The private citizen, asserts investigative reporter Louis Rose, should be able to "recreate a person in terms of their wealth, assets, property holdings, past and present marital status, their employment record . . . even physically recreate them without ever seeing or meeting that person."
Some of the public information he recommends as a starting point:
* Driving and automobile registration records. Driving records normally would include name, address, date of birth, height, weight, color of eyes, any driving restrictions as well as recent driving history. Registration would provide name, address and date of birth of party to whom vehicle is registered, as well as vehicle's serial number, type, model and year. (It's possible in the District and Maryland to track down the registered owner of a vehicle with nothing more than its tag number.)
* District of Columbia charges $2 for each individual printout. Request must be submitted on a special form. Bureau of Motor Vehicle Services, 301 C St. NW, 20001.
* Maryland charges $2 for each written record. Must fill out special query form. Information can be called up on computer terminals in Motor Vehicle Administration offices (College Park, Forestville, Gaithersburg, Waldorf) at no charge. Certified driving records available at all MVA offices. Certified registration records only at Glen Burnie. Written requests to Certified Copy Section, Motor Vehicle Administration, 6601 Richie Hwy., Glen Burnie, Md. 21062.
* Virginia is covered by a comprehensive privacy protection act. Driving-record queries should be sent to the Driver Licensing and Information Department, registration queries to the Vehicle Records Department, P.O. Box 27412, Richmond, Va. 23269. If the request is allowed, there will be a processing fee.
* Real-estate directories. Usually list names and addresses of a given community's adult residents, and also give occupation, marital status and name of spouse. Street guides list names of residents at each address. Still other directories list telephone numbers with names and addresses.
Directories are often available in public libraries. The Martin Luther King Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW, for example, has Lusk's Real Estate Directory Service, R.L. Polk Directory (from the late 1800s through 1973) and Haines CrissCross Directory, as well as Real Estate Data and Sager Inc. Documaster System, two microfiche files containing real-estate and tax information.
* Real-estate transactions. Generally give date of filing, date of transaction, person(s) conveying and receiving the property, description of the property, number of the book and page where copy of the deed or transaction can be found.
Weekly transaction reports often carried in public libraries. Generally can be found in the deeds office of the county, city or municipality where the property is located. Transactions generally recorded daily and in alphabetical and chronological order. Generally, two sets of books are kept, one listing names and transactions of those conveying property and another listing the persons and transactions of those receiving property.
* Voter registration records. Normally include such things as name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, sex, place of birth, previous place of registration, length of residence in precinct, party affiliation (if any), and whether ever convicted of a felony or found mentally incompetent. Some forms indicate occupation, marital status and telephone number. On file at voter registration or elections-board offices.
Other information usually available from your city or county government:
* Assessment and tax records.
* Contracts, bids and advertisements for bids.
* Minutes of council or commissioners' meetings.
* Planning and zoning applications, permits and meetings.
* Government reports, audits and ordinances.
* Births, deaths, marriages and divorces.
* Police records and civil and criminal lawsuits.
* Wills and probate records.
"Most public employes," says Rose, "are helpful, with many going out of their way to assist people in checking records maintained by their offices."