Bankruptcy records, including files decades old, are available through public databases. The information is considered public record, with any member of the public allowed to access the files. Bankruptcy records contained a variety of information, including a complete list of a person's assets or debts at the time of a bankruptcy filing. Old bankruptcy records are sometimes sought as part of background checks for key positions in business or government.
The National Archives and Records Administration is a part of the United States federal government and maintains documents and materials created by government agencies -- including old bankruptcy records. Old bankruptcy records are available by tapping into the National Archives database at Archives.gov. There is no charge for basic use of the database. There are various charges for special services such as having records copied and mailed to you.
In-Person And Online
As of 2011 the National Archives provided bankruptcy records from 1940 to 1998. Old bankruptcy records are available online directly through the database or by mail by filling out forms available at Archives.gov. It's also possible to research old bankruptcy records by making an in-person visit to a National Archives regional facility. Regional offices are located around the country, including Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver and New York City.
Public Access to Court Electronic Records
Old bankruptcy records before 1998 are available through a national database managed by the Administrative Office of The United States Courts. The database is called PACER -- Public Access to Court Electronic Records. The database contains complete information on documents filed in federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts. A fee is required to use the service with costs starting at 8 cents for every page printed or viewed.
The National Archives and the Pacer database contain billions of public records. Finding old bankruptcy information may require you to have specific information about the case including the city in which the bankruptcy was filed, the name of the person or business filing for bankruptcy, the case file number and more. The more details you have the better your chances are of conducting a successful search. Some National Archives locations allow in-person visits only by appointment and staff members can assist with your search. Ask general questions about the process and find the National Archives location nearest you by calling the National Archives at 866-272-6272.
Robert Lee has been an entrepreneur and writer with a background in starting small businesses since 1974. He has written for various websites and for several daily and community newspapers on a wide variety of topics, including business, the Internet economy and more. He studied English in college and earned a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts from Governor's State University.