Help Utah Recover Lost or Stolen Public Records

What are public records and why are they important?

Public records are created by Utah’s state and local governments while conducting the business of the citizens of Utah. 

Public records are vital in showing how the business of the state is conducted and in documenting legal status, rights and obligations of individuals, groups, organizations, and governmental bodies.

What is the law?

According to state law (Utah Code 63A-12-105), all records created or maintained by a governmental entity are the property of the state and cannot be improperly destroyed or disposed of. Records that have been inappropriately removed from a governmental entity are still property of the state and should be returned to the Utah State Archives without compensation.

Why are public records stolen?

Sometimes citizens like to own a piece of history or collectors want to obtain records relating to early Utah history. Other times, well-meaning citizens have “rescued” public records from destruction years earlier.  Official archives did not always exist and therefore many records were stored in private hands. 

How to identify public records

  • Look for official state or county letterhead at the top of the document
  • Look for official government stamps or insignias and other evidence of official state or county business
  • Look for state or county officials as the author, sender, or recipient
  • Look for the state or county name and office written at the top of the document

How you can help

  • Avoid buying, selling, or trading Utah’s public records
  • Identify public records you think might be lost or stolen and report them to the Utah State Archives
  • Share this pamphlet with others, including historical societies, museums, libraries, and archives
  • Check catalogs, internet auctions, and advertisements for public records and report questionable items to Utah State Archives

What should I do if I locate lost or stolen public records?

Contact the Utah State Archives if you know the whereabouts of lost or stolen public records.  We suggest that you also contact your county attorney, county sheriff, or county archivist.

Please contact us should you have questions or would like to report the whereabouts of missing public records.

Public records known to be missing from the state

Territorial Secretary  
Executive Papers, 1850-1896. Series 241

Documents Missing: 5985-6002, missing records include two petitions and signature lists from 1877 asking the Governor to pardon John D. Lee.

Page Last Updated June 22, 2010.