How to Find Old Businesses

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Small businesses may close for many reasons. The owners may decide to retire, or they may face financial issues, for example. Once a business has closed its doors for good, the people involved may be difficult to find. If you’re looking for old businesses that don’t exist anymore because you need to review old employment records, collect a debt or begin litigation, you will need to do some digging in official records and archives.

Check Official Library of Congress References

Begin your search by heading to the Library of Congress website. This is a catalog of over 17 million records for books, maps, images, electronic recordings and more. There are several ways to use the Library of Congress resources both online and in person. Online, you can search through the business reference services guide, which includes resources on industry, commerce, banking, insurance, investment and more.

If you’re on-site at the Library of Congress, you can search through the database section that is available to subscribers. You may find company annual reports that are available on microfiche going as far back as the late 19th century. The companies are listed alphabetically, so it is easy to navigate the information.

Look Through Community Business Records

If you’re searching for old businesses that don’t exist anymore, you’re likely to find some records of them at your local county office. Businesses are often required to register their name or acquire a business license from their local county office. By contacting the county, you can learn more about the business that has closed and the people involved.

To find the right county office, you will need to take a look at the National Association of Counties website, which is an organization that serves almost 40,000 elected county officials and 3.6 million county employees. The organization’s website has a feature through which you can search for county offices across the country. Once you locate the county for which you’re searching on the map, the organization will provide you with the full address, phone number and website for that county.

Connect With Your Secretary of State Office

Another channel that you can use to learn more about old businesses that don’t exist anymore is your state’s secretary of state office. This government organization is where business entities in the state need to register. They also keep detailed records of all businesses in the state, so you may be able to find contact information and names of previous owners.

In order to find your secretary of state’s office, head to the National Association of Secretaries of State website. Use the "Find Your Secretary of State" feature to select the state in which the business was located. This will direct you to the website of that state’s office, where you can locate the address and phone number. This office is where you’ll be able to get more details on old businesses.

Try Online Archives to Find Old Businesses That Don’t Exist Anymore

If the business for which you’re searching has recently closed, you may be able to find details using the Wayback Machine. This website is a massive internet archive that has almost 400 billion web pages saved over time. Because this archive only stores web pages, it will only work for finding old businesses that don’t exist anymore if it had a website in the past.

If you know the URL of the website for the business that is now closed, you can head to the Wayback Machine website and enter it in the search box. The archive will then produce search results of the business’s website that have been saved over different points in time. This can be particularly useful if you’re looking for specific updates that the business may have made to its website.