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Archive for the ‘Historical Investigations’ Category

Historical Research: Finding People From Over 40 Years Ago

Posted by Writing PIs on July 30, 2014

Private Investigator reviewing evidence

Going Back to the Early 1970s

We’ve had a few cases where clients asked us to identify people who were either employed at, or did contract work for, two different buildings (one a former business) that existed over 40 years ago. In both cases, our clients didn’t know the people’s full names, and the business had been closed for several decades.

Case #1: Finding a Car Mechanic

In one, a lawyer hired us to find a car mechanic who had worked in Denver some time in the early 1970s. We had his last name (which fortunately was unique — better than trying to find someone with the last name of Smith or Jones!), his wife’s first name, and the name of a dealership (which had closed over twenty years ago) where he had once worked. Researching proprietary databases wasn’t useful because their information didn’t go back that far. Surprisingly, old local telephone books from that era didn’t contain any people with that last name.

One track of investigative research that was fruitful, however, was researching business owners of the former car dealership through our state’s Secretary of State database, then researching contact information for these people and their family members. It took a lot of calls and hitting dead ends, but eventually we found a contact who remembered this car mechanic. Unfortunately, he had died years ago, but we were able to conduct an interview with one of his-coworkers from that former dealership, who gave us information useful for the lawyer’s case.

Case #2: Finding a Building Contractor

In a current case, we needed to determine the identities of building contractors who built a school building in 1970, and later remodeled a school gymnasium in 1972. Our client, a law firm back east, only knew the names of the buildings. Fortunately, in our state, school districts are mandated by law to keep business records, contracts and architectural plans on file in case the school requires any remodeling.

To our amazement, we learned that this school district had gone above and beyond the mandate by also keeping every scrap of paper associated to a contract, even scribbled notes. Such a find is a PI’s dream come true. We visited the off-site storage facility where boxes of these notes had been stored, and sifted through box after box, looking for any mention of a contractor’s name…eventually, we found the names of contractors and subcontractors for these buildings, nearly 40 years later!

This last case shows how, even in this digital age, old-fashioned footwork can solve a case. If we had relied solely on the documents faxed to us by the school district, we never would have learned the identities of the contractors.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

 

Click cover to go to book's Amazon page

Click cover to go to book’s Amazon page

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority. Any violations of this reservation will result in legal action.

Posted in Historical Investigations, Real-Life Private Investigator Stories | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on Historical Research: Finding People From Over 40 Years Ago

Excerpt from How to Write a Dick: Historical Investigations – Traveling Back in Time

Posted by Writing PIs on May 27, 2011

Private investigators sometimes specialize in historical research, typically for cases involving genealogy research or environmental investigations.  An investigator’s research might include meticulous reviews of such documents as census records, archives of newspapers, old city directories, special collections housed at libraries, obituaries, birth and death certificates and probate records. Fortunately, many of these records are becoming available online.

Genealogical Research

The following websites offer comprehensive research into family histories.

Ancestry.com offers links to census records, immigration records, photos, maps, old school yearbooks and more.  Ancestry.com claims it has the largest repository of military records, including draft registrations, pension records and service records. It offers a free 14-day trial membership.

Obitsarchives.com provides offers links to newspaper and obiturary archives, death notices, funeral arrangements and more.  Some libraries also contain hard copies of obituaries.

Familysearch.org is a service provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and offers a network of nearly five thousand facilities all over the world that offer public access to genealogical records.

Legacy.com collaborates with hundreds of newspapers in North America, Europe and Austrailia and features obituaries and guestbooks for more than two-thirds of the people who die in the U.S.

Usgenweb.org is a volunteer-driven site that lists free genealogical websites throughout counties and states in the U.S.

Some genealogists also work as private investigators. If your story involves extensive historical research, we suggest you contact The Association of Professional Genealogists. Look up a genealogist in your region who specializes in the era you’re writing about, and request an interview to help you flesh out your story.

Libraries

Besides offering resources for historical research, libraries sometimes house special collections. For example, the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy, has a vast section on genealogy, including the ability to search its obituary and funeral notice indices. Don’t forget specialized libraries such as historical museums, university medical libraries, law school libraries and business school libraries, which also offer special collections. As private investigators we’ve learned that sometimes our best investigative tool is the reference librarian.

The above excerpt is from our book HOW TO WRITE A DICK: A GUIDE FOR WRITING FICTIONAL SLEUTHS

Available on Kindle and Nook

Posted in Historical Investigations, Nonfiction book: HOW TO WRITE A DICK | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Excerpt from How to Write a Dick: Historical Investigations – Traveling Back in Time

 
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