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Series 3 – Blog #11 – Offline Resources for Background Checks

When performing a background check, especially on those born before computers and electronic records were standard, offline resources are the best bet. Offline options are most helpful in small towns, where an in-person visit to flip through paperwork could be more efficient than scrolling a state database. And while online records might be easier to filter, it is also easier to lose the data you’re looking for because your search overlooks a spelling or data entry errors.

In Wisconsin, as in the rest of the United States, private investigators should take advantage of the following offline resources, by either visiting such location themselves or contacting staff to look through their records.

County Offices

County offices hold a plethora of information. This includes criminal records (which lists warrants, convictions, and arrest details, imprisonment records, sex offender registrations), ownership records (deeds, mortgages, foreclosures, lis penden), business information (assumed names, partnerships, building loans), all manner of liens, and personal information such as marriages, divorces, powers of attorney, and naturalization. Records often go back to the 1800s, so handle them with care.

Public Libraries

Public libraries are treasure troves of local information. This includes archives of newspapers (with birth, wedding, and death announcements with occasional graduation mentions), access to genealogy records and academic papers, and local history and interest resources. Small towns like to report on nearly everything and that information will always be stored at the library.


Universities often provide transcripts to those who ask, detailing classes taken, credits earned, and enrollment dates in the school. They also possess a record of academic publications and student theses, allowing investigators to judge the accuracy of a potential employee’s background.

Of course, offline searches are time-consuming. For searches involving people outside of Wisconsin, start with an online resource.


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