail, the ins and outs of the whole Act and how it can be used to see through the veil of our government and all of its business.

Freedom of Information and Public Records Evolve

After the Watergate scandal in 1974, congress got serious about government transparency. There were many new requirements and sanctions that got brought in by the House and the Senate. President Ford believed that the new sanctions were unconstitutional and posed security threats and vetoed the new amendments. His veto was quickly overridden by the House and the Senate. The new statutes came into effect.

Government secrets can result in genocide

History proves that any government needs to be held accountable. Things like the holocaust, slavery, and the slaughter of indigenous Americans remind us that the potential for horrible acts in the name of greed and control are very real possibilities if the leaders are not watched carefully and kept honest.

FOIA Regulations and States

Oh, what a tangled web we weave. The Federal Government is a gigantic entity. In laymen’s terms, Federal means the whole country of the United States. The USA is broken down into regions, states, counties, parishes, cities, boroughs, neighborhoods, etc. Although each state belongs to the United States, they all have their own laws regarding public information. Within each state, every county or parish has its own way of conducting public record access regulations.

FOIA does not control the states

Although the federal government is the authority when it comes to freedom of information laws and regulations, each state is granted a certain level of autonomy when it comes to how they dictate access to public records. What this means is that every state has its own laws in regard to the freedom of information. This can make it difficult to find certain records.

So, how do you find public records?

Finding Public Records

There is a difference between searching for public records and finding them. SpyFly comes in handy when you need to find information about a specific person, but have no idea of their past. Since there are tens of thousands of agencies throughout the United States that all keep their own records it can be difficult to find anything, unless you know exactly where to look. SpyFly has access to thousands of databases all around the country that hold tons of state, county, city, parish, and everything in between records.

Is it legal though?

It depends on why you are looking for it, and what you are going to do with it. Public records are available for the public to view unless legally specified otherwise. If you are searching the SpyFly database for reasons regarding hiring an employee or renting a place to a tenant, it is against the law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act is in place to protect consumers. According to the laws that are in place SpyFly is not an accurate source of information to use to make choices regarding employment, housing, and other instances. This is what we have to say about gathering information for any purposes other than informational:


Here's the deal...

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was put into effect in 1970 by the Federal Government. It regulates the kind of information that credit reporting agencies are allowed to collect and share with third parties when they request an applicant’s credit history. This law is in place so that any information that is presented before an entity such as a lender, a landlord, or an employer is accurate and fair. This way any decision, theoretically, will be based on an honest account of the applicant.

Because of this, SpyFly wants every user to understand that the information that is available in the databases is only to be used for informational purposes. This means that when you learn sensitive information about a person by running a search it is solely for the purpose of knowledge. Knowledge is power, so be wise with what you learn. Not only is it against the law to use this type of information for making credit related decisions, it is unfair. If anybody and everybody’s information is available here, it means yours is too. Think about that before you judge. Make your credit and hiring decisions based on the Fair Credit Reporting Act laws.

What Kind of People Search Public Records?

For the most part, people who search public records are regular people that want the facts. Some people want to know if the person they are hanging around with is a convicted sex offender. Sometimes people want to know if the person they are dating has a history of domestic violence. People from all over the United States search for the truth every day. Everybody has a right to know if they are in danger. People who use the tools available to stay safe are one step ahead of the game and less apt to fall prey to anybody in their circle. Cautious people that are willing to take extra steps to ensure safety for themselves and their loved ones.

People who want to avoid tragedy

The story of Megan Nicole Kanka, the young girl behind Megan’s Law, is a perfect example of the kind of power that SpyFly has to offer. The details of this case are disgusting and horrible. A 7 year old girl became victim to a convicted sex offender that lived right across the street from her in Hamilton Township, N.J. The offender, Jesse Timmendequas, had been convicted on two previous sexual crimes that involved children then quietly released back into the community.

Megan’s parents, Maureen and Richard Kanka were not aware that the guy across the street was a known pedophile. In fact, they never dreamed in a million years that their daughter would go out on her bike to play and end up being brutally raped and murdered by a neighbor. If they would have known that their child was in danger, they would have done everything they possibly could to keep her away from her assailant.

This is where being aware comes in handy

Nobody should ever have to be concerned about things like this, but the sad truth is that there are some sick people in the world. Most of these sickos would rather keep what they have done a secret so that nobody knows the truth about them. This is how running a simple background check can be such a huge life-saver. SpyFly allows secrets to become uncovered and possible threats to be exposed. We may not be able to read minds and tell the future, but we definitely can shed some light on the past.

Search SpyFly’s nationwide public records and receive a comprehensive consumer background report from just a name and state.

Are you ready for the truth?

What do People Find in Searches?

When you undertake a search into a person’s past, be prepared for anything. You never know what you will discover. SpyFly’s databases are full of records of all types. Arrest records, bankruptcy records, criminal convictions, sex offenses, traffic violations and many other instances that have been recorded over the years. Many people have had a hunch about somebody that was close to them and went on a search to find answers. Much to their dismay they learned that their friend had been convicted of theft, sexual assult, or even murder. However, many others find nothing out of the ordinary besides traffic violations and such. The records are real, up to date, and available to anybody who wants to see them.


Kennedy, L (2019) The Prehistoric Ages : How Humans Lived Before Written Records The History Channel Website

Christian, D Recordkeeping and History Khan Academy

Public Libraries Authors (2020) Public Records Public Libraries

Office of Information Policy U.S. Department of Justice, What is FOIA? FOIA Website Editors (2018) Freedom of Information Act, History

Blanton, T (2006) Freedom of Information at 40, LBJ Refused Ceremony - Undercut Bill with Signing Statement, National Security Archive

The National Security Archive Editors, FOIA Legislative History National Security Archive

Kenton, W. 2020 What is a Federal Agency? Investopedia

Editors of History of FOIA Electronic Frontier Foundation