Here is a checklist for backgrounding, using the Internet. It’s from the Palm Beach Post.
There are sites for Personal Background, Civil/Criminal Courts, Elected/Public Officials and Business Background.
Right off the bat, I found something useful in the Personal Background section. It is possible to determine what state an individual was born in if you have the first 3 digits of the Social Security Number.
There are clip sites for stories that are free. Some of the info is specific to Florida, but the checklist also gives advice for how to look for data outside of Florida.
While this doesn’t replace Lexis/Nexis which is an invaluable search tool, some papers these days are having to drop that service, so the open web can be very helpful.