business and corporation records
County Fictitious Business Name Records
Counties often keep files on so-called "fictitious businesses" operating in the county.
A fictitious business is just a business being operated under a name that's different from the name of the actual owner of the business.
For example, if John Smith and Jim Jones set up a coffee shop called S&J Cafe in California, state law requires that they file a fictitious business name statement for S&J Cafe stating that John Smith and Jim Jones actually own the business.
Similarly if a company called Fast Food Inc. opens a restaurant called Delightful Dinners, the law requires that Fast Food Inc. file a fictitious business name statement for Delightful Dinners stating Fast Food Inc. actually owns the business.
In Calfornia any person or company doing business in a county under something other than their real names must file a fictitious business name statement with the county.
The statements are usually kept at the county recorder's or county clerk's office, and they list the addresses of the businesses, the owners/partners in the businesses, and their addresses.
Some states keep a master index of all fictitious businesses that have filed statements with all the county recorder offices.
Fictitious businesses are sometimes referred to as "DBAs," which stands for "Doing Business As."
There is nothing "fictitious" about these businesses in the sense that they're doing anything improper or the businesses aren't solvent. Rather they are required to file the statements so creditors can know who is responsible for the activities of a business.
Each county keeps on a computer terminal an alphabetical index of the names of all fictitious businesses in that county, as well as the names of the people or companies that set up the businesses.
You can search the indexes by the names of the fictitious businesses or by the names of the owners of the businesses.
Each fictitious business in the index lists the people or companies that are the owners of that business and the date the business was formed.
Each owner in the index lists any fictitious businesses that person or company owns. You then need to look up each of those fictitious businesses to see who the other partners might be in that business.
To get addresses, you may need to copy down the file number for a fictitious business and ask a clerk for a copy of the actual fictitious business name document. That document will list an address for each fictitious business, as well as addresses for each of the owners and partners in it.
There's another index, called the "inactive'' or "expired" file, which lists older fictitious businesses. These are businesses that did not pay an annual fictitious business registration fee. They usually are defunct, but it's possible they just failed to keep their registration up to date.
- Fictitious Business Name filing form - sample blank FBN form at Alameda County Clerk-Recorder Office
Exception to Filing a Fictitious Business Name Statement
If you set up a business and the name of that business includes your surname, then you don't have to file a fictitious business name statement. So if Jane Doe set up a business called Doe's Dress Shop, she would not have to file a fictitious business statement as the name of her business includes her last name.