Need Extra Income? Consider Becoming a Courthouse Researcher.

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article that will appeal to genealogists looking for some extra income. If you are good at this work, it might become a full-time job. The article by Linsey Knerl starts by saying, “Do you enjoy searching through public records, such as property records or even criminal files? You might be a good fit to be a courthouse researcher. The job can also be a great way to supplement your income.”

You could be researching anything from genealogy, property records, titles, probate cases, tax liens, or even criminal records.

You can read the article at


I am hearing more and more of the county clerk’s offices in Texas do not want genealogists there at all, and keep asking the state to close records with one excuse or another. It it continues, I wonder why we need a county clerk’s office at all. Perhaps their jobs should be abolished, or soon can be as we will not need them! I guess they never consider that the local taxpayers pay their salaries, or that for out of towners it brings in money from outside.

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The article says: “As an entry level researcher, you might be making about $0.25–$0.30 a record. ”

In my limited experience, it can sometimes take hours to locate a single record. Even when you are familiar with record locations in a specific archive or court. This might be fun and challenging to do, but it is no way to supplement your income.


Mary Dresser Taffet June 18, 2015 at 6:23 pm

One of the services mentioned in the article where people might find this work is called “Find an Heir”, which sounds like something a genealogist could certainly do well at….


Perhaps it was well researched, but this article sounds a lot like those we see on the internet where the author skims a few websites and puts together a little article for which there was no in-depth research. A number of points stick out. I have questions. First, let me say I’m NOT using the term stay at home mom in a negative way.

It seems the article is lumping professional title searchers in with independent contractors. Aren’t most title searchers employed by entities like title companies, law offices, perhaps as landmen, etc.? They are professionals who may earn up to $48,000 a year, but stay at home contractors? Does anyone know of a title company that sub-contracts out title searches to stay at home moms? I am curious – do title insurance companies have policies about title companies that sub out their title searches to independent contractors?

A courthouse researcher must search at the courthouse to be effective. Not every record is online, many counties have limited or don’t have any records online. Some counties only offer a one-page preview document online with charges for additional pages. Whether online or onsite, per page charges for copies of documents run much more than the $0.25 to $0.30 per *record*. The article makes no mention of reimbursement for these costs of doing business for the customer. Also, is a *record* = to each page? Or is a *record* a 20 page oil and gas instrument for which you are paid $0.30?

Do the numbers add up? $48,000 at $0.30 per record is 160,000 *records* annually. $48,000 divided by 2040 hour work year = $23.53 an hour. Is that what professional title searchers earn at entities like title companies, or is that what independent contractors charge for courthouse record retrieval? None of the companies that have reached out to me for contract courthouse record monitoring or record retrieval offered to pay that much an hour. Some companies, like heir search firms, don’t pay anything upfront but offer a percentage of their percentage, IF they collect anything on their speculative case.

If one must travel to additional courthouses and there is no mechanism for reimbursement of travel expenses, that is not just an income tax deduction, that’s an income loss in time and actual expenses.

This article raises lots of questions. Anyone interested in this type of work should investigate and talk to several people who are actually doing it and getting paid for it. My gut feeling is that this article paints a bit rosier picture than reality.


I just did a quick search on three of the companies listed in the article. Ameristar has no jobs posted for independent record retrieval contractors. Courthousedirect is a company that provides access to online records – aggregator? Is that what this is called? A lot of this article seems to be lifted from the job description at this site:


Bob, did I say anything about being denied entrance?


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